A housing repairs service with people at the centre

We recently published a case study about housing repairs challenges in the UK and how local authorities are spending an astounding £30 million each year, solely answering housing repair calls. To support these councils, we created an online service to help tenants in local authority housing report their repair needs. 

My move to Made Tech

I’m proud to have worked on the housing repairs product since 2019, from the first day of discovery. Throughout this journey I’ve worked alongside 6 councils, all facing similar challenges with housing repairs. Together we strived to create something different, a product developed around people’s real needs. 

Most recently I was working as Organisation Change lead and also product owner for this work at the City of Lincoln Council. Designing a product with user needs at its core was crucial for all of us in the team, leading us to create a reusable and adaptable product that’s easy for tenants to use. We wanted to make sure the service was accessible by design, so we developed it using the GDS toolkit. Creating a true online service meant it was available 24/7 – a crucial part of helping tenants feel supported around the clock. Offering such a user-friendly service has meant we can shift demand to this online channel, allowing customers to self-serve at a time that suits them while saving staff valuable time. 

A perfect way to catch-up on the history of the project, view demos, and view previous outputs is on the blog. 

Since making the move to Made Tech in May 2022, I’m delighted to have stayed close to the project where I’m able to input on the work that’s close to my heart. I’d love to see councils continue to jump on the reusability of what we’ve designed, supporting staff and residents to benefit from the work we’ve done so far. 

Creating a valuable housing repairs tool

Working closely with residents we created a service that allows them to report up to 63 different types of repairs. These cover the bathroom, bedrooms, kitchen, living and outside areas. 

We’re currently in the process of adding more features to the tool that will allow tenants to report issues around communal repairs, extending it to leaseholders and the ability to cancel or amend a repair. To create a seamless experience for residents, we’re also looking into integrating the tool with the NEC (Northgate) housing management system.

Putting people at the heart of this work we really wanted to make sure we were including valuable features. So we’ve designed the tool to allow anyone to book a repair, no login is required. Including this feature means carers, grandchildren or wardens can log repairs on behalf of older residents or those who may not be comfortable with technology. This approach is something the team is really proud of. The service will then be ready for wide reuse all over the country.

Putting tenants at the centre

Like many councils, all our partners involved with this work have signed up to the digital declaration. An essential part of this is the commitment to develop work in line with the GDS service standards, putting user needs first and centre in product design. Those signed up also promise to reuse existing user research, service design, common components and data and technology standards before starting to design or procure something new. 

The Digital Fund set up by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities helps authorities carry out projects that address local service challenges in reusable ways. Through the fund, 6 partner councils have been part of the journey in creating this open source, accessible, reusable and scalable repairs online service. 

Do you need a simpler, faster service?

We know committing to a new online service can be a big change, to help you think about whether you need an online housing repairs service here’s a few common challenges we came across.

Does your online repairs service need a login? 

After speaking to residents, being forced to log in was a common frustration to using their council’s online services often leading them to ring directly. 

Does your customer service team spend a lot of time dealing with calls for repairs??

For each of the 6 councils that contributed to the repairs online project, the main challenge they all shared in common was tenants ringing contact centres to book or chase a repair.

Do you offer an online service that’s accessible, including using plain words?

Products currently available for tenants to book a repair online are designed around the needs of the service, not the user. Existing services often use ‘council language’ and are not designed to meet accessibility standards that everyone can understand. 

If you have an online repair service, can tenants leave with an appointment date and time?

Services currently offered online by our partner councils didn’t complete the user journey, resulting in a call back to book a repair for every online request. This resulted in residents needing a call back to book a repair for every single online request. 

Join our upcoming housing event

Sign up for our upcoming event, How to build a digital service focused on housing needs. You can attend via Zoom for free.

Date: Monday, 5 September 2022
Time: 12pm to 1pm BST
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About the Author

Fraser Trickett

Client Partner

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