A new UK-wide survey of social housing tenants has revealed that tenant satisfaction levels are driven by such low expectations that their primary driver is to simply have a ‘safe home’. This is despite having aspirations to receive a level of service from their landlord comparable to that of major retailers like Amazon.
Chronic underfunding and complex regulations have put the social housing sector under a critical spotlight and there is concern about the widening chasm between tenants, landlords and regulators – Oneserve carried out its ‘Beyond Four Walls’ survey to focus on this divide.
The survey uncovers what tenants want from their provider and how their service experiences and expectations are shaped not just by the housing sector, but also by their daily interactions with other service providers including well-known giants from across retail, logistics and finance.
While on the surface the headline satisfaction levels looked good, digging deeper the survey revealed the following:
1. Tenants compare their landlords to other service providers like Amazon and Evri: Failing to look outside of the sector and benchmark against other external organisations is likely to widen the gap between customer expectations and actual service delivery.
2. Younger tenants need extra attention: Satisfaction with social housing providers is significantly higher among tenants aged over 55 which skews satisfaction metrics and masks underlying issues particularly affecting younger tenant.
3. Tenants would consider changing providers if they could: Almost 40% of respondents and nearly one in two aged 18 – 54 would consider changing providers if given the choice.
4. Tenants’ number one priority is feeling safe in their home: Having fundamental health and safety checks carried out within their homes was the main priority for 36% of respondents, rising to 45% for the 55+ age group.
5. Tenants want better transparency from their housing provider: Over 65% of respondents believe aa review system like Trustpilot or TripAdvisor for landlords would be helpful.
Oneserve Chief Executive, Chris Proctor, said “Overall, our research lays bare a stark truth: housing associations don’t operate in a truly competitive market meaning social housing customers simply ‘don’t have a choice’.
“The social housing sector has evolved in a bubble when it comes to customer service and this is reflected in our survey results which indicate that service expectations are so low within the sector that having basic health and safety checks completed within their homes, is their primary priority.
“However, the survey results also indicate that tenants do look outward and evaluate the service they receive from their landlords against other well-known service providers from the likes of retail, logistics and finance. As such, there is a real desire to see service levels matching or exceeding the likes of Amazon.
“What’s especially revealing is the contradiction at the heart of this gap. On the surface, tenants seem satisfied —mainly because their low expectations are being met at a basic health and safety level. Yet, a large portion of younger tenants would readily switch providers if given the opportunity. This should make it abundantly clear that relying solely on surface-level metrics can be misleading and might result in misguided policies.
“The results are sobering. Tenants are comparing their experiences to companies known for sub-par service and they still find the sector lacking. This is a wake-up call that can’t be ignored. It can’t be about just meeting minimum standards anymore; the sector must strive relentlessly to exceed expectations and commit to a culture of continuous improvement.
“The sector needs to understand how it can close the ‘Customer Centricity’ gap between what tenants want and the actual service they receive. Now is the time for the sector to usher in a new age of tenant-focused excellence in social housing.”
To see the ‘Beyond Four Walls’ survey results in full, you can download the free 32 page results report here.