On foot patrol: New sign up experience at our Homeless Scheme

We're always delighted to hear what other teams are doing to make it easier for customers to access and enjoy our services. This is no more important than for our temporary accommodation for the homeless, Griffin Place in Aylesbury. It's clear that moving into such housing is daunting, stressful and sometimes embarrassing for the families and individuals that need it. Other times it's  a vital safety net rescuing people already on the streets. 

When the lab heard about small but positive changes being made to the sign up process at Griffin Place we knew we had to arrange a visit, even if it does mean an 'oh my god o'clock' in the morning start. Steve and Sam were our willing comms experts who'd help us film some interviews with customers so that we might share the story with Bromford at large. 

Without further ado, here's what I learned from the whole experience:

  • No one really mentioned the sign up process at all. I used to own a HTC smartphone that forever caused me hassle - dodgy signal, dying battery, that sort of thing. When I replaced it with a new phone that did everything I asked for I didn't get all excited because it wasn't dropping the signal. I just carried on as normal, just with a whole lot less frustration in my day. For the customers at Griffin Place it was a similar story - it was the absence of dissatisfying sign-up process, not the presence of satisfying one that held the value. In other words, the less they noticed the sign up process the better Rubina had been at designing it! The team had stripped out the hassle. It seems increasingly likely that any sign up process isn't the place for bombarding customers with information and questions. Let them sit down, let them relax and let them get their keys and settle in. Don't become a dissatisfying part of the process.
  • Customers wanted the little gestures, not the big ones. I'm currently working on a concept investigating whether improving the initial condition of properties results in better tenancies. This obviously has some significant cost associated with it. However, customers at Griffin Place don't quite fit the mold for this idea. If you listened to what they wanted, it was things like WiFi or something more for children to do. Internet access would be something to restore the 'semblance of normality' for families that have grown accustomed to it, before losing it in whichever circumstances led to them being homeless. One customer explained how she couldn't ask her son to do homework without going down to the library every night. WiFi provision on schemes is a separate issue, but one we're picking up in the lab this week - so keep posted! 
  • People > place. Perhaps one of the most important observations was how highly regarded the colleagues working at the scheme are. They connect with local agencies to make sure the best support is in place for these customers. They work hard to ensure the scheme is always presentable and the apartments offer a comfortable standard of living.  They put the effort in from the very start, which makes engaging with customers from then on so much easier! This approach seems grounded in necessity - diverse customers within a relatively small footprint of each other could lead to volatility without the mediating effects of the colleagues. However, could we use this approach - developing a deeper relationship with customers - in traditional housing management roles? It's something being considered in our multi-skilled coach role tests - but it definitely seems to have its merits. 

I have gleaned plenty from this visit that'll help the design of future services. Hopefully by sharing, more colleagues can think about these three points and maybe even apply them to how they work. Keep your services evolving! 

Thanks again to Rubina and the team, Sam, Steve and photographer Alex for making my day at Griffin Place so enjoyable.