In my last blog post, Rise of the Machines, I discussed why I felt the increase of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence (A.I.) could actually be a good thing for us carbon based organisms, as long as the areas of context, customer expectation and human added value are considered. It didn't go unnoticed to many people that ultimately some of what I was talking about resulted in designing out social interactions, but its my firm belief that technology should play a part in enhancing social interactions and make them more meaningful.
Within UK housing, I continue to be blown away by the amazing communities in which we operate, particularly how they come together and create networks of peers amongst complete strangers. It’s something here at Bromford that we are incredibly proud of and want to continue to find ways in which we can maximise these connections, especially given that our Neighbourhood Coaches are in amongst their communities,working with people in a more hands on way than ever before.
Yesterday, I went to London to meet with Tom & Chris from Hey Landlord to talk through a potential test we want to run with their online platform. You may remember them from my iCustomer blog back in August 2017, where I first posed the question 'could digital channels be used to influence customer behaviours?' When we first met with them, the thinking was very much around creating a test aimed to see whether we could encourage customers, and indeed Bromford, to break the habit of using traditional channels to communicate with each other.
In the 6 months since, however, we have refreshed our thinking. As Bromford have already changed the nature of the tenant/landlord relationship, our focus turned instead to ways in which we could use digital platforms to support community innovation and develop the relationship between the Neighbourhood Coaches and their localities. This includes how we could furnish both colleagues and customers with more autonomy to make decisions that are in the best interest of the individuals within the network, as opposed to taking a one size fits all approach.
Every community is different and has different needs. This is something that has become glaringly apparent as we continue our persona work, along with the importance of communication. For some people, the notion of 'community spirit' may seem rather antiquated, but let me assure you, it is alive and kicking in more areas that you realise. Look at the way people pulled together after the Grenfell tragedy to provide people with much needed food and clothing. Social media had a huge part to play in the orchestration of that exercise, but the essence of people looking out for their neighbours and peers, complete strangers to many, is part of the human DNA. People naturally want to interact and build social networks - whether it be for friendship, advice, support, there are many reasons why people strive to be a part of something. This test, and any subsequent other ones we do, will aim to see how we can facilitate that (or whether we even need to) in a 21st century way.
I don't want to give too much away but I'm really excited to see how this idea develops further and what might happen if Bromford harnesses the power of its communities even further. After all, people are the most important resource and there are few more powerful forces than when a bunch of them unite.
As always, you can find out more (and keep up to date on the latest happenings) on the Trello card here!