WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE CAN END HOUSING MAINTENANCE BACKLOGS
5 min. reading time
05 July 2021 ·
James Alex Waldron
t’s become a familiar story to social housing tenants; staff and skills shortages matched with lockdown’s heavily increased use of heating, plumbing, and electrical systems means your appointment request has joined the housing association maintenance backlog. The scale of the problem facing schedule and dispatch teams is now critical, with one UK city council claiming their backlog has swelled from a running average of 24,000 to around 40,000 repairs tickets between the lockdowns.
Social Landlords and Housing Associations are legally bound to ensure properties are ‘free from hazards, warm enough, and in a reasonable state of repair’. But tenants with urgent maintenance requirements find the backlog presents an impossible choice. Do they attempt to fix faults themselves (and risk their safety and breaking their contract) or wait, potentially weeks, for a ‘make do and mend’ before accepting their final appointment is months away?
Workforce management software can end the housing association maintenance backlog by taking control of both sides of the appointment equation – the request and the dispatch. Here, we introduce three features of the software that create capacity, minimise travel, and improve first-time fix productivity.
HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS CAN BETTER MANAGE MAINTENANCE REQUESTS
The first step in gaining control of maintenance requests is for Social Landlords to organise the three appointment types,
Inspection for preventative works
Workforce management software requires these tickets to be digitised. Asking for contact details and a location are simply not enough. Data across appointment type, damage, impact; even the vulnerability of the household, will fulfil the second part of the process – scheduling the workforce efficiently, in real-time.
This may be achieved in two ways. The most popular is a customer self-service portal feeding tickets directly into a CRM. Question fields may be continually refined to ensure both the service user and the works team have all the details they need, cutting away unnecessary followup calls. An escalation process then reviews the tickets to establish correct prioritisation and quality. The second is for call operators to digitise the tickets into the CRM, or to use an in-house version of the portal. Either way, a picture of the works request is built to determine the requirement for workforce skills, materials, and time.
Modern customer portals can go beyond raising a ticket. Empowering tenants to schedule and reschedule via guided appointment windows 24/7 increases satisfaction and lowers costs at head office – for reinvestment into the field. They also create quantitative, actionable data to planning and management teams. Trends analysis provides insights around failing parts and assets, and knowing when and where to scale-up field resources.
WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE CAN CREATE CAPACITY IN SCHEDULES
Fixed budgets, illness, and clauses relating to use of subcontractors are persistent headaches for scheduling and dispatch teams aiming to close maintenance backlogs as soon as possible.
Best-of-breed workforce management software removes ‘white space’ and ‘batch’ scheduling practices in favour of dynamic, in-day diary management. 'Batch' (frequently overnight runs) leave your scheduling exposed to any event outside of your control. Best-of-breed can automatically account for driving speeds linked to the specific time of day between geocoded job sites. It recognises workforce skills, available parts, learns if ticket completion is over-running a timeslot, and removes the inefficiency that the hard borders of work patches promotes. How can this create capacity with the same (or sometimes fewer) resources? By accounting for the variety of outlined factors, the software will run a realistic comparison of costs. With an AI-powered scheduling solution, more appointments are enabled and completed, benefitting both tenants and operatives, and quickly powers through backlogs.
WORKFORCE MANAGEMENT APPS CAN EMPOWER FIELD OPERATIVES
With head office teams appreciating digitalised appointment requests and scheduling, Social Landlords and Housing Associations must complete the value chain with a permanent connection to their field engineers.
Sharing data between head office teams and a field force via a sector-specific mobile app provides unrivalled trust in two ways. Your workforce can be sure that the given schedule and routes to meet appointments are computed to provide the best possible outcome. They will have instructional data fed into the app, including any in-day optimisation/changes, or special notes relating to a case. In return they will maintain accurate records of spent materials, and can notify dispatch teams of arrival and departure times with one click.
Tenants will notice the difference in transparency and service quality also. A field operative equipped with an app can send notice of realistic arrival windows and short-term adjustments. They will see that a paperless provider means their engineer can now exchange photos and documents of completed work to their ticket and a offer digital signature to validate the appointment’s outcome.
At a managerial level, a native app for iOS and Android means little requirement for investment in further mobility devices, and agile head office tools allow for fast design and easy revision of workflows (BPMN) should the general mission or business case change.