Find out why repeat visits are called the 'black hole' of cost. And how you can avoid them.
Additional invoicing, more calls to handlers, more complaints and dissatisfied tenants.
There’s no other way to put it. Repeat contractor visits = really bad news for social landlords.
In our blog on the impact of hidden costs to housing operations, we discussed how costs you cannot see are impacting housing associations in an already tense and uncertain social housing climate.
Today, let’s unpack how such costs can easily snowball into one of the biggest concerns for your bottomline.
Repeat Contractor Visits are a Black Hole of Cost
An improper diagnosis of repairs can result in added variations, cancellations, repeated visits and therefore escalating costs for your organisation.
Unfortunately, with many a housing operation using legacy systems to schedule, classify and invoice jobs, the inefficiencies associated with repeat contractor visits are just as pronounced as before.
The trouble is, with increased government emphasis on local accountability and new efficiency metrics constraining social housing providers across the UK, it is becoming much harder to tolerate the impact of repeat visits.
When a job has been misspecified or badly assessed by the invoicing team at a Tier 1 or DLO, exceeding costs becomes a major concern.
Contractors arriving to the scene will most likely not be suited to the job at hand or might be missing the right tools to complete the job the first time. As it turns out, this happens more than 24% of the time.
That’s one in every four orders that needs to include a new invoice!
If one were to take even a conservative estimate of processing an average invoice - let's say £20 - the invoicing alone for a repeat visit will double that amount.
So to be clear: that same invoice will now cost approximately £40 to process from start to finish.
But wait! This does not factor in the higher volume of re-calls to call handlers, which will require additional human support and therefore result in additional cost inefficiencies.
Let's also factor in additional travel costs for the contractor and more of their time being spent on a task that could have been completed the first time - commonly known as 'right first time'.
Now let's ask: Has the repair been scheduled with resident availability in mind? If a resident isn't factored into the communication built around a repair - and many aren't - a potential 3rd repeat visit isn't so far-fetched anymore.
It is no doubt that this will result in increased complaints, increased inconvenience and even higher repair costs for landlords who are already panicking and reducing their repairs budgets by roughly 4% every year.
Moreover, this has the added disadvantage of also providing a bad service to residents: a lose-lose on two key performance metrics for housing organisations.
Unnecessary Work Orders
It’s clear that admin and invoicing have a forceful impact on a Housing Association’s bottom line. But, it is also important to shed light on an activity that may further multiply the damage to operational efficiency.
Approximately 11% of all work orders created are for unnecessary visits (such as turning on a breaker switch or reconnecting some equipment removed whilst cleaning).
Let's think about that for a second - that’s a work order created for no work to be done at all.
And yet it involves admin and invoicing.
With so many constraints to constantly monitor, this becomes a very poor use of limited resources.
If an organisation today could eliminate the 11% of un-needed work orders, created with an average invoice cost of £40 per order, this would save them thousands of pounds annually.
Even marginal operational savings like these have the potential to lessen the burden contractors feel, lessen the burden on Housing Associations and lessen the rough deal tenants get at the end of it.
It Still Takes As Long
It is important to note that certain unpleasant aspects of this process will not change, even if costs were to be optimised across the board by minimising repeat visits.
The process of raising a job, planning it, scheduling it and communicating about it to the resident typically takes 13 days.
A whole 2 weeks before a simple repair can take place.
This single-handedly impacts the service levels landlords ought to be providing residents.
It has the same effect on Value for Money KPIs.
It's inefficient all around.
And you’ve got to ask at this point, is it even worth it?
Let’s say you manage to somehow deliver a good service and that too, at a good price. The next question becomes: does this help the community? Are the contractors local? Do they have a vested interest in preserving the very community they live and work in?
Social housing is nothing without its strong sense of community. And yet today, a crucial aspect of resident well being (repairs) does nothing to cultivate the community it aims to improve.
A good repairs and maintenance service ought to give back to the community it is invested in.
The Case for a Better System
We have learned a lot from working closely with some of the most prominent Housing Associations. It has allowed us to carefully observe the needs of the community.
We believe Housing Associations need to adopt a framework for repairs & maintenance services that encourages and supports tenants to look after their home.
It should hopefully function as a system that fundamentally empowers not just the residents using it, but also the contractors who are approaching social housing from a maintenance standpoint.
With this in mind, the framework should be responsive, easy to use and technologically robust enough to support modern low cost self-service transactions and feedback.
This should provide tenants and housing authorities the functionality of easily raising jobs, scheduling and classifying them (preferably using pictures). This will prevent any challenges in communication and thus eradicate the need for additional visits. The contractor or expert doing the job will have the chance to assess the issue right at the start.
It would be beneficial if the system could also identify and leverage the right geographical area - jobs could be allocated electronically to tradespeople who are in the local community to reduce overall travel costs and the time taken to successfully complete a repair - a relief for social residents.
A system that digitises invoicing has the potential to minimise many of the cost inefficiencies presently associated with admin. A digital system could also utilise its speed and infallibility to cultivate a responsive bidding mechanism.
Let me explain: local experts and contractors could potentially bid on a job moments after it is raised. Using the detailed, visual briefs the system could provide, they would have more of a motivation to get the repair right. Not just right, but right the first time. Repairs will thus move much quicker from ‘raised’ to ‘resolved’ and boost overall resident satisfaction within the community.
How We Unlock Opportunities to Save Costs and Improve Service
Plentific’s platform allows tenants or housing associations to report a job instantly, using secure communication between landlords, tenants and tradesmen.
You can schedule appointments and keep both the tenants and contractors informed of any changes to appointments, so that unnecessary visits are completely eliminated from your operations.
Jobs are classified to prevent misinformation and repeat visits at every step. Pictures are included along with each job request raised so that all the tools and materials required to successfully complete a job are available the first time round to a contractor.
On the other side of the platform, tradespeople can quote a price for the work and offer their availability. This accelerates the time taken for the completion of work and will also track the whole process from start to finish for transparency, accountability and compliance.
We carefully curate an expanding marketplace of skilled tradesmen, with the right materials, know-how and tools to complete the work to an established standard. This marketplace is local - functioning within the geographical area the repair request is raised in.
We do this because we've observed local tradesmen realise the true value of the community they work hard to maintain. Jobs are completed quicker and resident feedback is far more positive.
Plentific maximises opportunities to obtain feedback about repairs and ensures all feedback and complaints are used intelligently to improve services for social residents. We are driven by a desire to continually improve our services to make resident experience better and smoother than it has ever been before.
If you’re interested to know more, or see how we can help you eliminate the inefficiencies surrounding repeat visits, click below.