“Tenants want convenience,” says Lizzie Stevens, Director of Market Rent at Folio London, the private rent arm of Notting Hill Genesis, a housing association. “We live in a day and age where people can tweet about something to get what they want instantly. It’s very much an ‘I want it now’ environment and we have to keep up with that - making sure we’re keeping tenants happy and meeting their expectations. Everything is going online and moving towards a self-service way of doing things.”
Folio London owns, manages and lets 3000 homes in the capital under the Notting Hill Genesis umbrella and aims to grow by 300 units a year. They operate under a “profit-for-purpose” model, reinvesting their profits into charitable initiatives, including providing homes for those who cannot otherwise afford them. They’re focused on providing the very best experience for their tenants, which is one of the reasons they preempted the Tenant Fee Ban and stopped charging tenant fees five years ago, says Stevens.
Their focus on providing an unparalleled customer experience is also why the company is developing their self-service capabilities this year, by investing in digital solutions that mean their tenants will be able request repairs, pay their rent or even set up a payment plan online. “People want it to be quick, they want it to be easy and they want it to be transparent. They want to know what’s going on, a portal where they can track what’s going on and where,” she says. “We know a lot about our tenants and we know the convenience piece is big for them.”
She cites the example of having to call in in order to raise a repair. “That’s quite old school now. You want to be able to report it online, get an immediate response, know when it’s going to be fixed and that someone is going turn up when they say they’re going to turn up - end of story,” says Stevens. “Being able to streamline that process means you’re giving people a better experience.”
Crucially, she doesn’t believe it’s only younger tenants who expect an on-demand, online service, either. “It’s not just the younger generation - it covers a really wide demographic of people,” says Stevens. She notes her tech-savvy parents in their late 60s also carry iPads everywhere they go and expect to be able resolve problems with businesses online via chatbots. “Soon, using technology and living in a digital world is going be the norm for everyone.”