Not all residents trust their landlord, especially if they’ve had a previous bad experience, such as a repair which took a long time to resolve. Lack of trust can be a barrier to having energy efficiency work done.
Trusted messengers: other residents
The best way to build trust is through trusted messengers. Heartwarming Homes research shows that the people residents trust most are other residents.
The rumour mill plays a strong role in communities. This has the potential to create distrust, for example people talking about a bad experience they’ve had, or untrue rumours circulating about energy efficiency work causing rent to go up (this was an example given by the tenant group).
However, word-of -mouth can also spread positive messages – if people have a good experience they’ll share it with their family, friends, and neighbours. This makes it even more important to get things right each time.
As well as relying on organic word of mouth, you can recruit tenant ambassadors to share their experience with other residents and offer support. Further information about this can be found on the Resident Ambassador page.
Face-to-face contact with a familiar face
“Dedicated and trained resident liaison officers should be appointed to co-ordinate engagement campaigns and managing retrofits. An individual who acts as a point of contact for residents from the start to end of the project will provide reassurance for residents.”
Residents’ Voices in the UK Net Zero Journey
A familiar contact from the housing provider (such as a neighbourhood officer or tenant engagement officer) was identified as the second most trusted source of information.
This reiterates the importance of face-to-face communication with residents who are due to have work done. This has come through time and time again in the project research.
Our tenant group said all residents should be offered a single point of contact and the opportunity to see them face-to-face when they need to. Feedback from housing organisation suggests face-to-face engagement is the best way to build trust, increase resident satisfaction and help projects run smoothly. It’s an additional investment – but it’s worth it.
Every contact counts – educate colleagues
“Internal training and communications campaigns are crucial. Residents will want as much information as possible regarding their homes, mixed messages or lack of knowledge can undermine resident engagement. Promoting and explaining the benefits of low carbon housing should be done whenever possible, having carbon literate staff members means engagement can happen organically during home visits and everyday repairs.”
Residents’ Voices in the UK Net Zero Journey
Every colleague who has resident contact should have knowledge of your organisation’s sustainability work and retrofit programme. As a minimum, they must be able to signpost people to where they can find further information.
It’s particularly important that people who are going into residents’ homes or speaking to them on the phone are on message if a resident asks questions. The last thing you want is for an operative to go into a resident’s home to fix a dripping tap, and share their own sceptical views about heat pumps, especially if the resident’s due to have one fitted soon.
How to make sure colleagues are on message:
- Have clear processes so your customer service team knows how to handle enquiries about retrofit. They should be able to answer basic queries and signpost residents to the right place for further information.
- Brief and train customer-facing colleagues who are out in the community. Focus particularly on teams who work in areas where there are live energy efficiency projects.
- Make sure all your maintenance colleagues have a good understanding of your organisation’s approach to sustainability and fitting energy efficiency improvements.
- Think about how best to brief them. Face-to-face briefings are likely to be more effective than emailing colleagues who are out and about a lot. Interactive eLearning is likely to work better than lengthy briefing documents.
- Some operatives, such as gas engineers, might worry about how decarbonisation will affect their future. Make sure you’re clear about the part they’ll play going forward. Offer them opportunities to train in new technology and involve them in the shaping of your new sustainable offering.
- The Carbon Literacy Project offers training for social housing colleagues and residents. Their Carbon Literacy Social Housing Toolkit focuses on what housing organisations, tenants and communities can do in their roles to reduce carbon emissions whether that be in the workplace, at home, or in the community. It’s about motivating your people to take a lead role in making your organisation more sustainable.