Housing associations in England spent a combined £5.4bn on repairs and maintenance in 2020-2021. This year, as housing associations catch up with their repairs postponed due to the pandemic, costs are expected to increase significantly, adding pressure on these already stretched organisations.

But there are areas where savings can be made.

Phone calls

With the majority of social housing organisations diverting their calls through a call centre, the cost of each phone call in the sector averages at £7.00 per call. This may seem high, but it takes into account call centre staffing fees, rental expenses and bills of the call centre, and, of course, their mark-up.

Inbound calls from tenants to landlords are charged at a similar rate. So, with numerous tenants and multiple phone calls to report, diagnose and schedule the repair, these costs soon stack up.

Postage fees

Yes, using traditional mail for communication is still common in the social housing sector, whether sending out contracts, correspondence regarding rent, home safety checks or general updates. And postage is no longer a cost-effective method of communication. When considering the stamps, stationery, packaging and staff time, the average cost of posting an item is £1.50.

Why these costs are still significant

In times when landlords are using email, SMS, WhatsApp or web portals to correspond with customers, you may be wondering why we’re highlighting these more traditional communication costs. But research has shown that typically less than 20% of tenants will ‘channel shift’ to self-serve methods, such as tenant web portals, to notify their landlords about repairs or check their rent balance. So 80% still resort to traditional methods, including phone calls. Take a look at your phone bill to reveal the picture for your organisation if this surprises you.

It’s clear that tenant web-portals or emails are ineffective at shifting tenants away from picking up the phone to report any issues.

The convenient and cost-effective alternative

The strongest channel-shift solution, and best self-serve results are always achieved with a native mobile app. In 2022, 84% of the world’s population currently own a smartphone, meaning almost everyone understands how to use one and is familiar and comfortable with navigating apps.

Native mobile apps are specifically designed for purpose and therefore are user-friendly and intuitive. They also come with a range of features that can only be enjoyed via a native app, such as biometric logins (face or fingerprint recognition), geotagging and push notifications.

Meanwhile, tenant web-portals are simply websites designed to be responsive and play on a small (mobile) screen. They can be fiddly and will always lose some of the handset functionality. Users get frustrated and resort to making a phone call instead.

Comparing the costs and benefits of native mobile apps

Providing tenants with a native mobile app for reporting repairs and communicating with their landlords is far more cost-effective when compared to traditional communication. For example, the Optus App costs just £1.50 per tenant per month for the first 5,000 tenants with no development costs, and no additional charges for support and maintenance. And this fee decreases rapidly as your number of tenants increases above this threshold.

Offering the ability to report repairs, schedule, reschedule or cancel repair visits with ease, the Optus App not only saves on communication costs but also reduces the likelihood of no-shows for repair visits — another significant cost-saver.

Please follow the link to learn more about the Optus app or for a free trial.