Automation and AI have been huge allies for Your Housing Group's Chief information Officer Neil Beckingham.

His team have created a highly automated tenancy program for the social housing provider. It allows potential customers to search for a home, see its details, assess its affordability, book a viewing and sign the tenancy agreement. And it lets tenants view statements of rent and service charges, and book repair appointments.

The program underpinned the setting up of a subsidiary business to undertake all property maintenance – work previously been done by third-party subcontractors. Now, maintenance and repair instructions are processed automatically and sent to the right trade operative on the day of the repair appointment. The instructions include all relevant health and safety alerts for the property and the customer, photos of the work location, etc, and parts held on the engineers' vans are automatically restocked.

A much smaller workforce of field agents have been equipped with tablets linked to the tenancy program, which can be used to collect data and take payments of rent arrears. The new working method has driven increases in productivity, customer satisfaction and staff satisfaction.

The customer portal automatically updates the new CRM system that Beckingham has built, giving contact centre staff easy access to all information in a single source. Hosted by a hybrid cloud infrastructure, the CRM tool has increased performance and reliability while lowering operating costs. Unreliable telephony based on ISDN lines and on-premise PBXs is likewise now a cloud service, greatly improving resilience, flexibility and financial efficiency.

As for artificial intelligence, Beckingham's team has rolled out an AI tool that focuses income collection activity on tenants likely to have problems, with a substantial reduction in arrears as a result. He's now working on an AI tool to predict when tenant departures; the aim is to help with tenant retention and cost avoidance and to feed into targeted marketing activity to attract new tenants. IoT sensors are also under development to establish wear rates on key property components to eliminate the blanket replacement of windows, kitchens, and bathrooms.