Ever got into one of those, “well we have always done that”, conversations?
Well I got into one just a few weeks ago, when talking about what to do as part of changing systems over, in an office taking cash. Yes! I hear you cry, wouldn’t that have been known in the past as a ‘cash office’? Or maybe a ‘Neighbourhood office’. Two things you just don’t see too much of these days, rarer than spotting say a Triumph Dolomite or a Red Squirrel.
For housing historians, cash offices, often had a ‘cash receipting’ system and a very technical and cumbersome printer to help evidence the payment. The latter could generally print on special thermal paper, which bleached easily in bright light or on special rent payment cards. In truth they generally belonged in a pre-Windows world and like the cash office, have become an endangered species too.
A decade or more ago, I remember wrestling drivers for one to work, and a very concerned RSL customer hoping for us to get a ‘sans-serif’ font on it, so their disabled residents had fewer problems reading it. As can be imaging, this was a fruitless task and they probably ended up with ‘Courier New’.
The point of this story was that now very few residents pay with cash and getting an antique such as this working, is a lot of effort for very little benefit. It actually leaves us in the past. I’m sure when someone first suggested that paper may take over from stone tablets, they were laughed out of the cash office too.
In the spirit of channel shift, I suggested all kinds of alternatives to the humble receipt. Workflow could easily provide lots of ways of tackling this. How about we take the payment and then ask the resident, how they would like their proof of payment?
We could offer to SMS text it to them. Failing that, offer to email it to them. Both of these of course could enable us to capture either of these essential pieces of information, for all other types of legitimate contact purposes. In 2017, the penetration of the Smartphone is pretty persuasive, even among the older generation. After all, their sons & daughters are now buying them, for their safety and to keep tabs on them.
Failing email, we could of course put an area of trees the size of Belgium at risk in the Amazon and print a plain A4 paper receipt from a laser printer, similar to that generated by hotels up and down the country.
So, I bet you can guess what they decided to do in the end, can’t you?
Oh yes, they kept the cash receipting printer, luckily managing to get that going, so residents would not experience any changes. At time’s I think we can talk a good channel-shift, but lose the thread of how we get there. If we are afraid of introducing change, it’s just all warm words that will do little to increase efficiency or push up customer service.
Managers and staff so often miss the point that its incremental, rarely sudden. There was not a point in time when I discovered all the banks were becoming coffee shops & ‘All Bar Ones’. It kind of happened very gradually. It happened because the alternatives that were being offered worked well and were more convenient. If we can crack that in SocialHousing, you know, I think we may just have a chance of getting there.
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(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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