I won't be the first or last person to quote Albert Einstien during the COVID-19 pandemic:
"in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity"Welcome to 2020, where digital became the default. Why?...
- Most office-based professions, including public services, moved their staff to home working
- Sickness and shielding reduced staffing capacity
- Call centres operating on reduced staff and higher demand hit capacity, quickly
- Customers were stuck at home, in lock-down - most with a digital device to hand
If you have the term 'digital adoption' in your job title you must have felt like all your Christmas's have come at once. Before you panicked about whether your contract will now be renewed!
Local authorities, charities, businesses are conducting their business with tools like Microsoft Teams. Systems that would have taken many months to roll out have been spun up and adopted in a matter of days. And from what I am hearing, mostly successfully.
Best of all, this uptake in digital practice is leading to more satisfied customers and huge potential for improved efficiencies.
What is digital by default?
As part of their Digital Strategy, the Government defines digital by default as:
digital services which are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use digital services will choose to do so, while those who can't are not excluded.
In the world of housing this means providing information, advice and guidance online - and driving traffic to it. Your customers can access it 24/7, from their home, from their mobile device. When they need it, they can find it.
Digital by default also empowers your customers. They are far less at the mercy of staff who may be off sick, on leave or even (if rarely) having a bad day! The customer is in charge of their situation and in most cases has all the tools in hand to resolve it.
This frees up advisors to focus on the most challenging and complex of interventions. Much of this can be digital too, with case systems that provide direct access for their customers to track and update information.
Councils have huge potential to head-off downstream costs if they provide good digital advice services. Residents are far more likely to go grab their phone to go online for help when they receive an eviction letter. The instant, go to, in the moment. How many drop out when the only option is to book an appointment, or attend a drop-in session... only coming back when things are too late?!
Supporting the small number of people who are not digitally enabled is often cited as a reason for not going digital by default. In my experience, providing good digital services improves overall outcomes and frees up resource to support the minority who need additional help.
You may have heard that Neil Morland & Co and AdviceAid are teaming up to help make digital by default advice a reality for housing authorities. Our tool takes comprehensive and accessible advice and makes it directly available to both your staff and customers.Helping you meet your requirements set out in section 179 of the Homelessness Reduction Act.
Peter McGuire is Co-Founder and CEO of AdviceAid. He has worked in housing services for over 15 years in the private, voluntary and public sectors. He is an incessant problem-solver and has been at the forefront of leading a number of innovative local authority programmes to improve the quality of advice services. Peter usefully has a degree in computer science.