Sovereign Housing: Coming out of COVID-19 lockdown with better ways of delivering for communities

PA Consulting explains how they worked to implement a customer-centric operating model for Sovereign Housing - one of the UK's leading housing associations
Affordable Housing

Sovereign Housing is one of the UK’s leading housing associations, providing 58,000 quality, affordable homes in the south of England for people priced out of the housing market. During the COVID-19 lockdown, Sovereign had found new ways to keep operating services for residents – from introducing remote viewings of its properties to co-ordinating the safe and efficient handover of keys. As the lockdown began to lift, we helped Sovereign build on these changes to start implementing the new, more customer-centric operating model we had designed for the organisation before the virus struck.

Key Successes: 

  • Designed new operating model to deliver better homes, communities and services for Sovereign’s residents
  • Helped the COVID-19 crisis response team develop a future-focused plan in line with long-term ambitions to improve customer focus
  • Turned service recovery into an opportunity to test out and scale up new and better ways of working
  • Enabled more effective service recovery with a dashboard that provides joined-up insights from across the organisation.

Putting Residents at the Heart of Everything 

Sovereign Housing is determined to put residents at the heart of everything it does – from developing more homes to building stronger communities to delivering excellent services. But the organisation’s operating model, shaped around a mix of projects and regions, was holding it back. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had been working with this leading housing association to develop a new customer-centric operating model. This was key to creating a better experience for residents.

We identified ‘lighthouse projects’ where quick wins could help establish new ways of working.

Our analysis showed that a more joined-up approach across the organisation could help with everything from getting Sovereign involved in housing development bids earlier (and therefore able to influence the quality of new homes) to ensuring Sovereign builds the right-sized homes in the locations where people want them. Principles underpinning the new model were aligned to our Customer 4.0 thinking, where empowered and outcome-focused customers expect brands to fit into their own universe. These included offering residents a single point of contact for accessing services, segmenting customers to provide tailored services for different groups, and making homes built by Sovereign more sustainable.

We helped Sovereign apply these principles by building on the new operating model design earlier in the year. This kept an eye to the future as the organisation moved from the immediate challenges of COVID-19 crisis management into recovery mode and back to full operations.

Finding Opportunity in Crisis 

In the early stages of the pandemic, we enabled the Sovereign crisis response team to think through different options for operating during lockdown and identify those with the best potential to act as a bridge to the future operating model. We observed team meetings and provided an objective voice, drawing on our insight into Sovereign’s operations to support decision making.

As the organisation moved into recovery mode, we advised on plans to restart operations. We identified ‘lighthouse projects’ where quick wins could help establish new ways of working – for example, improving data capture to triage a back-log of 55,000 maintenance jobs that had built up over the lockdown. And we encouraged an agile ‘test and learn’ approach, trialling and refining new ways of working on the ground then scaling fast once they had been proven. For example, new processes for carrying out maintenance work with social distancing in place were trialled with customer groups that felt comfortable with having someone enter their home. Once perfected, the new processes were rolled out to other, more vulnerable groups.

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