Liberty Group’s Managing Director of Heating and Compliance, Karen Sloan, explains why the business’ people-focused culture has helped it overcome global supply chain challenges to transform maintenance services across Wirral.
Over the past two years it has often felt like uncertainty is the only constant. We have had no choice but to embrace adaptability and flexibility, showing willingness to throw old approaches out of the window at a moment’s notice. I’m proud to be part of a business that has never let these obstacles become excuses for lower standards of customer service.
At Liberty, we provide compliance services, planned property improvements, decarbonisation retrofit and reactive maintenance across the country to more than a quarter of a million homes. So, the global supply chain crisis has been an important factor in our business planning.
This challenge became even more pertinent when one of our longstanding partners, Magenta Living, reprocured their heating and compliance contract via Fusion21, and increased key targets to improve the service and safety they offer to their customers and all 13,000 homes.
Having a proven track record in delivering excellence in safety, compliance and customer service, Liberty was awarded the contract following OJEU procurement, and we immediately began working closely with Magenta Living and our supply chain to ensure the ambitious new targets were achieved.
First-time fix rates
One of the key targets for the new contract was to achieve 100% first-time fix rates for all Magenta Living tenants. We were confident we could deliver on this objective, but only if we were willing to develop new solutions whilst ensuring our teams were fully invested in the journey.
We knew that certain materials and boiler parts were in short supply — the pandemic and other factors had knocked out global supply chains and landlords were having to redevelop planned repairs based on what parts were available.
Accessing people’s homes during the COVID-19 pandemic also presented another obvious challenge.
If we didn’t address long wait times for deliveries, for instance, we knew it would be people living in Magenta Living’s homes who would ultimately pay the price. We weren’t prepared to let that happen and set about coming up with some common-sense work arounds.
Our first action was to retrain all Liberty staff working on the contract. We wanted total buy-in around the ambitious targets. It was a chance to check in that we had the right culture in place on the ground.
We undertook a full stock audit to assess all materials required for different boilers. We worked closely with suppliers to bulk-buy key parts, and we prioritised ensuring engineers had the parts needed to hand in their vans to achieve a first-time fix while at a property.
To answer the challenge of accessing harder to obtain boiler parts, we came up with a smart logistical solution. We set up and opened our own Liberty stores in Wirral, maintaining stocks of these essential parts which had very long-lead delivery times.
We also employed a dedicated team member to be responsible for delivering parts to customer’s homes, whilst the engineer was there in the property. This meant that if an engineer was ever missing a part, they could call their colleague, confirm delivery and guarantee that the repair was completed first time.
This is much more cost-effective than multiple visits from the same engineer and from an engineer’s point of view, they know their time is not being wasted. They have the right infrastructure in place to deliver a brilliant service. Job satisfaction is high.
Most of all though, staff can see how happy people are when work on their home is completed there and then.
Our brilliant Tenant Liaison Officers (TLOs) also played a key role in ensuring engineers could access properties safely to get the job done, having already built trust with customers throughout the pandemic with thoughtful support and advice.
One particular TLO went above and beyond, driving all the way from Wirral to York to source a vital part needed to complete a job that day. And, thanks to additional training for our call centre teams, 5% of calls are being resolved over the phone.
We use a collaborative approach to redesigning services, which aims to identify and remove processes that don’t add value. By redesigning processes together with Magenta Living, a first-time fix rate of 99.2% was achieved in March 2022. It was the coldest month since the contract began which increased demand for our services — we completed 1,098 breakdown repairs, which is a fantastic achievement.
The practical, forward-thinking approach we took in this instance was just one example of how our Liberty Sense culture impacts everything we do. We focus on the people we serve and how we can think ahead to deliver better outcomes every day.
Very often, innovation isn’t about new technologies, it’s just about thinking differently and being prepared to try alternatives.
We understood that supply chain challenges were going to be a hurdle to overcome, but never an excuse for us to forsake our high standards.
We were recently named ‘Highly Commended’ for Heating Contractor of the Year at the ASCP Awards, which just goes to show that at Liberty, we believe it’s always possible to deliver high quality customer service, no matter what obstacles stand in our way.
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