As part of our commitment to ensure our customers are heard, we began recruiting for our Reading Panel. The panel of four customers took part in a review of our aftercare letters and our mutual exchange letters.
Their aim was to review the letters and give feedback for changes and improvements to the letters.
The panel was asked to review the three sets of letters virtually and we asked that they consider things such as:
- Does the letter use plain English?
- Is the wording understandable?
- Is the tone/style right for the subject matter?
- Would you recommend any amendments/have any suggestions?
- Is there anything you find confusing?
The reviews were returned and a meeting was arranged between the panel, the Customer Engagement Team and Sarah Lowe, Lettings Manager, for the mutual exchange letters, and Leonie Janzen, Aftercare Manager, for the aftercare letters.
It was an open discussion where the panel members could communicate the feedback they’d given and the managers could provide responses on whether suggested changes could be implemented.
As a result, improvements will be made to our letters. We feel these changes will make the letters easier to read, be less intimidating and more helpful.
Changes made after our Reading Panel review
Mutual exchange letters
In the initial enquiry letter, in the ‘A Guide to Mutual Exchange’ section, we make reference to “non-standard repairs”. It was suggested that we could expand on what is meant by non-standard repairs, possibly including a reference list.
Sarah Lowe, Lettings Manager, advised she’ll be adding a link to our website on the letter, which’ll take you to a list of repairs.
In the initial enquiry letter, in the ‘A Guide to Mutual Exchange’ section, it states it will take Longhurst Group 42 days to make a decision on an application. It was suggested an explanation be given for the length of time it takes for a decision to be made.
Sarah explained this is a legal stance built into the mutual exchange process, so Longhurst Group has no control over this timescale.
In the initial enquiry letter, in the ‘confidentiality part of declaration’ section, the sentence “We may share your information and make any other necessary enquiries regarding with your application…” should either have “regarding” or “with”, not both.
Sarah agreed and confirmed this’ll be amended.
When one of the panel members received the application form for a mutual exchange, the letters were all printed on one side of A4 paper, so they ended up with twice as many letters. They didn’t fit in the envelope included, and so had to pay to send the forms themselves. Can letters be printed double sided? Also, would it be possible to make an application online instead of waiting for a long period of time for the postal service? This would cut down time for processing applications.
Sarah explained that all customers wishing to have a mutual exchange are now encouraged to do this virtually, through Swaptracker, a platform within HomeSwapper.
In all letters, the last sentence refers to a number already listed earlier in the letter. This sentence should be removed and mention made about the Aftercare Team contact in the third paragraph.
Leonie Janzen, Aftercare Manager, confirmed this’ll be amended.
In the aftercare call letter, in paragraph three, it notes that a customer can discuss issues over the telephone as an alternative, if other commitments make it difficult to be home. It was noted this line is not required, as the letter is referring to a phone call appointment.
Leonie confirmed this’ll be amended and explained this wasn’t updated on the letter after the COVID pandemic began and appointments had to be made over the phone rather than in person.
In the end of defects letter, it was suggested that the letter be re-arranged so the information flows better. Paragraphs two and three should be swapped and “Prior to your appointment, please visit www.longhurst-group.org.uk/me-and-my-home/aftercare/end-of-defects-reporting-form/...
“Your home is now almost 12 months old and our management of defects is coming to an end. We would therefore like to visit you to see if there are any outstanding problems that need resolving
We will visit you on ‘Appointment Date’ between ‘Appointment Times’ along with the developer where appropriate.
Prior to your appointment, please visit: www.longhurst-group.org.uk/me-and-my-home/aftercare/end-of-defects-reporting-form/ and list any items that you would like us to look at, when submitting please add any appropriate photographs.”
Leonie confirmed this’ll be amended and agreed the letter would flow better.
In the completion of defects letter, it was suggested the sentence “I write further to your End of Defects inspection...” is changed to “Following your End of Defects inspection...”
Also change “Should any of the items on the list previously sent out still be outstanding...” to “If any of the items on the list previously sent out are still outstanding...”
Leonie confirmed these’ll be amended.
In the confirmed defects letter, could there be a different phrase to use instead of Defect Liability Period, in plainer English?
Leonie commented that this is a specific industry term but did appreciate that it isn’t plain English. She advised she’d speak to our Communications Team to see if we can find a suitable alternative or include an explanation for the term somewhere on the letter or our website.