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Reading Panel review of our customer letters

Our customer-led Reading Panel took part in a review of our Gas Servicing and Radon letters, making recommendations to improve and simplify the communications we send to customers.

Reviewing gas servicing and radon letters with our Reading Panel

As part of our commitment to ensure our customers are heard, we began recruiting for the Longhurst Group Reading Panel to review our letters and other communications to customers. A panel of four customers took part in a review of our Gas Servicing and Radon letters.

The letter sets included the letters sent out by our contractor, Mears, by our Gas and Electrical Compliance Team and radon level letters sent out by our Assets and Property Services Teams.

The aim was for the Reading Panel to review the letters and provide feedback for changes and/or improvements.


The process

The panel was asked to review the three sets of letters, considering the following issues and questions:

  • Do the letters use plain English?
  • Is the wording understandable?
  • Are the tone and style suitable for the subject matter?
  • Would you recommend any amendments or suggestions?
  • Is there anything you find confusing?

Reviewing feedback

The reviews were returned, and a meeting was arranged between the panel, the Customer Engagement Team, and Longhurst Group's Head of Asset Compliance, Thomas Purdy. It was an open discussion where the panel members could communicate the reviews they had given, and the Longhurst Group team could provide responses on whether suggested changes could be implemented.

Thomas was very keen that we be present to go through the findings with our panel and to make sure we could speak to the panel about their findings.

As a result, improvements have been 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


Contractor Gas Service Letters

Overall changes

A sentence regarding a fine of £50 has been removed

Changes to text

The subtitle on the letters was changed

Before

URGENT Annual gas/heating safety and smoke detector check.”

After

IMPORTANT Annual gas/heating safety and smoke detector check.”


The panel felt the initial paragraph was inflammatory and suggested it be changed

Before

“We recently made arrangements to carry out your essential annual gas/heating safety check, but this has not been completed. This must be carried out immediately to ensure your continued safety and those who live near you.

After

“We recently made arrangements to carry out your essential annual gas/heating safety check, but this hasn’t been completed. This urgently needs to be completed to ensure your continued safety and those who live near you.


The font size of the COVID-19 guidance included in the letter was increased and the text was simplified

Before

  • “On arrival of our operative, please unlock (but not open the door), move to another room (not effected by the service/repair), closing the door and so allowing the operative to enter. (This is to maintain the minimum 2m distance from any persons effected).
  • Our operative will be wearing PPE for the duration of the service repair.
  • Our operative will clean the work area with disinfectant and the carry out the works.
  • On completion our operative will clean work area and then inform you that they are complete and leaving the property.”

After

  • “Please ensure everyone maintains the minimum 2m distance.
  • Our operative will be wearing PPE for the duration of the service/repair.
  • Our operative will clean the work area with disinfectant and then carry out the works.
  • On completion, our operative will clean the work area and then inform you that they’ve finished and are leaving the property.”

Landlord Gas Service Letters

Changes to text

Paragraphs were changed to use plainer English, making them easier to read

Before

“The work will take between 1 and 2½ hours and we can be flexible with appointments to suit you. We ask that you ensure that the area around any appliances is cleared to allow easy access to carry out the work. Longhurst Group cannot accept any responsibility for damage caused to personal possessions.”

After

“The work will take between 1 and 2½ hours and we can be flexible with appointments to suit you. We ask that you ensure that the area around any appliances is cleared to allow easy access to carry out the work. The Group will be careful around your home and your belongings but aren’t responsible if there’s any damage to your belongings.”


The paragraph regarding carbon monoxide poisoning was changed to include plainer English and was moved further down the letter. It was felt by the panel that having this paragraph near the start of the letter would appear threatening.

Before

“Every year, around 50 people in the UK die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore, it is essential that your heating appliances are checked and serviced as soon as possible in order to ensure that they are operating safely and efficiently.”

After

“Every year, around 50 people in the UK die from carbon monoxide poisoning. It is really important that your heating appliances are checked and serviced as soon as possible. This is to make sure they are still in good working condition.”


The panel was keen that we make clear that if customers have a support network, such as a carer, they can speak to Longhurst Group as well.

Before

“Please contact Longhurst Group on receipt of this letter if the above appointment is not a mutually convenient date and time for this work to be carried out. You can discuss your appointment by calling our Customer Service Team on 0300 123 1745. It is very important that all appliances are serviced regularly and your co-operation in this matter is very much appreciated.”

After

“If there's anything you don't understand in this letter, please do call us on 0300 123 1745 and a friendly member of our team will help. Alternatively, if you have a support worker, family member or a friend who can speak to us on your behalf, they can call us. We want to work with you to make sure items such as your heating and cooker are working as they should.”

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