Guest Blog: Terrie Alafat, Chair of the Mears Customer Scrutiny Board

Posted on 01/07/2022 by Megan Ingle.

Terrie’s reflections as the Board publishes its second independent annual report

As Chair of the Mears Scrutiny Board, I am pleased to report the main findings of our second annual independent report. The Scrutiny Board was established in 2020 as one of three new customer engagement mechanisms forming part of the Mears ‘Your Voice’ strategy, the others being a series of Customer Forums delivered in partnership with Tpas and an online network, which currently has over 1000 residents from across the country.

Hear from Terrie:

The Board’s purpose is to scrutinise, support and hold Mears to account as they seek to raise service standards for all customers. Our report sets out the work of the Scrutiny Board in 2021, our analysis and recommendations and priorities for 2022/23. As part of Mears’ commitment to transparency, our report is publicly available and will be considered by the PLC Board and Executive team.

Despite another challenging year of Covid which restricted some of our planned activities to visit services, I am proud of what the board has achieved and the way it has evolved. I am confident we have made a difference to Mears service delivery and the customers they serve across the country.

Hear from the Board Members:

In 2021 we have evolved our approach – we now hold a series of face to face and virtual meetings across the year and have set up subgroups to effectively undertake deep dives and produce meaningful recommendations to the Mears Group. We have also strengthened and upskilled our board members – we have recruited two new members and delivered Tpas scrutiny training and in house awareness sessions across Mears Maintenance, Management, Asylum and MOD contracts.

We have focussed much of our attention on real time user experience feedback, during development, on some of Mears new initiatives such as chatbot and the interactive customer dashboards to ensure they are user friendly and will improve customer service. We also conducted deep dives into a number of specific areas – customer communications, customer performance indicators, homelessness services and the approach Mears is taking to address specific issues highlighted in the Social Housing White Paper.

This is the second year we have worked with the  Mears team on customer communications as we have learned this is one of the key areas to get right to improve services. We have also built into our work programme the regular scrutiny of the performance indicators and delivery of the improvement plan. As in any organisation there is varying performance across teams and Mears is determined to raise standards across the organisation.

Hear from CfGS:

I am looking forward to evolving the customer scrutiny board further in 2022/23 and am really excited by our agreed work programme, which has been endorsed by the PLC Board.

In 2022 we will continue to:

  • Strengthen the board and provide training and development to the board members.
  • Track progress and impact of previously agreed recommendations around customer communications and the social housing white paper.
  • Engage in deep dives into specific scrutiny topics, such as the asylum customer experience and engagement, customer communication and decarbonisation.
  • Seek to add ‘real time’ value through our involvement and user experience feedback of Mears policy, services and new customer service developments – the main focus this year being the new Customer Portal.

I am satisfied that Mears will continue to respond positively to the recommendations we make and provide the right level of support and assistance for us to continue to add value, positively influence services and make a real difference.

Terrie Alafat CBE

Chair, Mears Scrutiny Board