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Across the South West of England the affordable housing sector is a top employer and plays a key role in the local economy—making a highly functional customer portal a key business tool.
Since 2012, Westward has offered its tenants and customers an online self-service portal using VerseOne’s Datafish product. Originally implemented using a combination of CSV files and webservices developed by Westward’s IT team, this year they decided to redevelop it in line with new digital transformation goals.
Westward wanted to provide its residents with more self-service functionality that is more closely connected to the housing management system. Their provider Capita offers a full set of webservices through Open Access, and after meetings with VerseOne to discuss the integration possibilities, Westward decided to rebuild their portal using this newly available, real-time information.
The first stage of the project was to develop a proof of concept, which gave VerseOne the opportunity to show how the power of VerseOne CMS and Datafish could be deployed to work with Capita’s APIs.
The initial proof of concept demonstrated how a resident would sign up for the portal, log in, and view their rent statement. VerseOne also used the opportunity to extend the content editing capability of VerseOne CMS to give website editors at Westward more control over what personal information is displayed to portal users, and over how that information is displayed and styled on the screen.
Following the successful evaluation of the proof of concept, Westward and VerseOne put together a detailed specification of all of the different portal channels and how to recreate these using the Open Access technology.
Westward customers can register and log in to the portal securely and switch between tenancies, viewing rent and charges statements, information about their tenancy and housing officer, and review their repairs history and the status of current repair jobs to their property and estate.
The new portal integration gives Westward control over the portal in a way their didn’t have before. In addition to giving residents and customers real-time information as it’s updated in the housing management system, Westward can add and remove different displays ourselves and work with the content of the portal in the same way they work with the content of the website. They can decide what information they want to make available and update this easily themselves.
In 2018, Westward have embarked on a second phase of their online portal, giving residents the ability to log and schedule repairs as well as view and set up arrangements. Working in conjunction with VerseOne and using extended Open Access API technology, Westward will be bringing this new transactional functionality online by the end of the financial year. In addition to providing customers with this extended experience of online interaction, Westward will also be updating its branding and website design, in line with achieving key digital transformation objectives by 2020.