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Using pictures to help tenants request repairs

Home & Garden

Managers of buildings and housing communities know that collecting and coordinating repair requests on their properties can be a complicated and time-consuming task, particularly when tenants are multicultural and language barriers exist. Housecall simplifies and automates much of the process with a web-based service that relies primarily on pictures. Created by UK-based M3 Housing, Housecall presents tenants with a step-by-step online guide to reporting a problem. They begin by specifying what broad category their problem falls into—plumbing, heat/electric, or roofs/drains, for example—aided by a pictorial representation of each. The graphics-based process continues from there by helping residents zero in on the precise nature of the problem, with pop-up diagnostic prompts when they mouse over relevant images, such as a heater or sink. Finally, before finishing the process with an e-mailed report to the community manager, users have the option of typing in comments. In addition to basing the system on pictures, M3 recently rolled out support for instructions in six additional languages—Gujarati, Punjabi, French, Welsh, Urdu and Arabic—as an added measure of insurance that the reporting process will be accurate. There is also a text-only version for accessibility to visually impaired users and those using mobile browsers. Housecall is an entirely web-based service that runs on M3’s server, so it does not require that users or housing managers install software. The system can be configured to match the design of a client’s own website, and pricing begins at GBP 700 per year for a community with up to 250 units of housing in management, plus an initial setup fee of GBP 850 in the first year. We’ve covered several examples of online repair-tagging systems in use by governments, and bringing the technology to the private sector seems like an inevitable next step, since it saves managers time and money by being able to send the appropriate staff and parts to a tenant’s home on a first call. Housecall only operates in the UK. One to partner with and roll out in other countries? Spotted by: Junaid Kazi


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