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Getting started
Customising
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How to increase usage
Tips and tricks
Web compliance

Getting started

How does M3Housecall cut the cost of repair reporting?

One client calculated that the admin cost of each repair report made via the call centre is £66 at 2011 prices. That's the cost of staff time, but also infrastructure and overheads - training, phones, computers, office accommodation etc. Staff resources have to be available at peak times, meaning there is downtime when demand is lower. All these costs lie behind that £66 figure.

With M3Housecall this cost drops significantly. Customers report repairs in their own time, and in a clear, structured report.  Most customers like to add their own words, sometimes adding photographs as well.  Customers who get a swift response really like M3Housecall service.  Customers who do not get a swift response will be on the phone to the call centre within a few days. M3Housecall can help with this: acknowledging the report made and also when the report is received at the repairs desk.

Meanwhile, staff deal with each repair request at a time to suit them.  When the phone is quiet, or when they are not on the front line.  They can batch requests by region, by urgency or by trade, to optimise the response.

Has your organisation quantified the financial savings of repairs requested via M3Housecall? We would love to hear from you.

What does a standard M3Housecall email report look like?

M3Housecall immediately sends an email message to the address or addresses that you have supplied to us. A standard email message will look like this:

Please deal with the following repair problems:  
Problem involves: Access
Repair concerns: Entryphone
Details: Entryphone at entrance faulty
SOR Code: 871093
Comments: We cannot hear our visitors
This message is from: Name: Bob Williams Phone no: 020 8274 4000
Alternative phone no:
Address: 5 Commonside East
Postcode: CR4 2QA
Tenant no:
Email address: nospam@nospamplease.com
Comments:
Someone is usually in during these times:
Monday AM: In
Tuesday AM: In
Wednesday AM: In
Thursday AM: In
Friday AM: In
--------------------------- 

You will notice that M3Housecall includes a code which identifies a suggested job in the M3NHF Schedule of Rates. This code is not displayed to the user but it does appear in the report that you receive. For a simple repair you can drop this code straight into your repairs ordering system to create the job order.

What setting does it have in this system?

We have designed M3Housecall to be as easy as possible for you to adopt and for your residents and staff to use.

You provide a link on your website to our server. This link is unique to you so M3Housecall knows that the repair request is coming from your website.

Your staff member or other user clicks on the link and they enter M3Housecall. Your organisation's name will appear on all the M3Housecall screens so users always know that they are making a report to you.

When the user has finished making their report, they can print or save a confirmation message that contains details of their report. This is their receipt to prove that they have reported a repair.

Customising

What will my version of M3Housecall look like?

M3 configure M3Housecall to appear either inside a page on your site or we borrow the design of your site so that your version is unique to you. Take a look at the variety of set ups on the reference sites.

Who controls M3Housecall and the way it behaves?

M3 wants you to have as much control of your M3Housecall service as possible. M3 is responsible for hosting and maintaining the service, but you do not need to contact us for every tweak.

Each subscriber has access to their own Control Panel where they can change M3Housecall options (e.g. turning features on and off).

Subscribers can also view details of reports that have been requested on the system.

Can M3Housecall be customised?

M3Housecall can be customised in almost any way you can imagine, including but not limited to, changing the text, the repair problems offered, the advice and the form fields as well as the appearance of any element. We also offer several options that can be amended or turned on via the M3Housecall Control Panel. Many of these changes can be carried out at no extra charge - just let us know what you would like.

Which languages can M3Housecall be displayed in?

M3Housecall can be displayed in: English, Arabic*, French*, Gujarati*, Punjabi*, Urdu* and Welsh*.

 

*Translations from English provided by LanguageLine

What are some typical way in which M3Housecall can be customised?

M3Housecall can be configured to ask for access information so that the user selects from an indicator which mornings or afternoons they are normally at home.

You may have several area offices and will want repair reports to be directed to the appropriate area team. M3Housecall does this by sorting the repair requests on the postcode. You provide us with the appropriate postcodes for each office and we will set them up on the system.

Each of the M3Housecall screens has advice on typical repair problems that users can call up. If you prefer, you can have your own advice screens containing information specific to your organisation.

What does the Control Panel do?

Change your email address, switch jokes on or off, allow users to upload photos.  These options and many more are available for existing subscribers here.  Use the contact form if you do not have your log in and password.

Hosting

Where is M3Housecall hosted?

M3Housecall is a hosted service by M3, so all maintenance and updates are carried out automatically. New functionality and options are automatically added to client accounts.

Can M3Housecall be integrated with our own web portal?
 

Want to save costs and improve your service?

Many social landlords are allowing residents to complete a range of activities online, helping them provide a more accessible service and reduce their costs. Efficient online repair reporting is the heart of M3Housecall, but now we can take your service one step further.

M3Housecall can now integrate with your own web portal to allow repair reporting linked to your own server.

M3Housecall will sit behind your existing log on screen, so residents needn't remember another password, but from here it can talk directly to your server. This is great for residents as it means the system already knows who they are, and can provide instant acknowledgement of their repair request. Available 24 hours a day and with immediate response, integrating M3Hosecall with your portal will certainly improve your repair reporting service and increase customer satisfaction. Some systems will even allow appointment dates to be offered immediately, so residents know exactly when their problem will be fixed as soon as they report it.

Alongside this secure, integrated system, you can continue to run the standard version of M3Housecall, so users needn't log on if they don't want to. The service is flexible and easy to use for the resident, while cost effective and efficient for you.

Do you offer any service guarantees?

The M3Housecall server is located in a secure operation centre with a high-speed fibre optic link to the Internet, 24 hour technical supervision, climate control and UPS. Server uptime of 98% is guaranteed.

How to increase usage

How many reports are made via M3Housecall per month?

In January 2011 repair reports received through M3Housecall reached an all time high of more than 10,000 a month. Some subscribers have doubled the number of repairs received through M3Housecall over the last 12 months.

Why are some subscribers getting more reports than others? Are you making the most of M3Housecall?

Using simple promotional ideas they've reduced their call centre costs and found a way of communicating with their customers 24/7.

Here are some simple ways you could get your tenants logging on.

Design Matters

Let's start with the obvious; make it easy for your users to find M3Housecall by putting the repair reporting link on the residents' services homepage and clearly labelling it.

A simple test is trying to use it yourself. See how many clicks it takes you to report a problem. Reducing these will encourage residents to use the service.

There can be a lot of information that you want to convey to your residents: standard contact details, emergency phone numbers, what repairs tenants may be responsible for, target times for repairs to be carried and so on and so on. The aim is to avoid these becoming barriers to people actually making a repair request. Talk to your web designers about the best way to present this information and, if it is possible, experiment with different layouts to see which gets the best response.

How the link to M3Housecall is implemented can also have a big impact. There are two main options:

  • A link that opens a new window or tab in the user's browser
  • Putting M3Housecall inside an iframe; simply put that's a way to embed M3Housecall within a page on your own website

There's no doubt that the iframe is the most seamless approach. Users need not even be aware that they are using a different site and can still interact with your site while reporting a repair.

But opening a link in a new window is a straightforward option. Users will have both your site and M3Housecall running side by side.

Tip: Avoid a design that brings up M3Housecall in a pop-up window - these have a bad reputation because of their use for intrusive advertising and can cause problems for people who are surfing with a high level of internet security.

An interesting alternative to opening M3Housecall in a new window or tab is to have the M3Housecall window replace the window with your site in it. Though the user cannot immediately access your site, it does allow them to use the back button to return to their previous location on your site and continue browsing.

For help or support with any of these options, or to discuss modifications tailored to your needs, contact support@m3h.co.uk

Tips and tricks

How can I get the most out of M3Housecall?

There are three ways to maximise your M3Housecall 1) via the control panel, 2) by alterations to your URL and 3) using M3's expertise to tailor M3Housecall to your needs.

Maximising M3Housecall Using the Control Panel

The M3Housecall Control Panel lets you view details of reports made via the system and change many M3Housecall options. You can create a custom list of repair locations, adjust the display and gather extra information from your clients. Here's a checklist of options:

  • Customise the headings displayed on the screen and in the title bar
  • Adjust the menu display to make M3Housecall easier for users to navigate
  • Update the email address your repair requests are forwarded to
  • Switch the jokes on or off
  • Select the correct version of the M3NHF Schedule of Rates or Repair Ordering Schedule codes to be returned with your repair requests
  • Choose whether to keep user information with their repair requests. You can choose to store the users name, address, email and other personal data. 
    To see the M3Housecall privacy policy for users' personal information visit http://www.housecall.co.uk/w3c/privacy.html
  • Outline your working hours in M3Housecall so users can select times they're available for the repair to be made
  • Allow users to follow up on previous repair requests. New functionality lets them add notes and extra information to their request
  • M3Housecall inserts the user's email address in ‘from' field in the repair report. So responding to requests is easy - set up an automatic reply on your mailbox to acknowledge receipt, or simply click reply to respond to the user individually
    Why doesn't M3Housecall Send an Acknowledgement to the User?
    M3Housecall only knows that a repair request has been submitted by the user and forwarded on to your email address. It cannot tell if the report has actually been received by you. Perhaps your mail server has gone down or the report was caught by a spam filter? Using your mailbox to acknowledge the repair request guarantees you are only acknowledging requests that you have definitely received 
  • Using M3Housecall on its own page? Include a link back to your own website from within M3Housecall so users always know how to reach you 
  • Allow users to upload photos and captions with their request so you can see exactly what the problem is. You needn't worry about this slowing down your server - all the images are stored at M3Housecall and accessed by a link in the repair report. Photo upload is available for M3Housecall in all translations, making it much easier for speakers of other languages to clearly explain their repair needs
  • Unique properties? Create your own list of repair locations so users can select from a list tailored to their home. You can even include areas of an estate to make identifying a repair easier

Maximising M3Housecall via the URL

 In the M3Housecall Control Panel you'll find instructions on how to make these modifications. Here's some functions you'll be able to activate.

  • Allow users to view M3Housecall in a number of languages including Punjabi, Arabic and French. All translations have been updated and drawing annotations are available in translation now too
  • Provide a text only version of M3Housecall; especially helpful for those using screen readers
  • Specify where repair requests are sent. By modifying your M3Housecall URL, you can use one M3Housecall account to send repair requests to different email addresses. Ideal for organisations working in a group structure

Need help with anything? Contact support@m3h.co.uk

Maximising M3Housecall Using M3's Expertise

  • Customise the screen and web bar to reflect your company branding and web design
  • You can even route requests by postcode, so requests are forwarded to the user's local office
  • Modify M3Housecall for your requirements. We can change the text, alter the list of repair problems and customise the personal information form

This doesn't cover all the options - we have made many modifications for individual customers and, unless they require significant development work, can usually do this at no extra charge. Contact support@m3h.co.uk for queries and support.

How do I trace repair requests?

What should you do if one of your customers says that they have used the M3Housecall system but you cannot find the report? Here’s a step by step guide to how M3Housecall tracks and records repair requests and how you can trace any requests made.

Tracing repair requests with M3Housecall is easy, whether you’ve integrated it with your own system or not.

If you have integrated M3Housecall with a system that requires users to log in then you will have many ways of monitoring the use of the system and are unlikely to need additional help. But if you are relying on M3Housecall to email the reports then you have less control and will be more reliant on our system.

M3Housecall records repair requests in a database and you can view your stored repair requests using the Control Panel and download all the requests made to you. If you have the approximate date and time and the report reference number that M3Housecall creates, it should be easy to find a specific report. If you have asked M3Housecall to store user data (it does not do this by default – see the Control Panel for options) then you will be able to identify the user as well.

Very occasionally M3Housecall might have a problem writing records to the database - if this happens the report will get sent anyway so it is possible, if very unlikely, that you might be unable to find a genuine repair request in the Control Panel. If this happens you do have another option. We keep copies of every email sent by M3Housecall for six months so you can always ask us to retrieve a report that has apparently gone missing for up to six months after it was sent. So your first stop should be the Control Panel and only after that should you contact M3.

Suppose you can see that a report has been made but, as far as you can tell, it was never received. Did M3Housecall fail to send the report even though the user received a confirmation that it had been sent? Of course that is not impossible but we have yet to come across a case where that has happened because of a technical problem on M3Housecall (though we will always check if you ask us to). Here are some other possibilities:

  • Invalid email address. M3Housecall may be trying to send emails to an address that is not valid or has been deleted.
  • Email is blocked. Your mail server may treat reports from M3Housecall as if they are spam or suspicious for some other reason (we have seen a report blocked because it contained the word 'stopcock'!).
  • Unexpected email address. M3Housecall may be sending reports to an address other than the one you expected. The Control Panel can help you here because it displays the email address to which a report was sent.

It is very important to us that M3Housecall maintains its reputation for reliability and we will always investigate if repair requests seem not to be getting through.

 

Web compliance

Is M3Housecall compliant with accessibility standards?

M3Housecall is also available in a text-only version that is fully compliant with the WAI AA standard and that is very effective with screen readers. M3Housecall is also fully functional even if the user does not have JavaScript enabled.

What cookies does M3Housecall set?
Name Description Expiration
JSESSIONIDThis is the only cookie that Housecall sets automatically. It is a temporary or session cookie used to keep track of a user as they move through the system. It is not used for any other purpose.Expires when user closes their browser
HOUSECALLIf users check the ‘Remember Me’ option on the personal details form (this is not available if users are connecting via a portal) then this cookie is set. It contains the personal details that users entered on the form but not the access information. This is used to complete the personal details form on the user’s next visit. Indefinite
NID and THISNIDIf a user has checked the 'Remember Me' box and the Housecall customer has selected the option to allow users to chase previously reported repairs, Housecall will set cookies beginning with NID and then numbered from 1 to 9. A further cookie called THISNID records the number of the last numbered cookie to be set. These cookies are used to store the reference number of the repair requests that the user has made so that Housecall can look them up on the user’s subsequent visits. They are used for no other purpose. Indefinite
CFID and CFTOKENThese cookies were used by a previous approach to keeping track of users as they moved through the site. They are no longer set or used. Existing cookies may be safely deletedIndefinite

Google Analytics

Housecall also uses Google analytics which sets the following cookies:

Name Description Expiration
__utma This cookie is typically written to the browser upon the first visit to your site from that web browser. If the cookie has been deleted by the browser operator, and the browser subsequently visits your site, a new __utma cookie is written with a different unique ID. This cookie is used to determine unique visitors to your site and it is updated with each page view. Additionally, this cookie is provided with a unique ID that Google Analytics uses to ensure both the validity and accessibility of the cookie as an extra security measure. 2 years from set/update.
__utmb This cookie is used to establish and continue a user session with your site. When a user views a page on your site, the Google Analytics code attempts to update this cookie. If it does not find the cookie, a new one is written and a new session is established. Each time a user visits a different page on your site, this cookie is updated to expire in 30 minutes, thus continuing a single session for as long as user activity continues within 30-minute intervals. This cookie expires when a user pauses on a page on your site for longer than 30 minutes. 30 minutes from set/update.
__utmz This cookie stores the type of referral used by the visitor to reach your site, whether via a direct method, a referring link, a website search, or a campaign such as an ad or an email link. It is used to calculate search engine traffic, ad campaigns and page navigation within your own site. The cookie is updated with each page view to your site.  
Is M3Housecall compliant with the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive on protecting user information?

In May 2011, the European Union’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive came into force. Its aim was to help protect user information. M3Housecall already has a privacy policy which takes care of user information and our use of cookies.

The European Union’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive requires website owners to, at the very least, be explicit about their use of user's information and cookies In particular. The legislation has not yet been tested in British courts, but M3Housecall already abides by a comprehensive privacy policy which we believe complies with the principles behind the EU's approach.

In essence, M3Housecall uses cookies in two ways
1. To keep track of a user as they make a repair request and to remember their personal information. The tracking cookies are temporary and are deleted when the user leaves the site. The personal information cookie fills in the personal details form automatically and is only saved if a user explicitly grants permission.

2. To allow users to follow up on previous repair requests, M3Housecall provides a quick way of sending reminders or further information about a previously reported repair problem. This feature uses cookies which save the last 9 repair report reference numbers, allowing M3Housecall to look them up when the user returns to the website. This feature is optional and can be turned on or off by the subscriber. The user also has control over whether it stores their information as the system only creates these cookies if the user has previously allowed M3Housecall to save their personal details.

There is just one area that is currently uncertain. Like many other websites, Housecall uses Google Analytics to help us monitor the use of the site. Although this service does not collect any information that could be used to identify individuals, it does use cookies. At the time of writing it is not clear whether websites using this service will have to seek their users’ permission.
We will keep reviewing our privacy policy and approach to users' personal information to ensure that we comply with best practice and are worthy of the trust placed in us by our customers and by M3Housecall users.

Read M3's privacy policy for Housecall >>