Staff Spotlight: Mark Walker
Another month has been ripped off the calendar and that can mean only one thing…Yes, it’s time for another instalment of our Staff Spotlight feature in which we give you the opportunity to get to know some of our in-house experts a little better! This month, we caught up with Mark Walker; a stalwart of the social housing sector who’s occupied numerous income-focused roles but who now dedicates his time to helping our customers drive efficiencies within their income teams as income maximisation director at Mobysoft.
How did you come to work in social housing?
I started as an admin assistant in 1998 on a three-month short-term position. I worked in an office that managed private sector leasing stock. It was a small team and within my first 6 weeks the manager and someone else left suddenly. A couple of new people came in to replace them, but I had to learn really fast. I found out quickly that 80% of the stock was empty and no-one was really managing any of the remaining let properties. It was a brilliant curve and I stayed working in temporary accommodation for 10 years – an experience that gave me a great grounding in the housing sector.
Describe yourself in 3 words:
Work wise? Positive, Solution-Focused
Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your past experience within the social housing sector?
As mentioned, I worked in PSL/temporary accommodation (TA) for 10 years. That taught me about the power of relationship building with key stakeholders such as tenants, landlords, and other departments like repairs teams. During my time in TA, I worked my way up to housing officer, then senior housing officer and then started to move into the world of income management. Where I was at went from 100 properties in management to 5000 TA units really quickly, meaning I learnt quickly about working in a fast paced, pressurised working environment!
I then moved to a housing association – AmicusHorizon, in 2010 but actually came away from income for 2 years and was made Amicus’s first customer experience manager, heading up a team focused on complaints. At the time, complaint satisfaction was around 40% with about 700 open complaints. Within 2 years however, the team had got satisfaction to 90%+ and less than 50 open complaints. We went on to win European Contact Centre of the Year in 2012.
In 2012, I was made head of income when the income service was centralised and made specialist. We transformed the organisation’s approach to income management blending a strong customer focused ethos with smart use of tech (I was a user of Mobysoft’s RentSense as it happens!). Over 6 fantastic years, the team continuously improved performance and brought arrears to their lowest ever levels. It was a fantastic rubberstamp for the team to be thefirst and only G15 organisation to secure HQN’s Income Management Accreditation.
When Amicus merged with Viridian to become Optivo in 2018, I was made head of income covering off 44,000 households. Then, in early 2021, I was made director for customer accounts and lettings covering off all tenures of income collection and lettings performance. I thoroughly enjoyed this bringing together key departments for the benefit of tenants – I’ve always been passionate about getting new tenants off to a great start, so it was incredibly rewarding to influence this. Following all this, I joined Mobysoft in June 2022 and couldn’t have asked for a better move.
What does your role at Mobysoft entail?
I support a list of Mobysoft customers. This could be through a varying range of initiatives such as acting as a ‘critical friend’ and offering advice and guidance, supporting managers and income leaders, or facilitating a huge range of training sessions. Mainly though, my role is fundamentally about supporting customers to get full value from the product, be the best versions of themselves, and give them all the tools to increase collections and drive down arrears.
My fellow income maximisation director, Nick Beasley, and I also run lots of webinars and in-person events on a range of different topics. I’m also here to support the wider teams and have developed strong working relationships with key internal people like account directors, customer success managers, and the sales team.
What is the most interesting part of your job?
I absolutely love being out and about with customers. Seeing people face to face is something I thrive on. Doing it via Teams just isn’t the same – being with people and engaging with customers in-person is where the good stuff happens. By meeting with people face to face I can help drive change and really enjoy it 6 months later when the hard work equals results and positive outcomes.
What are your biggest challenges at the moment?
Things get tougher for customers each year. Many of our customers are still finding their feet in terms of navigating the cost-of-living crisis or issues arising from the pandemic.
Recruitment seems to be a hot topic within social housing right now, and with income teams not being at full capacity, it’s often caseload completion that suffers. I think our Automation packages are super-exciting and offer a brilliant solution to help our customers do more with less.
What’s most meaningful part of your job?
As above – being with customers onsite and seeing what a difference Mobysoft and its solutions make. Everyone at Mobysoft is an absolute superstar when it comes to caring for the customer. Seeing positive results and engaged income teams is fantastic to see.
How do you measure the success of the outcomes directly influenced via your role?
I’m lucky enough to have a list of positive case studies. The good thing about my role is that it’s pretty clear if arrears are reducing or not. So, there’s tons of reports I can call upon to check on the success of the work. Feedback from events is key too, and most importantly, helping the business secure contract renewals or seeing new customers come on board is a key measure of success.
What would you say are the biggest challenges faced by social landlords in the current climate?
It’s going to be even harder this year for social housing providers to collect rent – particularly amongst working households who have seen increases in bills such as rent, service charges, council tax, and personal bills like mobile phone contracts, car insurance, water bills too.
We’re seeing a new cohort of tenants emerge comprising of those who have never been in arrears previously – traditionally good payers who have always paid on time but are now finding it a squeeze for the first time. Our data set is backing that up and I’m seeing it when I’m with customers too.
Working on anything interesting at the moment?
It’s all systems go with supporting customers at the minute. That could be face-to-face support or all of the webinars/events we’re doing. We’ve just finished our fifth Manager Focus Session of the year. That was very interesting – a face-toface event supporting about 150+ heads, managers, and team leaders on how to improve performance, increase productivity, create a team culture, and implement team building initiatives, as well a great session on time management.
How would you describe Mobysoft and what it does to the uninitiated?
There’s a great set of staff who genuinely want to do what’s best for the customer. Sometimes that can be a bit of a cliché but its 100% true here. The culture here is second to none. Mobysoft is doing lots of interesting things currently too, particularly with data, machine learning, and platforms such as our Automation offering that boosts customers’ ability to do more with less. It’s an exciting company to work for with lots of forward thinking.
If you could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of the social housing sector overnight, what would it be?
Clearly there is a cost-of-living crisis, so if this could be eased for tenants, that’d be great. In turn, this would free up capacity for social housing providers.
What has been your proudest achievement in Housing?
Leading various teams to be best in class whether that be income, lettings, or customer service/complaints. Securing an Income Management Accreditation through HQN was great – the organisation I worked for at the time was the first G15 landlord to achieve this. Other proud moments include seeing employee satisfaction percentages reach great heights, after all, happy staff equals happy customers. However, pushing thousands of tenants out of arrears through customer-focused income collection is probably the stand-out.
What has been your proudest achievement at Mobysoft?
I think I’ve got double figure case studies I can refer to – it’s great seeing a partnership with a client pay off and to witness tangible outcomes in performance and reenergised staff.
What are your other passions outside housing?
I’m a massive football fan – I’ve been a season ticket holder at Millwall for 35 years and regularly attend away games too. I like to keep fit, so run a lot and play football on Sunday nights. I like to socialise with friends and family and go out and do stuff – I’ve never been one for staying at home. Music is a big passion also – I like a vast range but would always come back to British Pop Guitar…stuff like Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Stone Roses, The Jam, Libertines, The Beatles etc.
How do you unwind after work?
As mentioned, its either spending time with family and friends, football, being active, enjoying a nice meal, or listening to music.
What is your ideal holiday?
I like a bit of both and I’m equally happy with an all-inclusive with a beach and pool (but with stuff to do) as I am with a more bespoke getaway. We go to Italy every year too – so long as there’s mixture of good food, relaxing, socialising, and good times, you can’t go wrong!
An intriguing insight into the passions and motivations of a key staff member, we think you’ll agree. If you enjoyed reading this the head back to these very pages at the same time next month for Staff Spotlight where we’ll be getting to know another Mobysoft staffer a little better.