wands, muggles and wizards… how housing met hogwarts

One of the ways comms teams can be most effectivce is to help the organisation move to more efficient ways that their customers can do business with them. It's often called 'channel shift' but beyond the jargon there are some simple learning points.

by Christine Howles

Channel shift? Digital by default? That’s gobbledygook to most people. So how do you encourage customers to get online and do it online? You call in the Web Wizards.

At Wolverhampton Homes we don’t have digital inclusion officers or digital champions – we have Web Wizards whose one simple catchphrase is “You can’t break the internet”.

Our strategy was two-fold; we had recently set up our tenants’ Do it Online self-serve portal and wanted to promote it, we also wanted to help tenants get online to help prepare them for Universal Credit and Job Match.

When we started our journey, we knew there were different types of customers for our Web Wizards to help. As one of the most famous wizards, Harry Potter, would say we have:


  • Muggles - people not online, who may not have the knowledge or perhaps have a bit of knowledge but don’t have the equipment to get online.
  • Apprentices – people already online but not using our self-serve portal.


The apprentices were the easy wins. We started off a big push on social media, by email, in newsletters and with floor-walkers in our shops – to promote the online service and encourage people to register. We held monthly prize draws, offering a 7 inch android tablet to anyone who registered.

In the first six months more than 500 tenants registered for an account and this has continued to grow by an average of 250 registrations a month. Right now, we’ve got 3,423 signed up. By the time you’ve read this – I reckon there’ll be a few more too!

Online repairs reporting also jumped from 77 a month to 277 a month and this continues to grow each month. And we can’t wait to launch our new online booking system too!

But how to catch the Muggles and turn them into apprentices? Our journey has only just started. Two years ago, before our Web Wizards started their magic, we held drop-in sessions during Get Online week but they were poorly attended. So we’ve taken the next step and set up our own Hogwarts. We registered as a UK Online Centre and now offer free online computer training through Learn My Way. We’re planning drop-in sessions at our shops to catch Muggles as they come in, to show them how to do things online and get them started on Learn My Way. The wizards will also give advice on how to get online, through low cost smartphone or broadband packages, information on free wifi in the city or how to use the computer kiosks in our shops.

Our Web Wizards are casting their magic for all Wolverhampton Homes tenants. They want to cast away tenants’ fears and help them get their own ‘broomstick’ – whether it be a low-cost pc or a smart phone. We want to help them realise that the internet isn’t a ‘Goblet of Fire’ but more of a ‘Chamber of Secrets’ that can change their lives. They can discover the convenience of access at any time of the day or night, they can keep up with their long-distance relatives through Skype and Facebook and they can save over £560 a year by shopping online and using price comparison sites.

Their message is clear - you can’t break the internet so there’s no need to get “your wand in a knot” – plus, why wait in line when you can do it online?

Here's the Facebook group: www.facebook.com/WolverhamptonHomesComputerWizards

And here's the Twitter: https://twitter.com/wh_webwizards

Christine Howles is senior communications officer at Wolverhampton Homes.

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