Today’s twentysomethings expect an efficient customer care experience that includes digital services. Nathan Ollier of Advanced explains what this is likely to mean for the sector. Picture by Getty
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How have associations responded to offer residents a better service?
Social landlords are often more forward thinking than some may give them credit for. We have seen significant innovation in the way that housing associations are communicating with their tenants and much of this is responding to their growing digital preferences. In recent years we have seen more landlords adopting emails and texts as ways of communicating, the latter having transformed the process of reminding tenants of appointments and reducing no-access rates.
We have also seen an increase in the provision of self-service options to tenants, removing the restriction of communication within office hours and providing service options 24/7.
This digital transformation is most definitely a win-win, with the social landlord delivering services in a way that their residents prefer, but at the same time gaining efficiencies through streamlining and automating many processes.
Three out of four millennials say they prefer to handle customer service issues themselves. How can this be achieved?
Modern consumers are used to using live chat, chatbots and even social media channels to communicate with retailers, mobile providers and banks, so why shouldn’t residents expect the same channels of access to their landlords?
We are seeing more and more social landlords offering self-service options to their residents, be that through automated voice response or web-based services. However, regardless of the channel used, the key to a good experience is a swift and appropriate response, as well as an ability to quickly triage the query.
For example, if a resident is requesting a repair through the website during the evening, they expect confirmation of an appointment there and then. It’s no longer good enough to log the request and respond in the morning. This means that the right IT tools need to work together to deliver a seamless service. Self-service portals have to directly interface dynamic scheduling solutions so an appointment can be scheduled immediately.
When residents aren’t able to solve the issue themselves, how can social landlords provide a time-saving service?
Recent research found that more than 70% of millennials say a service that respects their time is most important. This is not just about offering them 24/7 access, but it’s taking into account their needs when scheduling appointments. The challenge here is to blend their needs with the needs of the landlord to operate an effective, cost-efficient service.
Linking the customer access channel with an intelligent scheduling solution is key. It enables automated systems to offer residents a choice in the appointment being made, but offering this choice based on what is the most efficient use of resource for the social landlord.
How can these youth-driven innovations benefit all residents?
While millennials are often credited as being the digital pioneers, the fact is that digital communication channels have raised the bar for customer service across all social groups. No one wants to wait in all day for a tradesperson or a delivery, and we expect to be able to interact with service providers outside of ‘normal’ working hours.
By providing out-of-hours contact and responsive communication, landlords not only help smooth the peaks of calls and enable residents to raise issues more easily, they’re also able to reduce no access rates and improve first-time fixes. This results in happier residents as well as a positive impact on the operational efficiency.
Nathan Ollier is general manager – field service at Advanced. He has 20 years’ experience in the IT industry and spent almost half of that working with the housing and public sectors. Formerly chief operating officer of field service management at technology specialists Kirona Solutions, which is now Advanced.
How can using more interactive digital services help the landlord?
As well as customer satisfaction, landlords are able to streamline processes and make better use of their resources.
Diverting contact centre calls to self service enables customer service teams to focus on complex interactions where greater value can be added. Appointing work during the initial interaction significantly reduces the lead time to fix, and integrating systems ensures intelligent and efficient scheduling of resources.
By digitally linking interactions and processes, housing associations gain greater visibility into their operation, to better predict how long any job will take to complete, ensure any potential snags are pre-empted and ensure that the right tradesperson arrives on site at the right time. It also enables individual jobs to be scheduled to make the best use of time – minimising time spent on travelling by grouping similar or geographically close jobs together.
Furthermore, if the property requiring responsive repairs is also due scheduled maintenance, work can be planned to minimise disruption to residents.
What are the consequential benefits?
The operational and financial benefits of integrating digital systems are significant.
We’ve seen landlords reduce no-access rates from 40% to just 3% in some areas, purely as a result of better communication. We have also seen first-time fix rates climb as high as 92% as a result of better triage and scheduling of the right resources.
Digital communication is also playing a significant role in the management and flow of information to field-based workers. Sending work directly to the operator’s mobile reduces paperwork and the need to return back to base. It also provides the ability to track progress of work in real time, allowing for work to be allocated in a far more efficient manner.
How do you see social landlords adopting more digital services in future?
The march of technology continues and can only improve a landlord’s ability to provide an efficient service to customers.
Broader development of infrastructure, such as 5G networks and ever-improving mobile connectivity, will undoubtedly enable communication to become quicker and more responsive.
Meanwhile, the Internet of Things and Home Connect technology are likely to remotely monitor, diagnose and pre-empt common issues. For remote boiler management tools and damp sensors, other technology can be used to flag issues even before residents are aware of them.