When every agent is busy and there is still a growing queue of tenants waiting to speak to someone, lucky is not a term that springs to mind, yet we truly believe that when it comes to customer engagement, social housing providers are in an enviable position.
For the majority of contact centres across other sectors, they have no real control over who is contacting them, when they are contacting them, or why they are calling. It is a world of unknowns that creates a highly unpredictable environment in which to operate.
Within social housing, many of these typical unknowns are actually known. You know who will be contacting you; it is the residents in the homes that you manage.
You know the main reasons why they call you: rent payments, housing repairs, complaints, or to chase progress on a case. You are even able to predict when they will be calling you: when rent payment is due, when they are waiting for a repair, or when cold weather hits generating and influx of failed boiler calls.
This somewhat predictable nature of customer engagement that exists within social housing is definitely an advantage and an opportunity to improve efficiency, increase accessibility and deliver the best possible customer experience for the best possible value for money.
The Driver for Change in Social Housing
As a sector, there are many factors that are driving a need for change. We continue to face a housing crisis in the UK and with the economic uncertainty of the pandemic, the demand on the sector to be that safety net for society is only set to increase.
At the same time, social housing providers are under increasing pressure to ensure and demonstrate value for money within the communities they serve and following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there is greater pressure, as outlined in last year’s long-awaited Government Social Housing White Paper, for the sector to listen to and be accountable to their tenants.
Customer engagement is at the heart of this change. How do social housing providers make themselves more accessible to their tenants, ensure they are engaging and listening to their tenants, and delivering the best possible service more efficiently?
We believe this can be achieved by taking the unique advantage of knowing your customers and applying smart omni-channel customer engagement technologies to transform accessibility, efficiency, and experience.
Removing the Blockers of Change
There is much talk about digital transformation within the sector and although many organisations are embarking on digital journeys, there are many factors that are slowing down progress, especially in the area of customer engagement.
We see three main blockers to progress, all of which can be easily overcome. First is the need to be inclusive. Your customers span a broad spectrum from the young to the elderly, from the independent to the vulnerable.
This is leading to an over-cautious approach to channel shift with the fear of its detrimental impact on inclusion. Different thinking is required here, from viewing it as ‘channel shift’ to ‘channel choice.’
Second is what is best described as a ‘Silo Legacy.’ Traditionally Social Housing organisations have had a multitude of systems in place including Housing Management, CRM, Case Management, Housing Repairs, Finance, etc, etc.
This not only makes it difficult to gain a single view of the customer, but also impacts your people on the front-line. According to ContactBabel in 70% of social housing contact centres agents spend over 10% of their time simply flicking between systems.
A solution is required that bridges the gap between operations systems and data silos to deliver a unified agent desktop.
The third factor, and probably the most critical, is that the sector is often too busy being busy to look for innovative and smarter ways to address their challenges.
Looking to use a knowledge base to empower front-line agents to deal with more queries first time rather than to pass tenants from one department to the next and using AI to deliver highly effective self-service 24×7 will enable those who want to interact digitally to do so and free up staff to better support more vulnerable tenants.
Transforming Customer Engagement Within Social Housing
For the team at Cirrus, we get excited at the endless possibilities open to the Social Housing sector in transforming how they interact, serve and provide that all important support to their customers.
The vision incorporates a number of steps that can be achieved through utilising a modern cloud-based omni-channel solution and working with the right partner who understands customer engagement and more importantly, the social housing sector.
Align to Tenant Preferences
You know your tenants: the young, the old, the vulnerable – use this to align your engagement channels and your customer journeys. Provide tenants choice in how they can interact with you: phone, email, SMS, chat or social media.
Leverage what you know about tenants to better route and service them, offer self-service to those who prefer this, proactively message those who are likely to chase progress on a case and prioritise calls from vulnerable tenants.
Be Proactive to Tenants’ Needs
You know why tenants call you; be proactive. Send them updates on their outstanding case or repair.
Send them reminders and a link to online payments, offer them chat to assist them through their first-time using self-service, and if you know there is going to be a cold spell, make sure you have the capacity to respond to the influx of calls.
Unify the Communication Silos
Don’t think about communication as different channels, but as one journey that can traverse multiple paths. By leveraging a solution that can support any-channel, you instantly provide a more efficient and effective service to customers.
An agent that can see every conversation across every channel is better able to serve the customer. An agent that can simultaneously engage with multiple customers over chat is far more productive.
By providing agents with one solution that unifies all of the disparate data sources to deliver a single view of the customer will make them more productive and will allow them to spend less time flipping between systems and more time engaging with the customer.
Combine this with a knowledge base and they can answer more enquiries first time.
To transform customer engagement, you need to fully understand customer engagement.
By leveraging a platform that can capture the end-to-end customer journey, provide valuable insight into customer behaviour, preferences and satisfaction you are better placed to align your service to needs and accurately report on the customer experience you are delivering.
The possibilities to transform how you engage and serve your tenants are endless. There are many small steps that can be taken that deliver significant positive outcomes.
Cirrus recognise the challenges within Social Housing that is driving change, and believe the sector is perfectly placed to embark on this journey.