Nottingham City Homes (NCH) is an arm’s length management organisation (ALMO) that looks after around 27,000 homes on behalf of Nottingham City Council.
Operating under the governance of a board made up of councillors, tenants and leaseholders, and independent and co-opted members, NCH’s vision is to create homes and places where people want to live.
This year they won the title of Landlord of the Year 2018 from the UK Housing Awards, which is a testament to their commitment to tenant involvement and putting customers at the heart of everything they do.
NCH offers a wide range of services to its local community and handles over 400,000 calls through its contact centre per year. Most of the calls are repair related, but NCH also deals with rent accounts and other tenancy and estate management concerns, such as anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.
With their current system reaching end of life, it was imperative for NCH to find a new contact centre solution that would provide continuity of service but also offer flexibility as new channels of communication were added.
Catherine Elliott, Head of Customer Experience, NCH, commented: “It was important for us to find a system that would allow us to grow and develop. At the moment, 90% of our interactions are telephone-based but we want to drive uptake of other interaction methods over time, so we needed to ensure that the chosen platform offered a future migration path.”
Governed by strict procurement policies, NCH went out to tender and chose a leading unified communications provider, who in turn worked with managed service and unified communications provider Voyager Networks to deliver the Enghouse Interactive Communications Center (EICC).
NCH had no preconceptions on solutions so went in with an open mind. Elliot added: “The process gave us the opportunity to benchmark products and suppliers against each other and it soon became clear that the combination of a leading CCS supplier as primary contractor, Voyager Networks as solution provider and the Enghouse Interactive Communications Center as the flagship contact centre solution was the right choice.”
EICC met all the criteria that NCH was looking for around price, functionality, performance and scalability. It is fully supported by Enghouse Interactive and the platform gave scope for adding new channels as and when the need arises.
Also, it was fully operational with the existing Cisco Unified Communication Manager, which ensured protection of existing investment and therefore a reduced total cost of ownership (TCO).
Critically too, EICC is both easy to implement and easy to use, both key requirements for a busy 24/7 operation like NCH that is delivering emergency repairs around the clock and cannot afford system downtime.
Putting the System in
One of the key priorities for NCH when it came to installing the solution is that it had to be carried out with minimal downtime. Thanks to the expertise of the Voyager team and the intuitive nature of EICC, the system was only down for 17 minutes in total and was being actively used within a day of installation.
Voyager also upgraded NCH’s existing Cisco Unified Communications (UC) platform and integrated it with EICC. Overall, the whole implementation project was successfully delivered on time and under budget.
“The implementation itself may only be relevant for a comparatively short period,” said Elliott. “However, how efficiently and effectively it is carried out can have a real impact on how you feel about a product over the long term.”
“Ensuring that the implementation was smooth and had very little impact on our customers was an important objective for us – so we are delighted with the result.”
Reaping the Rewards
NCH uses EICC not only to quickly and efficiently handle calls coming into the contact centre from tenants but also for reporting purposes.
As Elliott explains: “We have already got more data out of the system than we ever have before. Now we need to start drilling into this data to achieve enhanced customer insight.”
Contact centre agents at NCH are already reaping the rewards of using EICC. Most have needed little external support to get up and running on the system and have enjoyed exploring its functionality to find faster, more intuitive ways to carry out their day-to-day tasks.
“Our agents have also been able to monitor and manage their own breaks more efficiently and effectively, for example,” said Elliott, “and we have seen a real increase in schedule adherence as a result.”
NCH is also starting to see some of the enhanced customer insight that the solution can provide. Call coding has improved, both in terms of the detail agents provide and in the ability of management to drill down into that detail and gain a better understanding of the status, preference and needs of the customer.
The new implementation also drives a more flexible approach to scaling the workforce up and down. With the Cisco UC platform as the foundation, the combination of EICC and the Enghouse Interactive TouchPoint application allows users working in one NCH office to pick up calls from another quickly and easily, if required. This brings business efficiencies by ensuring that agents and the organisation itself are more productive, but it also provides business continuity assurance and a back-up plan to keep operations ‘up and running’ even in the event of a major disaster at head office.
The use of the Cisco UC platform, in particular, helps agents route calls more quickly through to experts in the middle and back office of the business.
Being able to have call recording as an integrated feature within EICC rather than running it as a standalone function has also helped NCH, enabling it to find, access and analyse calls much more quickly than it could have done before. With EICC, it can search by a wider range of criteria, including advisor name, which is helpful for call quality reviews, training and investigating customer complaints.
From the outset, NCH has been impressed by the support it has received from Voyager Networks, a key Enghouse Interactive partner and the main solutions provider it has worked with on the account.
“The continuity of service we received on this project has been very important,” Elliott added. “The Voyager team we were introduced to at the outset remained the same throughout and that continuity has been increasingly important as the project has rolled out.”
“The relationship with Voyager has been consistently excellent,” continued Elliott. “The team’s project planning was of the highest standard. They were flexible in the way they managed us and the dedication and commitment they displayed from the word go. They were also patient but nevertheless scrupulously honest when giving us advice and consultancy.”
“Today, they remain responsive and easily accessible whenever we need to contact them by phone or via email.”
Looking to the Future
The implementation of EICC has opened up a window of opportunity to be more efficient in the way they work and to make it easier for their community to connect with them.
The reporting capabilities within the solution will provide greater insight into exactly why there are spikes in calls around specific types of repairs at particular times, allowing it in turn to explore where these spikes are being created by inefficiencies in other parts of the business. It plans to build on this customer insight data capability over time to further shape its customer engagement strategy and drive more quantifiable efficiencies.
Also, while the focus so far has been on voice-based telephony interactions, NCH also plans to utilise the email functionality within the EICC system. This will open up new channels of communication for their tenants but also reduce the number of calls into their contact centre. The omnichannel capabilities of EICC will also enable NCH to develop their services for their tenants, adding new channels as and when required with minimum effort and cost.
John Byron, channel director, Enghouse Interactive, said: “Forward-thinking housing associations across the UK are increasingly aware of the benefits of delivering the optimum level of service to their tenants, resolving their queries quickly and keeping them fully informed at all times.”
“We are delighted that Nottingham City Homes has chosen the Enghouse Interactive Communications Center to deliver this rich capability.”