This article is featured on Property Reporter.
Customer experience is being more frequently placed under the spotlight as housing associations work towards providing tenants and homeowners with the best possible service.
The New Homes Quality Board (NHQB) is a case in point. An independent not-for-profit established for the purpose of overseeing reforms in the build quality of new homes and customer service provided by developers, it introduced a framework in 2022 designed to invoke a step change in developer behaviour and improve the standards of new home quality and services.
Of course, improving housing development is just the first step. From handling customer enquiries, complaints, and requests to managing the financial aspects of repairs and maintenance budgets, there are many different aspects that go into delivering an impeccable experience to tenants.
Housing associations must develop and implement policies and procedures in line with industry best practice. And they must continuously review and improve processes to ensure the seamless, effective, and efficient delivery of services to tenants.
However, it’s becoming ever clearer that many housing associations are struggling to deliver the customer experience that the industry demands.
The key CX challenges in housing
In a recent survey, Cirrus found that several housing associations are currently being inhibited by a variety of hurdles that are hampering any significant improvements in CX.
Some of the key challenges cited in relation to providing great CX included constraints around time, budget, skills and resources, especially in the face of increasing consumer demands and challenging customers. In addition, tech siloes, and underused/inaccessible data were deemed problem areas alongside issues surrounding strict regulations and a lack of CX consistency.
Industry customer service agents themselves also cited a host of their own challenges. Many of these centred around operational inefficiencies such as slow, disjointed systems and legacy technologies. However, a lack of senior guidance, training and data problems such as inaccessible customer insights, were also flagged.
Owing to these issues, housing professionals felt there are many obstacles preventing tenants from receiving great CX at present. These include:
- Overwhelmed staff and a lack of access to agents
- Long wait times and service delays
- No follow ups from agents
- Not being informed of updates
- Repetition of questions
- Laborious and pointless processes
- Automated responses (good in some cases, bad in others)
- A lack of consistency
- No joined-up service
Transforming the tenant experience
According to the survey, 45% of respondents believe that budgetary issues are largely the cause of these problems, while 36% point to technology issues.
Given the feedback, social housing providers need to bridge several gaps to not only make themselves more accessible to tenants, but also ensure they are engaged and listening to feedback, addressing concerns, and delivering more effective services.
So, what’s the solution? How can housing associations transform the tenant experience in a cost effective and technologically savvy manner?
We believe current CX challenges related to housing can be addressed with some simple yet effective changes. And it all starts with the agents.
Contact centre agents hold the key to enhanced customer experience, so every initiative and strategy needs to revolve around them. Beyond that, it comes down to knowing your customers. For example, by opening convenient lines of communication with an omnichannel approach and providing tenants with a variety of ways to interact with you, be it phone, email, SMS, chat or social media, housing associations will gain improved insights with tenants and be able to service them better.
Onward Homes, the housing association responsible for 35,000 homes across the Northwest of England, transformed its CX delivery as well as its colleague experience with an omnichannel offering and greater use of AI and automation. As a result, the number of queries being marked resolved by customers increased from 4-5% to 43%.
Housing associations must also be proactive. From sending tenants updates on their outstanding case or repairs to prompting them with reminders and links for online payments, the tenant CX will be greatly improved.
Critically, agents should be provided with a single view of all disparate tenant data sources. Not only will this allow them to spend less time flipping between systems and more time engaging with the customer, but it will also give them greater context on each individual’s unique issues, ensuring enquiries are more likely to be answered successfully first time.
By leveraging a platform capable of capturing the end-to-end customer journey and providing valuable insight into customer behaviour, preferences and satisfaction, associations will be better placed to align services to genuine needs.
There are a vast range of ways to improve how tenants are engaged and served. Ultimately, by taking a series of small, incremental steps, the overall CX can be improved significantly.
Written by Jason Roos, CEO