With the arrival of the fourth industrial age, we have all experienced changes to our everyday lives that were at one time beyond the scope of our dreams. As consumers of products and services, our expectations around ease of transacting have been transformed and we want efficient, effective interactions, personalised to our needs. Housing providers have not been immune to such colossal changes in what their customers want and expect, and meeting those expectations is both a challenge and an opportunity to add great value.
Advancements such as the advent of biotech will have profound implications for future life expectancy which in turn directly affects housing providers as the number and type of properties that will be required in future years changes. Closer to home, the explosion of IoT (internet of things) and the rapid adoption of technologies such as voice assistants by tenants promise to complicate the landscape of customer expectations even further.
In addition to living longer, customers are increasingly critical of current levels of service delivery, which often lacks a user-friendly interface, an ability to self-serve and an efficient resolution of issues. This new-found set of expectations is driven by the consumption of slick technology from the likes of Facebook and Amazon, and it increases the service-delivery demands placed on housing providers, especially as younger tenants move in. Equally, a solution is needed to meet the care requirements of elderly tenants through effective case management and the coordination of numerous agencies and stakeholders such as care workers.
Some of the key challenges in the area of effective tenant case management are keeping track of case statuses when systems are siloed and unintegrated, with additional work being created for cases that could be resolved with self-service, a lack of much-needed analytical capabilities to enable the measurement of performance, and low satisfaction from tenants experiencing a disconnected service from their housing provider.
Let’s hone in on one of these challenges; housing providers’ struggle to better connect with their tenants. Housing providers are not only focused on property management but also on developing deeper community relations. As customer expectations increase via multi-channel services, meeting customers where they are is key to increasing satisfaction.
A good example of customer engagement that has changing expectations is a repair case relating to a boiler in one of your properties.
Faced with a boiler problem, a subset of tenants would prefer (or even demand) to pick up a phone and speak to someone, while for another subset the least-preferred method is a phone call. As a consumer, I expect to communicate using my preferred channel at my preferred time. For the housing provider, this means catering to, say, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, SMS, web, email and web-chat, and the list continues to grow. Aside from the increased technical complexity of all those channels, there are also staffing implications; perhaps for ‘Jules’ in your back-office, ‘Twitter fear’ is real and Instagram is what again, exactly?
This is where a platform is needed to reduce complexity and to seamlessly adapt to conversations across different channels and transparently embrace whatever is popular tomorrow.
With Salesforce, it doesn’t matter to Jules which channel the tenant chooses to communicate on. When Salesforce receives the incoming message, a case is automatically created which links to the tenant’s CRM record as well as to other systems as needed, providing a single unified view across your different systems.
When Jules views the case of the broken down boiler, she not only has all the relevant information at her immediate disposal but is presented with an intuitive interface already adapted to the chosen channel, allowing her to get on with addressing the issue and replying as normal, while the platform handles the rest. No more Twitter fear here.
With all siloed systems connected by Salesforce, Jules is now efficiently dispatching cases, so how can we improve that? By reducing the volume of incoming cases.
Salesforce empowers customers and housing providers to communicate more effectively with each other, self-serve and build stronger relationships, leading to increased satisfaction and faster issue resolution, with the option to raise a case or not. A double-win, with satisfied customers and a reduced case-load for agents so that they can concentrate on more complex cases.
In addition to reducing channel complexity, the Salesforce platform is infused with machine-learning technology (AI) known as Einstein. In the background, Einstein crunches numbers and uses ‘natural language understanding’ to drive intelligent chat-bot interactions and to measure sentiment for the case and associated social messages. Einstein presents Jules with handy graphical indicators so she can better triage and adapt her responses at a glance.
Einstein can also be put to task providing suggestions for the next best actions or predicting the likelihood of rent being paid next month; both valuable insights that without the platform would require complex development along with a data scientist.
In summary, to effectively adopt a customer-centric approach, ensure you have achieved the following:
- Establish a 360-degree view of your tenant relationships;
- Empower your tenants and increase efficiencies with self-service;
- Centralise and ease end-to-end case management;
- Bring case management to staff, whether in the office or on the move;
- Get the important insights you need to measure and manage performance.
Etienne de Klerk is a senior solutions engineer at Salesforce.org.