Huge strides have been made in AI over the past few years, most recently by the advent of ChatGPT and Bard. With AI technology now accessible to the masses, everyone with the internet can now interact with chatbots, ushering in a new era of automation and human-bot collaboration. For housing providers, the way in which communications with tenants are handled is set to advance, fostering stronger relationships and elevating the rental experience.
Customer expectations are evolving in tandem with technology, increasing the potential for the creation of meaningful digital connections. Those that facilitate smooth online communications with tenants in a manner and time that suits them will reap the benefits associated with increased digital entry points, namely stronger customer relationships, fewer complaints and higher levels of satisfaction.
Digitalisation has fuelled the demand for omni-channel communications across all sectors and housing is no exception. Housing providers must view each tenant as a unique individual in terms of their communication preferences, availability and specificity of their queries. An omni-channel approach caters to different needs, providing tenants with flexibility and timely access to information and support, whether they’re seeking an answer via a digital platform or having an in-depth discussion with a customer-service agent.
Getting customer communications spot on can make the world of difference, both to tenants’ experiences and housing providers’ overall operational efficiency. Using readily-available technology to implement an omni-channel approach will serve to streamline communications and ensure that tenants receive a first-rate service tailored to their preferences.
Touching base with tenants
As businesses across the UK continue to combat the productivity crisis, customer-service agents are faced with increasingly demanding workloads. It is essential for housing providers to shield tenants from the potentially negative consequences of this and ensure that customer relationships continue to be prioritised and protected.
Investment in conversational AI tools that enable tenants to interact with agents via messaging apps, live chat, chatbots and voice will play a key role in freeing up agents’ time. Chatbots in particular are a reliable way to provide instant support to customers who may not have the time or inclination to speak with a customer-service agent. Chatbot technology ensures that customers always have a way of getting in touch and accessing the information they require at any point in time, easing the common frustrations associated with waiting on hold for an agent to become available.
While many tenants will welcome the implementation of new conversational AI technologies, engagement with human agents remains a valuable part of relationship-building with customers. Certain stages of the process will require more input from agents than others – for example, many tenants will feel comfortable scheduling viewings or logging a repair request via chatbot, but most would probably prefer to speak to a human to query a clause in their contract. A combined human-bot approach that provides customers with as much choice as possible will create a ‘best of both worlds’ solution, helping housing providers to embed versatile communications into their day-to-day operations.
Building the future
As AI technology continues to transform the ways in which businesses communicate with customers, further developments within housing are inevitable. As more decision-makers wake up to the possibilities of conversational AI, technology will continue to drive innovations in customer experience, maximising satisfaction and long-term loyalty.
Building thriving communities in which everyone has a good quality, affordable home requires strong engagement with tenants, and meeting their changing expectations will require housing providers to leverage technologies that help agents use their time effectively and add human value where it matters most.
Stewart Mackay is a senior business development manager at CM.com.