The introduction at Hounslow Homes of a case management and CRM solution from Lagan has seen a reduction in front-office staff, faster logging of repairs and an improvement to three-star rating.
Hounslow Homes, an ALMO managing 16,500 homes for the London Borough of Hounslow since 2002, identified customer service as a critical area to be addressed as part of its long-term strategy, particularly with customer satisfaction levels at just 13 per cent. In the past, enquiries were dealt with by three independent mini-call centres, each covering a specific part of the borough, resulting in repeated calls from customers, duplication of staff effort and inconsistent integration and communication between the front- and back-office teams.
Lynne Bann, head of customer service, Hounslow Homes, said, “We wanted to answer customer questions as fully as possible on the first call. A ‘mystery shopper’ exercise demonstrated how inconsistent our responses were. While the staff were praised as being extremely helpful, most of the time they couldn’t obtain the correct information because it was held in one of the back-office systems and email requests often got lost or remained unanswered. It was frustrating for both staff and customers, and the system clearly had to change.”
The project group comprised representatives from Hounslow Homes’ IT and customer service teams alongside staff from Lagan, NCC Consultancy and Anite, who provided the back-office housing management system. The programme was split into two phases. The first phase focused on Hounslow Homes’ general enquiries division which covers calls on rents, transfer requests and anti-social behaviour. The second phase saw the consolidation of the three area teams and the repairs service into a single customer services centre, with the result that tenants only need one telephone number for all Hounslow Homes enquiries.
Lynne Bann said, “We were the first social housing provider to use a CRM and case management system – I wanted deep integration so that as much information as possible from the back office would be available to our front-office staff. Neither Lagan nor our corporate IT team initially realised exactly how much information we wanted to pull into the new system.”
As soon as a customer calls, Hounslow Homes’ customer service advisors now have a full contact history at their fingertips. Lynne Bann said, “Our aim is to keep the customer fully informed. The back-office staff realise that keeping case notes up-to-date reduces their workload and lessens the need to call customers because the front-office advisers have the information they need to keep them fully informed.”
The customer services centre manages over 2500 calls per week, answering more than 80 per cent within its target of 20 seconds. Since the introduction of the CRM and case management system, staffing requirements have halved, from 33 to 16.5 full-time equivalents. Lynne Bann said, “We are handling more calls more quickly and with half the staff. The system makes it really easy and quick for staff to find the correct response, whether it’s the answer to a question, the completion of a service request form, or setting up new payment terms for rent arrears, and it makes a huge difference being able to resolve customer questions at the first point of contact.”
Hounslow Homes’s investment in the Lagan solution was noted as a significant factor in it becoming the first ALMO to be awarded the maximum three-star government rating, with excellent prospects to improve following its inspection. Lynne Bann said, “We have completely transformed the way we deal with our customers. We now focus on how and when our customers want to communicate rather than asking them to fit in with us.”