Today’s customers differ quite markedly from those of years gone by, the most obvious difference being their expectations. They are exposed to a broader range of products and services from a variety of businesses, both bricks and mortar and online, making them far more savvy and therefore more demanding. Despite this cultural shift, one thing remains the quintessential component for any customer; their experience.
Wandle aspires to deliver a 21st-century customer experience and has taken the decision to transform its business so that it’s flexible enough to support this vision and deliver the ‘wow’ factor to its customers. Our new system is designed to enable service delivery that is no longer on the back foot; it promotes the principles of apologise, learn, don’t repeat, follow through and follow up, and perhaps most importantly, pre-empt problems.
Our project started in October 2017, when faced with an outdated and soon-to-be unsupported system, high costs and low customer satisfaction, we needed to act fast and think differently. When we bought our 1980s-style system, everyone else was buying Apple, and thinking back you wonder what were we thinking and why didn’t we notice that the world was changing? Determined not to make the same mistake we engaged 3C Consultants to help us explore our options and to build a business case for change.
Our solution was to deploy Microsoft Dynamics around our existing housing management system, enabling an incremental shift and giving us time to plan how we will eventually move our rent accounting out of the legacy system. We had an immediate need to capture our asset data in one system so we decided to buy an asset management system that we could integrate with Dynamics for customer-focused processes. In addition we bought Microsoft Power BI and Azure so that we can fulfil our vision of becoming a data-driven organisation.
Dynamics was an obvious choice for us because it gave us the flexibility we were looking for and enabled us to build a customer-centric system which supports simple processes and provides a single view of the customer.
Our business case was approved in May 2018, the procurement ran from then to June 2018 via Crown Commercial Services, and we awarded contracts to Blacklight Software for Dynamics, Power BI and Azure and to Civica for Keystone in September 2018.
Embedding our guiding principles
As a business, we had established our guiding principles and sought to embed these from the outset; we wanted to ensure that all customer journeys were co-designed; transactions were designed for first-time resolution; data was captured once and used many times; and new technology was embraced to maximise value for money.
We opted to use Workplace for Business to engage customers in co-design, setting up an innovation lab for them in 2018. We are steadily building membership, with 70 customers signed up for a live Q&A session on repairs in January 2019. The suggestions and feedback from this session have since been fed in to our internal workshops and will help to shape our new processes and services.
Our complaints tool went live in Dynamics in February 2019 after Blacklight had worked with our business ambassadors to ensure that the new process enables first-time resolution, empowering front-line staff while improving reporting and accountability. In doing so, we took a leap of faith and moved away from the ‘budget-holder block’ that so often frustrates a smooth customer experience.
The anti-social behaviour and fraud tools also went live in February. We designed these processes to ensure that the data we already hold is used to populate automated emails and letters; our staff can now simply send the communication out or add in additional details specific to the case.
In terms of new technology, we secured a very good licensing deal from Microsoft and we can use Workplace free of charge, maximising the value we are getting from our new software while benefitting from its amazing features and functionality.
Civica’s Keystone asset management software went live in March this year and while this was a quieter go-live in terms of the number of users, we were keen to ensure that our staff could maximise Keystone’s functionality. The mobile devices previously given to our surveyors were no longer suitable so we invested in new kit to ensure ease of access while out on site.
Communication and engagement have been key to the success of our project so far. Daily stand-ups helped to not only manage project actions but also to engage and raise the project’s profile across the whole of the business, with team meetings and all staff briefings allowing us to communicate the “what’s in it for us?” messages. Our latest initiative on Workplace is to build a chatbot which can answer FAQs on the project and new processes as they go live.
Resistance to change
Things haven’t been completely plain sailing and there were a number of problems which we have had to overcome, resistance to change being the biggest and trickiest to address. In this end, Wandle has invested in a change management programme to help its people to manage change and understand where they fit in with our future vision; this programme saw every member of staff attend change workshops and a consistent set of messages delivered about our rationale for change.
Delivering amazing customer service is our top priority and in only a few months we have taken a huge leap towards achieving our vision.
Debbie Chun is the IT programme manager at Wandle Housing.