For many businesses, digital transformation is shifting from a long-term aspiration to an urgent requirement. Customers increasingly expect to use digital methods to manage their interactions with brands, and have come to expect the level of personalisation, efficiency and control that can only be achieved with end-to-end digital transformation.
Digital transformation is more than just a customer service tool; the improved efficiency, responsiveness and powerful insights that can only be delivered through digital transformation are a significant competitive advantage, meaning organisations who don’t make the shift early enough could struggle to demonstrate the same levels of performance as their more digitally-mature peers.
However, reaping the full benefits of digital transformation means more than investing in some new technology and automating the services you already provide – it means a complete rethink of how your business runs and integrating your practice into the current digital- and technology-dominated culture in which your customers and employees live.
Cut costs and increase efficiency
According to a 2018 Chartered Institute for Housing report, 79 per cent of housing providers see cost efficiencies as the driving factor for their digital transformation efforts. Digital self-service platforms can reduce call-centre costs considrably by reducing the number of simple queries, allowing users to access account information and complete simple tasks themselves online.
Some housing providers have conducted cost/benefit analyses to inform their digital developments. For example, GreenSquare calculated that ‘traditional’ contact channels, such as telephone and post, cost around £10 per transaction while digital alternatives cost around 10p per transaction. Another housing provider found that each face-to-face transaction cost approximately £14 compared with around 30p for the same transaction with the same outcome via self-service.
The same end-to-end platforms which make self-service possible also have an important role to play in streamlining internal processes, improving speed and accuracy through the automation of common tasks.
The right digital infrastructure can also improve the efficiency of working processes across your business, speeding up decision-making by allowing faster access to data, and ensuring that all employees are working from a single centralised ‘point of truth’. Digital transformation can also help to increase productivity and engagement within the workforce by enabling remote working and empowering team members to make better decisions.
Improve customer service
Digitising customer relationships is also a key driver for increased customer satisfaction. The ability for customers to self-serve using digital platforms can reduce the time they spend waiting and enable them to access services at the times that suit their own lives and working patterns. Effective digital infrastructure can also improve offline experiences for customers – if customer service agents have easy access to the right data and the ability to make changes quickly, they’ll be better placed to solve customer problems and deliver a good experience.
Alongside the carrot of better customer service, there’s also the stick of worsening customer satisfaction for organisations who are not yet offering digital services as they suffer from comparisons with other brands.
The concept of ‘digital parity’ is key here – from the millennial generation downwards, there’s a clear expectation that customers should be able to access the same quality and range of services online as they can offline. Brands are not judged against competitors but against the ubiquitous digital experiences that customers use every day – they see no reason why every brand shouldn’t offer an equivalent quality experience to the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook.
While the move to fully digital services must be handled carefully to ensure that older or more vulnerable tenants are not excluded, for younger and digitally able tenants digital access is non-negotiable.
While the drive to cut costs and encourage users to self-serve can seem at odds with the desire to improve outcomes for vulnerable tenants, digital transformation can also significantly increase the ability of housing providers to support those with higher levels of need. While there’s often a fear among employees that a move to digital can signal job losses, for housing associations there’s in fact a far greater opportunity to instead use their workforce’s time more effectively to deliver better support where it’s most needed.
Reducing the strain on call centres means less pressure on agents to get customers off the phone quickly. While the objective for simple queries is to fulfil customer needs as quickly as possible, this is likely to change as self-service increases and calls regarding basic queries reduce. As call centres shift from servicing repetitive queries to instead handling a smaller volume of more complex enquiries, self-service can give call-centre teams the vital breathing room they need to spend more time on calls which require more investigation or a greater level of expertise.
Make strategic decisions
Digital transformation can have a profound impact not just on day-to-day operations, but on the ability to make board-level decisions for the future as well. Data is the new battleground for competitive advantage, with organisations who can leverage their data being more able to identify trends, discover opportunities and solve issues before they start.
Machine learning can deliver powerful insights and model multiple ‘what if’ scenarios, predicting the impact of business decisions on both financial and social factors. By using data effectively, boardroom discussions can be transformed with a consistent and flexible method of understanding the potential outcomes of different decisions.
Data analysis methods can be applied against everything from maintenance scheduling to void predictions and fraud detection. It also has significant potential to help both housing organisations and their tenants manage the potential impact of universal credit, identifying at-risk tenants and allowing for the provision of targeted support to prevent arrears and improve outcomes.
Graham Hopson is a product manager for Orchard Information Systems.