Much has been written (and continues to be) about omni-channel customer services and digital transformation. High expectations have been raised around what digital transformation will deliver to an organisation in terms of improved efficiency and customer service. This is often linked to the purchase of a new IT platform or the creation of an all-encompassing database.
The proposed solution, which originated in the retail market, is a 360° view of tenants across all channels. This is usually based on an enterprise CRM system, but while this is a key foundation, there is much more to it than just building a platform or database.
There are nuances around the design and use of a CRM system that need to be taken into consideration. Too often a CRM system is designed as more of a ticketing or customer service management solution rather than a true CRM system that is integrated with multiple service delivery channels. Having a true CRM system at the centre which takes data from the web, mobile apps and business systems, such as housing, finance or repairs and maintenance, is a better approach. In our experience, creating a repairs and maintenance system in a CRM application and then trying to use the same system as a true CRM system just doesn’t work as well.
Bringing a 360° tenant view to life
Creating an omni-channel platform can give a housing provider a comprehensive view of its tenants across multiple touchpoints. However, really achieving a full 360° view needs the organisation to fully commit to customer service across all teams and interactions.
If the different teams are not all fully committed to capturing, analysing and responding to the multiple tenant interactions, then data is only captured but not ‘brought to life’ to improve efficiency and service levels. Being accurate and timely will help both office and mobile staff as well as tenants. This requires data sharing and interaction across and between teams so that the relationships with tenants become broader and deeper.
It is only by recording, sharing and acting on current and correct data that tenants will really experience a professional service organisation. This can be supplemented by data from other sources such as IoT-based sensors (e.g. from lifts, thermometers, boilers and smart meters) and external data, such as credit referencing. It is even possible to add data from ‘wearable tech’ (e.g. for health conditions and locations) with the appropriate controls and agreements.
To achieve this, there needs to be a shared vision and purpose across the teams because differing levels of commitment from different teams will lead to gaps in the use of data and thus varying levels of customer experience. Teams such as lettings, finance, maintenance and contact centre will all benefit from keeping customer information up-to-date. It will also support improvements in delivering compliance because records will be more accurate and more reliable.
In other markets such as retail, this degree of information sharing and collaboration is easier to achieve because the teams’ incentives can be closely aligned to easily-measured metrics such as sales revenues, while other sectors such as technology and finance are using customer satisfaction as a measure of service delivery rather than a purely sales or revenue-driven approach. In short, there are many applicable tools available for measuring satisfaction following a customer interaction that we have all experienced from different providers beyond the housing sector.
Improving customer service & business processes
Many organisations find it hard to create and use analytics to support the improvement of services and processes. In our experience, the use of predictive analytics is enabling organisations to look forward and plan for predicted changes in demand.
The problems are primarily caused by a lack of understanding and commitment across the organisation in the correct capture and use of information. This requires a people-based approach rather than technology alone. Aligning the teams to a customer service approach, where they are reliant on each other’s data, and experience both the positive and negative impacts of this, will help change the culture. Where teams are isolated from the actions of other teams and the customers themselves then the importance and inter-dependence of what they do is diminished.
The nirvana of customer insight and predictive analytics to forward plan service activities, increase efficiency, improve quality, remove wasted time and duplicated effort will not be achieved by technology alone. A great deal can be achieved using relatively simple and low-cost analytics software if the data is reliable because it is core to the way the organisation delivers services. With the best will in the world, the best AI engines can’t put back what is missing or create insight if the data does not exist in the first place.
The approach that has worked across multiple organisations in different sectors is one of ‘lean whole systems thinking’. It has been developed over more than 50 years based on academic research and real-life organisational experiences. This approaches the identification of problems and the agreement of solutions ‘in the round’. It engages the people who actually work in the services and use the processes to deliver services to customers as well as those who manage and organise the service teams. The technology requirements are part of, and come from, this holistic approach. It’s often surprising what can be achieved by a relatively simple and low-tech approach at the outset.
Once progress is made on agreeing the problems and the solutions and trying a few ‘quick wins’, then the requirements for a CRM system can be properly articulated. This will give a joined-up view across the different services and customer interactions of what’s needed and the benefits it has to deliver to customers, team members and the organisation.
Deploying relatively simple (and often already owned) reporting tools, such as Microsoft Power BI) will deliver a lot of value, before progressing to more complex and expensive tools such as AI. Good CRM systems already have these embedded within them although sometimes they need further development from more technically-trained staff to really deliver value.
Gill Newsome is the business development manager at Capita IT Professional Services.