We are part of a tech-savvy nation who have become accustomed to instant connected services such as Uber, Amazon Prime and Deliveroo. Expectations for ‘everything now’ has become the standard and consumers are benchmarking customer experiences from every sector against one another. We are in the radical age of ‘uberization’ and the housing sector is under pressure to transform customer experiences, in particular about how the integration of better communications can enable us to better plan for and handle delays and uncertainty and deliver better experiences to tenants.
We often come across housing organisations who are struggling with tenants’ expectations of the services they provide and this is usually due to a discrepancy between what the tenant expects and what’s actually then delivered.
Lessons from the leaky loo
A typical complaint might be, “The downstairs loo started leaking so we went online on a Saturday and they offer us a Sunday appointment. Fantastic, because they don’t usually come out over a weekend. Sunday comes and we stayed at home for most of the day, and then we received a text saying, ‘we will be there on Monday’. Someone arrives on the Monday but only to do a quote. We then book someone to come and fix the toilet, wait all day and then get a call to say that the job before ours is over-running so they are going to have to re-book…”
Now we understand that a plumber might not work on a Sunday and that you need to give a quote first, but this was never communicated. What’s going on here is poorly-set expectations, setting promises for things that are probably impossible (or least, highly unlikely), bad internal communication and uncertainty on the day. We need to aim for certainty; when designing something, we need to think about not just how the experience will be when everything works but also consider how things might go wrong and then make plans to mitigate that impact.
Examples like the one above are all too common – a lack of communication, no clear expectations which led to feelings of uncertainty and, in the end, a total lack of trust in the service when they didn’t deliver. It’s vital to build in verification steps at each stage of your service delivery model in order to demonstrate that you are fulfilling the promises you make to your tenants. A text message confirming the appointment, a push notification the day before to remind the tenant of the appointment and then a live-tracking link of the location of the service engineer of the day.
These verification steps aren’t only important for tenants but also to your bottom line. Increasing first-time access rates is fast becoming one of the top priorities among many housing providers that we are talking to, particularly given an average call-out cost of £85.
Dealing with complaints
Services will never be perfect all of the time so you therefore need to be ready to handle complaints, although this is becoming more difficult to manage as more consumers are using social media as their channel of choice to voice their opinions.
Localz’ latest research, ‘The Radical Age of Uberization’ found that “70 per cent of consumers raise complaints on social media because they want to inform other consumers about the problem and raise awareness.”
In the realm of social media, the smallest issues handled badly can be magnified quickly to an audience of millions. This instant opportunity for tenants to voice their opinions can be an excellent tool to gain further understandings of potential improvements but, as everyone knows, the flip side is that social media is a two-way street; this incredibly powerful tool can easily be wielded by disgruntled tenants in the full glare of the public. It takes a skilled and responsive approach to nullify the danger to your image such service-related complaints can cause – hand the login details to your social media account to your intern at your peril…
You don’t have to be perfect, and in fact if you handle something really well when it goes wrong then customers will often have more appreciation for the experience than getting it right.
Louise Robertson is the global marketing director at Localz.