Housing Solutions has embarked on a first-of-its-kind project, introducing AI technology via Amazon Alexa into tenants’ homes. This is a revolutionary customer self-service platform, developed alongside Castleton Technology.
Our new ‘digital IT’ strategy, approved earlier this year, was driven by Housing Solutions’ organisational objective to support our tenants. Following feedback from them and an independent survey, we recognised the ongoing need to focus on ways to increase efficiency, particularly through investment in new IT systems, to underpin the strides we’ve made in improving customer satisfaction.
Our in-house IT team needed to ensure that the infrastructure supported growth, so they investigated the options that would support channel shift. Their findings meant migrating our core systems into a single solution on a private cloud platform hosted by Castleton Technology. This has helped us to transform our traditional IT set-up, with its on-site solution managed by an internal IT team, into a future-proof desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) infrastructure. This will remain fit-for-purpose for years to come and makes possible a more mobile workforce and digitally-engaged customer base.
The connected data environment has improved collaboration and access to the right data at all times so that our staff can work seamlessly from anywhere. We’ve transferred all of our paper forms so that they can be signed digitally, eliminating double-handling and duplication of work and automating repetitive tasks. We have provided all mobile staff with lightweight, portable Microsoft Surface devices that are connected to our back-office systems so that any notes made while out of the office are automatically uploaded.
Adding Alexa skills
The IT team has really raised the bar by thinking of how they could perform better and what new services they could introduce. For example, tenants like the flexibility of omni-channel communications, so we entered into an innovative and exciting collaboration with Castleton. We have adopted the ‘AI manager with Amazon Alexa skill’ which enables tenants to access our portal using voice commands on their Alexa device.
The self-service AI platform allows tenants to ask routine requests, such as balance details, and log repairs and update their personal information. In preparation for this service and to make sure that AI is available for our tenants, we made extensive wi-fi provision across 500 of our homes, with a target of doubling our wi-fi offering to our tenants this year. There is a video of our solution here: castletonplc.com/news/housing-solutions-ai-video.
As part of our digital strategy, we have updated our website by researching users’ behaviours via Google Analytics and Hot Jar as well as gathering tenant feedback from our service improvement team meetings. As a result, we have brought our housing transfer system online in recent months and we’ve now added a live-chat option to our website so that tenants have the option of accessing help via their Alexa device rather than having to call to our contact centre.
We have vastly improved our self-service portal with the help of Prodo Digital to make it more accessible as the ‘go to’ option for day-to-day interactions, such as booking appointments or checking a rent balance; this has resulted in our online transactions increasing three-fold.
In an age when customers can access vast amounts of information instantly, it’s fundamental to a housing provider’s success that they become truly digital which is why we’ve made online the first choice for our customers, enabling them to access our services at a time and place convenient to them.
Richard Havery is head of IT at Housing Solutions.