1st Touch CEO Greg Johns comments on how doorstep appointment technology will be the next IT revolution to reach housing providers. In his view, the benefits are especially attractive to those seeking greatly enhanced customer service levels for their tenants.
I’ve always believed that the quicker that customers can get their needs addressed fully, then the better that customer service levels are for both the customers themselves and for those who serve them. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of social housing. Tenant requirements are often quite pressing and very real. They might, for example, include urgent responsive repair requests, pending social care issues or important housing management queries.
Naturally, tenants feel that their own particular issues need to be resolved promptly and we are all too aware of the horror stories of customers being passed endlessly around an ever-widening collection of people who aren’t able to help them. Fortunately, in these days where housing providers are looking for optimal value for money, it’s also in the interest of the housing provider to meet their needs quickly too; the more time taken, people involved or systems connected, then the higher the costs are bound to be.
Consequently, any IT solution aimed at resolving such tenant issues must be able to generate the right appointment for the tenant first time; i.e. be able confirm an appointment time and date promptly with the particular part of the housing provider that is most capable of addressing their needs. This appointment should be confirmed to the tenant by text in advance and be simple to rearrange should circumstances change.
To be a truly effective solution though, any such system needs to be highly accessible to tenants too. Thus, it needs to be as available through a home visit from a mobile operative or field worker as it is online through a self-service portal accessed through a tenant’s smartphone, PC or other mobile device.
Luckily, through the evolution of technology, innovation has lent a much needed and timely hand here. Like all the best innovations, it is a straightforward and reasonably cost-effective solution. The idea is to seamlessly combine all the key data relating to a tenant, the property in which they live and the housing provider’s resources together with an easy-to-use online appointment system. This highly-integrated concept is known generically as ‘doorstep appointment’ technology. It allows tenants to schedule their own appointments either through visiting field workers automating the processes involved, or directly online through their housing provider’s tenant portal and apps.
Such systems greatly simplify and speed up appointment scheduling. Tenants really appreciate this because they can also see everything they need to review, either on the field worker’s device or online via their own device at any time of day. The tenant then simply books a suitable appointment for the appropriate services to be delivered. These appointments might be for responsive repairs, gas or electric checks, financial inclusion reviews, social care assessments and more. The tenants can request the very best appointment times available, prioritise or rearrange the appointments made, order text reminders and book any follow-up actions required. There is also a facility to add voice notes, photos and videos.
This approach reduces tenant frustration considerably because it eliminates the very time-consuming need for field staff to return to the office first before attempting to schedule suitable times and dates or alternatively having to spend time getting hold of the most appropriate member of staff to confirm the details of an appointment.
One cannot underestimate the positive impact that this level of automation has on tenants. The fact that they can now have all their issues reviewed and dealt with promptly and efficiently is a huge improvement over what had been the norm in the past; the immediacy and thoroughness of this type of automation is incredibly well received.
I have heard it said that “one of the greatest motivators is to hand people more responsibility for running their own lives” and it is quite remarkable how tenants are immensely impressed at being allowed to take their own affairs into their own hands. By empowering them to resolve their own problems, the doorstep appointments approach is big on convenience and allows the tenant to feel much more valued, respected and, above all, in control.
There is a correspondingly enormous leap forward in terms of both perceived and actual customer service levels here. The positive and valuable perceptions generated will indelibly underpin the relationship with the housing provider over time as well, and as the breadth of areas accessible through the web increases, it will also generate future relationship opportunities and benefits. This ‘future proofing’ of tenant benefits is another excellent advantage of this new technology. And from our own research, we can confirm with some certainty that those housing providers investing in this kind of innovative technology will see a significant, valuable and immediate customer service dividend.
So, given the very significant benefits available for all parties concerned, doorstep appointment technology has risen to the top of many housing providers’ agendas recently. Given the correspondingly sharp increase in interest levels for this new approach, the chances are that this highly customer-focused appointment technology will open many doors across the sector and establish itself as a new best-practice in customer relations. I’m delighted to say that the real winners of any such investment will be the tenants themselves, and that’s very good news for both them and their housing provider.
Greg Johns is CEO of 1st Touch.