Our website has long been a vital channel for servicing our customers. And as a result, we are always looking for ways that it can be improved to help us serve them better.
This year, we are working with digital user experience (UX) agency, Sigma, to further digitalise our services so we can provide a 24-hour offering, and update our website to ensure it fits tenants’ needs.
A robust digital offering is important in our sector, as the majority of tenants will have access to a device that means they can get online. A website is also a handy way for customers to report repairs, pay rent, and access more information about important services. So by optimising this channel to ensure it’s quick and easy to use, it means other channels, such as a customer service call centre, can be better utilised for customers with additional needs that can’t be met through a website.
Why we’re investing now
Convenience for our customers is a big driver in making this move now. And by further digitising our services, we will also be able to meet the demands of our customers far into the future – as websites can be changed and updated with new information and emerging trends.
We want our tenants to be able to expect the same user experience with us as they might have with their bank, their insurers, or utility companies. Investing further in this channel will bring it in line with sectors that have been using their websites to help customers for years.
Also, because a digital transaction is 20 times cheaper than one done over the phone, and a huge 50 times cheaper than a face-to-face transaction, it’s easy to see the benefits of investing in digitalising services further. This is particularly useful for us, as tenants can pay rent online.
Sigma built the Peaks & Plains website in 2012, and although the website has served us well (we came second in The Connected Housing Top 100), we’re now working on a more user-focused approach. We want to push towards a channel-shift, whereby our tenants go to our website first to try and answer any questions they might have about our services.
Why concentrate on UX?
User experience (UX) is crucial to our business because of the diversity of our tenants. If our tenants were all of a certain age and were tech-savvy, for example, building a website might be a simpler task. But as we don’t have a specific target audience, we need to bear in mind that users of nearly all ages and abilities may need to be able to navigate our website, and they need to be able to do so with ease.
This is where UX comes in.
First, we will run user workshops with a cross section of our tenants to determine how they experience our website. We’ll then create a rapid prototype and test this with users before moving into full design and development.
From here, we will adapt the website to tenants’ needs, to make sure that it meets their expectations, and is as efficient, informative, and resourceful as possible.
Initially, we will be focusing on the ‘your account’ section of the website, where our tenants can find information and carry out important tasks to do with their own rent and tenancy. We’ll also be working with Sigma to introduce a dynamic FAQ area.
At Peaks & Plains, our main purpose is to ‘help improve lives’, and refining our online offering is another step in doing just that. By investing in a website now that provides a good user experience for customers, we will be giving them easier access to information and they will be able to take more control of their tenancy. In turn, this will mean customer service teams will be able to give even more attention to tenants with greater needs.
Tim Pinder is chief executive at Peaks and Plains Housing Trust.