There’s no doubt that self-service portals have become an important tool for social housing providers by helping to manage and respond to tenants’ requirements. Whereas before, tenants would have had to face long call-times and queues to speak to their provider, they can now easily report any issues, update information or pay rent using a tablet or mobile app.
Not only do these online portals improve communication capabilities between tenants and their housing providers, they can also speed up resolution times, helping to ease pressure on a housing provider’s employees.
However, while these portals can bring invaluable benefits, without the right solutions in place to support the technology, problems such as poor connectivity, security breaches and significant downtime can happen. These problems can then lead to increased workloads, poor communication and, ultimately, frustrated tenants.
With that in mind, what technology should housing providers be considering to work alongside and support self-service portals?
Self-service portals need to be supported by reliable and high-performance cloud solutions, and after a year of sudden changes, housing providers will find the scalability of cloud systems really useful because the infrastructure can scale up and down based on tenant demand.
This means that the speed of the portal is not affected during peak times, keeping tenants online and able to communicate with their housing provider at all times. Cloud solutions also make exchanging data between systems much easier so that tenants experience a coherent, joined-up service, irrespective of it being delivered by a variety of different systems behind the scenes.
Once a tenant submits information or a request, the housing provider needs to consider the next steps and how technology will help with those steps. Once the information has been submitted, the housing provider will usually need to follow it up with a call to the tenant and/or another party, such as a handyman or plumber. Having the right telephony solutions to handle customers calls and chat will help make this process faster and easier.
In addition to handling calls, email, web chat and two-way messaging, a cloud telephony solution can collect, store and analyse all information on a single platform. Therefore, when a portal query is followed up, the provider will already have all the information regarding that tenant to hand. Furthermore, all correspondence with the tenant can be updated straight away. Therefore, if another employee needs to follow up previous conversations, they don’t need to waste time asking another colleague or the tenant for information they have already supplied.
Many housing providers also have several businesses working under their umbrella name, such as home repair companies. Cloud telephony solutions can be integrated with each of the businesses’ back-office systems, allowing each company to access requests from the portals if required. For example, if a tenant submits a request for something to be fixed in their home, this can go straight to the repair company, cutting out any middlemen and, again, saving time.
Stop downtime in its tracks
Downtime caused by outages or unsolved technology issues can cause a multitude of problems. If a tenant can’t use the self-service portal or if response times are hindered by slow servers, databases or network issues, this will feel like poor service and result in additional calls.
Since portal usage can be at any time, systems must be monitored and supported 24/7 but most housing providers don’t have the budget or resources to do this.
Therefore, housing providers often opt for a cloud monitoring as a service (CMaaS) solution. CMaaS is a managed service system whereby the IT provider can proactively monitor systems, applications, websites and the IT infrastructure all in one place around the clock. In doing so, they can detect and respond to any issues such as hardware malfunctions, security incidents or server failovers, before they affect operations.
Choosing a suitable IT provider
No two housing providers are the same; their respective IT requirements can depend on the number of tenants and portals in use, the breadth of services on the portal and how providers respond and react to information provided. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, so careful consideration needs to be given to ensure an absolute fit around your connectivity, productivity and security requirements.
Today, forward-thinking housing providers choose to seek professional advice before proceeding with a digital transformation. A managed IT provider, for instance, has high-level experts on hand who can provide a tailored consultation and advice on the best IT solutions to meet objectives and strategies.
A managed IT provider can also help housing providers develop scalable and optimised infrastructure to meet new demands, such as a sudden increase in new tenants and self-service portals being used. By having the right technologies in place now, organisations can ensure that self-service portals can be used to their best ability. They can reduce workloads, save time and cost and, ultimately, provide an excellent service for tenants.
Tim Lancaster is the managing director of Arcus Cloud Services, a Timico company.