Automation can provide the solution for housing providers wanting to take customer service to the next level.
With so many channels available for consumers to speak to brands, the world of customer communications is becoming more complex. We know that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are the two most popular messaging channels in the UK, used by 80 per cent and 72 per cent of the population respectively, but it’s not enough to be active across just two channels. Consumers will change their communication preferences by device, by the time of day or based on who they’re communicating with.
With brands active across a plethora of channels, the challenges of providing best-in-class customer service are, sadly, sometimes beyond the skills of mere humans. Creating an ever-growing team of customer service agents might seem like a solution, but a sprawling, shift-based network of agents will give you more headaches in the long term.
The problem is that consumers expect the same level of customer service from every business they interact with. It doesn’t matter if it’s Amazon or their housing provider. They want their problems resolved quickly and effectively, ideally with just one interaction.
Justin Crittall, head of innovation at Vivid Housing, said, “Our customers don’t compare us to other housing providers because they don’t get services from them. However, they will compare us to every other provider they use, so the bar is already very high.”
Creating a network of contact options that gives your customers just that – options – is the key to delivering superb customer experience.
Managing multiple channels
Logging in and out of multiple messaging dashboards just to check who’s messaged you and where sounds like the stuff of customer-service nightmares. Thankfully, you don’t need a string of passwords to manage multiple messaging platforms. With an omni-channel dashboard, you have a single login and access to every channel you manage, along with customised views showing how a conversation with a single customer has moved between channels.
Using a customer data platform (CDP), you can store every data point you hold for a particular customer, giving your agents vital information at their fingertips. That means you can follow all the interactions a customer has had with your organisation and they don’t need to repeat themselves, a particular bugbear of most customers.
Consumers’ expectations of lightning-quick response times provide even bigger challenges for housing providers. Deflecting those calls via other routes is crucial to managing demand, and ‘live chat’ options can help your team manage many more interactions than would be possible using linear, one-to-one channels such as voice. Encouraging your customers to explore other options, and making it easy for them to do so with a variety of entry points on your online platforms, can encourage them to self-serve or at the least use less labour-intensive options than calling your customer-service team.
It’s good to talk
70 per cent of consumers prefer to use the phone for support, but just because they’re calling doesn’t mean we can’t still automate a percentage of those calls. Voicebots can triage customer contacts and route only the most important queries to your team. That means they can deliver basic advice in a friendly, voice-led format for those customers who still want to hear someone at the end of the line. Ultimately, the result is the same; prompt customer service and efficient escalation for those who need it.
Out-of-hours customer care
Work/life balance is as essential for your team as it is for your customers. The fact remains that many will contact you outside office hours to report problems and automation can offer an effective 24/7 customer-service solution. For example, an external knowledgebase chatbot allows customers to self-serve out of hours with a vast database of FAQs.
Automation > headcount
Where necessary, the system can escalate queries to an on-call team member if required so you can maintain the personal touch for more complex queries but needn’t overload your skeletal out-of-hours staff. Equally, urgent enquiries can be flagged for attention as soon as your human team gets back to their desks, helping them to prioritise tasks more effectively.
With the ultimate goal being to get your customer to a satisfactory solution as quickly and in as frictionless a way as possible, automation delivers a wide range of contact options designed to deliver improved customer experience and reduce stress and pressure on your human customer-service agents.
Any business looking to scale its customer experience should consider technology solutions before even considering additional headcount.
Stewart Mackay is the senior business development manager at CM.com.