No two people are the same, so it stands to reason that no two tenants are the same either.
Within social housing, you have tenants with a wide range of opinions, income levels, religions, political views, education levels and awareness of technology (more on this later). Due to these differences, it means a one-size-fits-all approach regarding how customers are treated is no longer good enough.
Better customer service?
In a recent government report, Conservative MP James Brokenshire commented that the current levels of customer experience weren’t up to scratch; he said, “We have to improve people’s experience of living in social housing by encouraging greater professionalisation and more of a customer service culture in housing management.”
Coming up with approaches which will help improve customer satisfaction isn’t going to be easy, especially with such a wide range of customers with varied needs and in different property types. Fortunately the social housing sector is making moves in the right direction.
The rise of ‘director of customer experience’ and ‘head of customer experience’ jobs is an indication of the commitment that housing providers are showing to improving standards. These are senior roles, some of which are at board level, and they’re coming with (up to) six-figure salaries. Again another indicator of how seriously companies are taking the goal of improving the welfare and experience of their customers.
I looked through a range of ‘customer experience’ job descriptions currently around in the social housing sector and here are just a few deliverables they’re looking from these roles:
- “Modernising contact methods for tenants”
- “Develop strategies to ensure that customers enjoy exceptional tailored services and choice”
- “Build a strong customer-service culture”
- “Lead our strategy to ensure we attain the highest levels of member satisfaction”
- “Listening to our customers’ views and acting on them”
It’s great to see this is the direction that companies want to move in. For me, the last point really stood out because in order for these newly created roles to be successful, they need to easily gather feedback and really show that they are acting on it.
The gathering of feedback is an area where technology can really help, especially when resources won’t allow the gathering of feedback via telephone calls. As mentioned earlier, you’ll have some customers who embrace technology and those that can’t stand it.
For those that love technology it makes sense to introduce solutions which allow them to provide their feedback this way. If they like living on their smartphone and tablet, you should adapt to this rather than forcing them to use less-preferred methods. For example, allowing another avenue to provide feedback that doesn’t involve calling up, waiting on hold and so on immediately starts to improve their customer experience (as well as saving your staff time taking these calls).
To help achieve this, Orchard has introduced a new feature into our digital self-service solution. Customers can already pay their rent online, set up new direct debits and self-book repairs with this service but we’ve added in Intelligent Custom Forms too.
Interactive forms and surveys
Intelligent Custom Forms let you create bespoke interactive forms and surveys which make it easy for customers to submit their feedback (ideal for digital tenant surveys or for tenants to submit permission requests). They can be set up in minutes, are totally customisable (with a wide range of question and response types available) and all responses are easily monitored within Orchard Housing. They’ve also been built with smart conditional logic that allows you to guide tenants through a journey, only answering questions that apply to them, making the process of providing feedback intuitive and quick for customers.
As for ensuring that the feedback you collect is acted on – well, that’s up to your director of customer experience, I guess.
Paul Young is the solutions marketing manager for Orchard.