In 2018, we started an ambitious programme to transform the way CHP operates. We’d already earned a reputation for being a high-performing housing association but we wanted to go further and provide a consistently great customer experience. In order to achieve this, we recognised that a complete overhaul of our existing processes and use of technology was required.
Our aim was to increase customer satisfaction and choice by providing additional communication channels. We also wanted to ensure that we could resolve most customer issues at the first point of contact to reduce the frustration of being passed around departments or having to chase up a response. To get to where we wanted to be, we had to streamline our processes to make us more efficient as a business. We also had to have the right IT systems in place to make life easier for our customers and employees.
Redesigning our processes
We knew that a significant review and associated rework of our core operating processes was needed so we documented every operating process at CHP, and then designed more effective ones to meet our future needs.
The process review was designed to identify and resolve customer pain points and drive improvements across the business; it covered over 100 processes for our customer-facing areas alone.
Implementing new technology
Implementing new technology was a key element to delivering our new processes effectively. To achieve our aim of getting closer to our customers, we developed a suite of new technology solutions. These were designed to provide our staff with rapid access to information from any location and on any device. For example, our employees working in our customers’ homes will be able to update jobs in real time as well as arranging any follow-up appointments without having to return to the office.
These same solutions will also give customers more choice in how they interact with us, either through our multi-channel service centre, mobile apps or a new secure area on our website.
These technology improvements have all been designed to provide modern, accessible user interfaces, with functional applications. The new systems are integrated with those we already had, and we’re adding new integration points through our new task management solution and using robotic process automation (RPA) where legacy technology is too expensive or cumbersome for direct interfaces. This will ensure that our customer-facing applications are fully aligned with our back-office systems via workflows to provide real-time, accurate data across multiple platforms.
Improving our data
An essential prerequisite of exposing data to customers is that it must be accurate. With this in mind, we ran a series of projects to make sure that our data was validated and well structured. Our core business data was then replicated into a new data warehouse to create a ‘single version of the truth’ for use in management reporting.
We also added layers of other externally-sourced data to build a more complete profile of our customers, leading to the creation of new customer segmentations and a set of unique ‘personas’. These will be used to help us personalise the services we provide to our customers and when designing new processes in future.
Launching our new online services
We’re now launching the new secure area of our website, itself a key milestone in the transformation of our customer experience. Our customers can register for online accounts which give them access to a wide range of services and information relating to their homes and communities. The functions available at launch include making secure online rent and service charge payments, requesting a repair, applying for services such as getting a parking permit, reporting anti-social behaviour and providing feedback. Customers will also be able to view the information we hold about them and their tenancy, such as their current rent balance and when payments are due.
The new secure area went through rigorous testing prior to launch, and customers took part in live online sessions to test its functionality, all done during the pandemic when the more usual approach of running focus groups with our customers couldn’t take place. We therefore adapted to alternative means of achieving similar ends, with all testing and feedback managed remotely.
Work is now underway to ensure that the new technology is adopted consistently across the business. We’re appointing product owners to take ownership of the new products and to help drive their integration. These product owners will showcase the technology not just to those who will be using it, but as an illustration of the wider programme.
We are using data and insight to create a campaign to drive interest and uptake of our online services for customers. We are delivering that campaign largely through online channels, consistent with the ethos of delivering an improved digital service.
The next stage of our journey will be continuous improvement; we’ll be advancing our new business processes through the implementation period to their ‘enduring state’ once we’ve made any incremental improvements.
We’re also looking at how we can use data to improve customer solutions and to positively intervene earlier to provide better support. Some of this will be achieved through standard data analysis and some through more progressive artificial intelligence, with data-mining techniques used to predict behaviours and trends.
We want to keep investing in technological improvements and add more self-service functionality. Our goal is to deliver the same level of online service that our customers receive from other companies they use. These improvements will extend to capturing data directly from remote devices and using this to improve the way we manage our customers’ homes.
We know that some of our customers and some of our services will always need to use other channels, but we also know that there’s an appetite for the speed and ease of experience that can only be delivered through the intelligent use of technology.
There will be challenges ahead, but we are determined to implement the changes that will get us closer to our mission to improve the lives of our customers.
Michael Barber is the digital and transformation director at CHP.