Housing association critique
Article by Neville Doughty
Contact Centre Panel
With almost six million people around England living in homes provided and supported by housing associations, ensuring that services are delivered to residents, including vulnerable people, is critical.
Whilst these are not-for-profit organisations created to provide affordable homes and to support local communities, they must ensure that support is of the highest possible standard at the most effective cost so that the maximum amount of income possible can be reinvested where it is needed most. However, as cost pressures increase how can housing associations ensure that operating costs of contact centres and service management are not eroding the monies required to maintain and build additional properties and give more families the opportunity to have a space of their own.
As England alone needs 340,000 new homes per year, including 145,000 social and affordable homes, there is significant pressure on providers with new residents to be considered, operating costs will increase because of inflation and rising wages and as the number of residents grows the cost to service them will too.
A number of organisations have turned to outsourcing as a means to support their residents, there are many benefits to this approach of using private sector expertise to deliver this including:
- Shared resource for around the clock support
- Access to broader experience and customer service best practice
- Lower capital expenditure – reducing office space requirements, IT equipment and software costs
- Access to the latest contact centre technologies without investment
The automation conundrum
Working in an environment where customer contacts are often of high emotion brings challenges. Whether moving in or out of a property or if there is a repair that needs to be made, residents are more likely to be calling at a time of stress or need and who wants to speak to an IVR when feeling emotional, not me for sure. So how do the opportunities to bring technology and automation reconcile with the imperative to deliver a personal service when support is needed? How can the use of technology ensure that those with the greatest need are attended to first?
Perhaps one solution is to get proactive, the use of insight and analytics solutions can unlock vital information and highlight trends within the housing stock, allowing housing associations to identify and remedy an issue before it even happens.
Where agent support is required it is key to ensure that they have delivered all the essential compliance and safety information that may be needed by a resident. Use an intelligent scripting and decision making tool, coupled with speech analytics, to make sure agents have done all that is necessary on the call, providing certainty for the organisation, the agent and the resident. Layer on top coaching tools and analytics and then your agent’s ongoing development is covered, whilst ensuring that key trend data is made available to the organisation. Having these processes in place means that all the right information is passed to engineer resources accurately the first time. This reduces the need for them to go back to a job, avoiding additional costs to the organisation and inconvenience to the resident.
So in summary, effective contact management can help deliver efficiency in scheduling and planning of work throughout your organisation and therefore improve service whilst reducing outlay. Plus feeding all repair data back into the analytics engine can then help with proactive scheduling of work to reduce risk.
It should be considered that housing associations are the main provider of supported housing in England with 300,000 homes for older people and 115,000 for people who need extra support.
Outsourcing providers are dealing with vulnerable customers on a daily basis across all sectors and can bring both personal and technical expertise to support and develop services in this area. Access to voice analytics software in real-time can assist agents in identifying where additional care may be needed, more than a simple flag on a CRM to signify that a resident was vulnerable at the point of moving into a property. This data is linked to contact number and query routing technology to ensure that people at high risk are connected to the right support quickly. Technology can now pick up on vital clues that a resident’s situation may have changed and therefore they need to be considered as vulnerable.
People are now communicating in more ways than ever before and often on multiple devices. Conversocial recently stated that: ‘Customer care teams today are 10 times more likely to resolve customer inquiries via a private channel, like Facebook Messenger and Twitter DM, than they were two years prior. What’s more, the rate of growth of conversations using private channels has accelerated to 20 times that of conversations using public channels (i.e. 900% vs 45%).’
When customers need help they should have the opportunity to interact in the channels that they feel most comfortable in, so whilst an e-mail is great for a lengthy dialogue after the event perhaps, a call has historically been the first action if you have an issue, but what about messaging platforms? These have become the key method of interaction in day to day lives and provide the opportunity to ease communication with residents. The ability to send a message and see it was received in WhatsApp, switch to a call or even a video call so that the contact centre agent can physically see an issue and in turn provide visual reassurance.
Who can you talk to about your options?
Having worked closely with a number of housing associations we have an excellent understanding of what is required to deliver excellent customer care at an affordable price. We have built a ‘best of breed’ network of over 140 contact centres and 50 technology providers, which makes us perfectly positioned to recommend and source the ‘right’ contact solutions for your business. We are entirely independent, so you know our recommendations are not driven by self-interest. Our selection process is managed by industry experts, so you will always be in safe hands.
For more information. Get in touch.
6M number from National Housing Federation –https://www.housing.org.uk/about-housing-associations/what-housing-associations-do/