Orbit is a leading housing association, focusing on the Midlands, East, and South East including London. Over the past two years, Orbit has been working to improve its digital offering to customers; creating a new digital customer ‘myAccount’ portal to replace the previous iteration which was over a decade old. Feedback had shown that only 10% of Orbit’s customers were using the portal and, when they did, they tended to use it simply to check their balance as other functionality was too difficult to navigate. The portal needed a major usability overhaul. As part of that work, Orbit approached us to create a chatbot that would give its customers more contact options.
“We had a customer portal before that wasn't as up to date,” explains Joleene Bertrand, Orbit’s Digital Content Officer, “so we revamped it and added in the chatbot around the same time. The focus was to drive more traffic towards online channels, instead of directing incoming telephone queries to our customer service team to keep the volume of calls to a manageable level.”
Keen to ease the increasing burden on its customer service team, Orbit’s portal enables customers to login and see their account details. They can also interact with Orbit’s chatbot ‘Celeste’ from the customer website if they can’t find the information they need. Celeste guides customers through frequently asked questions, provides tips on how to manage their account, and allows them to make requests to Orbit’s advisory teams. Customers can also submit repair requests via the chatbot that are automatically filtered through to the repairs team for triage and response. This has made the process of reporting issues vastly slicker and more efficient. In the first two and a half months post-launch in June 2021, 1264 repairs were reported online; reports that would previously have been made directly to the customer service team via phone.
A key goal was to make the portal device agnostic so that customers could log in with whatever device they were using at any point during their day, something Orbit’s increasingly young and tech-savvy customers were keen to be able to do.
A key part of the project was to also provide Orbit’s internal team with a wealth of information to call on in order to effectively answer customer queries. We created both an external and internal knowledge base chatbot to address any knowledge gaps within Orbit’s internal team. Future plans include adding an HR element to allow internal staff to raise leave requests and access employee information.
Joleene’s current focus, however, is on the external chatbot and refining its question and answer templates to handle a wider variety of questions.
“I see customer questions and how they’re using the chatbot and I’ve been looking at the gap analysis to see which questions triggered each answer and how well the answers match up to the questions.” That data is used within the business to clarify strategy and inform the focus for the next phases of customer journey refinement.
Joleene uncovered a wide variety of question themes, from people wanting to know how to pay their rent, to people enquiring about parking permits or whether they’re allowed to have pets in their properties. These repetitive, informational requests can be a drain on agents’ time but are perfectly placed to be answered by a chatbot.
“CM.com responds really quickly to my queries. Sam and Yasmin have been great and it's been a really positive experience for me.”
Currently, there isn’t an option to transfer to a live agent if the chatbot can’t answer a question or the query becomes too complex, but a Live Chat option to resolve trickier queries is on the roadmap.
In addition to its external and internal chatbots, Orbit also uses our voicebot solution, which it’s dubbed ‘Celeste Speaks’. “The voicebot is live and right now we're in a phase of promoting it to customers. It’s currently an out-of-hours bot,” explains Joleene, “it goes live after 8pm and over the weekend and has five main topics, pointing customers to where they can find more information.”
Part of the reason Orbit chose to work with CM.com is that we’ve already partnered with VIVID. We helped VIVID offer 24/7 customer service via the chatbot and voicebot solutions in our Conversational AI Cloud offering. In addition, VIVID’s internal knowledge base chatbot ensures information is retained when staff leave the business and that training new staff is less of a drain on line managers’ time.
“We decided to partner with CM.com as the solution was easy to use and set up, and offered a good customer experience. Plus the fact that we knew they worked with other housing associations and had established a good working relationship.”
Joleene is keen to continue the momentum launching the new portal has given Orbit and is aware that many of its contemporaries are seeing the benefits of digital transformation.
“I went to the Housing Digital Innovation Awards, where we won Best Customer Impact for our portal, and so many different housing associations were trying different things; they're upgrading websites, offering chatbots and voicebots, using Live Chat and two-way messaging. There are a lot of innovative things happening for housing right now.”
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