Housing associations have a unique position within the real-estate sector. Providing affordable housing for those who cannot afford mainstream housing, the customer experience demands are different, albeit with many of the same challenges as in other customer-facing spaces.
Housing associations’ customer-first approach to assisting those in need of their services, guiding them through the process, and helping them once they’ve moved into their properties requires a strong customer service strategy and an investment in people and technology to cope with demand.
It's that second element that we’re particularly interested in here. We’re going to look at how chatbots can help housing associations find efficiencies within their customer service teams, help their staff do their jobs in a less stressful environment and ensure they deliver the best experience possible for consumers.
Rather than tying customer service teams up in knots with top-of-the-funnel queries, chatbots can answer the simple, repetitive questions that arise from people’s first interactions with a housing association. Chatbots can also triage incoming enquiries, score them based on intent and escalate those queries requiring human intervention. By doing this, your customer service team can spend less time dealing with repetitive questioning and more time dealing with queries that are likely to result in a positive outcome.
Regular customer contact
During the decision-making process, it’s essential to ensure potential customers have the information they need at their fingertips. An external knowledge base allows consumers to self-serve and find information when needed. This self-serve element, populated with frequently asked questions, can relieve the strain on your customer service team, allowing them to focus on more mature leads to ensure they can help as many new customers as possible and offer better customer care for those likely to become customers.
Handling the day-to-day
Once customers move into their property, they’ll start to get into the rhythm of regular interactions with the housing association. Automating some of those processes is vital to ensure they have access to information they need when they need it and, of course, to allow your customer service team the breathing space to deal with more complex tasks. Chatbots can help customers log issues, such as repair requests, without human interaction. Perfect for when time is short, and you don’t have time to wait for an agent to become available.
Unlike retailers, housing association customers may have pressing concerns in the evening and at weekends. After all, that’s when they’re most likely to be in their properties. Sadly, this is also when your human customer service team will want to be at home. Allowing customers to self-serve via an external knowledge base and access information via voicebot or chatbot means they’re not left to their own devices outside office hours and can access help. In extreme circumstances, chatbots or voicebots can route emergency queries directly to an on-call customer service agent when necessary.
Retaining customer service staff and knowledge
Consistency is vital to providing excellent customer service. That doesn’t just mean a consistent level of service; it also means consistent team members and knowledge. Knowledge leaving any business can significantly impact the quality of service it can provide, so ensuring that everyone has access to the same standard of information is paramount.
Secondly, giving your team the tools to do their jobs better in a less stressful environment will massively impact their desire to stick with you. Automating the more mundane elements of their work – via a knowledge base chatbot for self-service, for example, can remove some of the frustrations that prompt staff to look elsewhere.
Finally, when new people join your team, getting them up to speed quickly and with minimal disruption to the wider team and line management is essential. Internal knowledge chatbots can help to train and orient new staff members and even familiarise them with internal processes, such as HR and IT.
Often, housing associations are not-for-profit, but that doesn’t mean we should forget sensible business practices. Providing a more comprehensive service that allows for more queries over a wider period would heavily impact the bottom line if human agents were required to fill every role. However, automation can give you a customer service team that never sleeps while supporting your human agents, the ability to focus on more challenging issues and, most crucially, a massive reduction in stress levels. And as if that wasn’t enough, it also reduces staff overheads.