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Making housing digital: challenging the status quo

How do housing associations make the leap to digital as painless as possible? The housing industry has been relatively slow to adopt digital ways of working, but there are signs that’s beginning to change. 

According to an Inside Housing survey in association with Futr, 40% of the 140 organisations surveyed said they had a digital transformation strategy in place, while 50% were either developing a strategy or had developed a strategy but were yet to implement it. That’s heartening news, but it does point to an industry that’s about to go through a number of the growing pains associated with digital transformation. 

Customer contact

While the phone has endured as a key method of customer contact, there are many more efficient ways to route customer queries. Of 240 respondents to an Inside Housing/Capita survey, 63% reported that their customers predominantly contact them using the phone or via a call centre. Humans are the limiting factor here in the quest to provide quality customer service. Housing associations deal with a high volume of calls, often during holiday periods where people are at home for sustained periods (and of course, most recently during periods of lockdown or social restriction), or in the evening when issues often first come to light. That places an unfair burden on customer support staff to be available at anti-social hours. 

The ability to automate elements of that process gives your team the freedom to work more sociable hours and use digital methods to answer customer queries, routing only the most urgent issues through to a human.

Solutions could include chatbots (both AI and scripted), knowledge bases, and voicebots to enable customers to self-serve where possible. That not only frees up your team to deal with more complex issues, but also allows you to offer them the ability to work during normal office hours and have fewer members of your team ‘on-call’ at other periods. 

Remote working and understanding data

Since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, remote working has become more prevalent and will likely remain that way as organisations now have the benefit of real-world experience of the pros and cons of remote working. One of the biggest issues is ensuring that data flows are kept intact and that information is secure. Remote workers need access to the same information they would have had in an office environment, but that brings with it security concerns.

Cloud-based systems allow the democratisation of data, meaning everyone can access the latest, most relevant data before making a decision. Given the need and desire for remote and home working, it’s essential that key leadership staff have the information they need to make informed decisions, often in isolation and without key stakeholders.

The key to organising your data is to ensure it's unified. How do you unify your data? You make sure it's stored in one place. Figures from the Inside Housing survey with Capita suggest that 76% of respondents use between one and five systems to manage customer data, while 20% use between six and 10, 3% use up to 20, and 2% use over 20 different systems. It’s incredible, and more than a little troubling, to find that a quarter of respondents are using more than five different data management systems. Keeping all of your data in one place is the job of a Customer Data Platform (or CDP), creating rich customer profiles and aggregating all your data in one place for ease of access and, crucially, ease of analysis.

Managing third-parties

One thing that’s sure to affect your customer’s perception of your brand is how quickly and effectively you remedy issues. Often this involves using third-party companies to deliver services to your tenants. Managing those relationships can be fraught if you don’t have an effective way to keep track of issues and who’s managing them.

A cross-business communication platform allows you to ensure you're up-to-date with the status of every issue and, most importantly, keep your customers informed.

A solution such as CM.com’s Agent Inbox colour codes queries in order of importance and uses skills-based routing to ensure the customer gets to the right person every time. Crucially, it’s omnichannel so you can discuss issues with customers and contractors on their preferred channels and ensure that everything is recorded in a single view. 


With the right partner, whose experience in the industry can solve many of the likely issues, the journey to a digital future can be a lot smoother than going it alone via multiple vendors. Have a look at our VIVID case study to see how we helped this Hampshire-based housing association realise its digital potential. Or you can get in touch with us and discuss your requirements with one of our experienced team.

Is the Digital Marketing Manager for UK and Ireland at CM.com. She is passionate about Marketing and Technology that enhances everyday life. She is dedicated and committed to enhancing the CM.com brand locally using strategic marketing campaigns via various channels.

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