When it comes to conversational channels, consumers are spoilt for choice. When they want to talk to brands, they want to do it in a way that makes them feel comfortable, and that’s more often than not the same way they talk to their friends and family. For housing associations looking to provide premium customer service, being available across a wide variety of those conversational channels is essential, but the logistics involved can also cause headaches.
For one, each customer’s favourite channel is unlikely to be the same. They vary by demographic, device used, or even time of day. What we do know is that among those who use messaging apps regularly, the two most popular in the UK are WhatsApp (used by 80% of people) and Facebook Messenger (used by 72%); creating a strong strategy across both platforms is, therefore, a wise idea. Just to put those stats into perspective, the next most popular messaging platform is FaceTime, used by just 33%.
In addition to curating the huge range of available conversational channels, consumers are increasingly keen to be able to contact brands when it suits them, which often means out-of-hours. When it comes to housing associations, that need for contact often occurs when your customers are at home; when your customer service team have likely left for the evening.
So, how do you make sure your team can offer a high-quality, 24-hour customer service experience but are also comfortable working across numerous different communication channels? To understand that, we must first understand the types of customer communication challenges housing associations face.
Housing association challenge #1 – customers want to talk to you across a wide range of messaging platforms.
Curating multiple conversational channels for customer service can be tricky, Accessed natively, that would mean a raft of open tabs and a comprehensive knowledge of your company’s channel passwords.
So, to avoid a hefty dose of plate-spinning for your customer service team, you’ll need an omnichannel dashboard that allows your team to monitor multiple channels in one view. This means you can view conversations that flit between channels as if they’d happened on a single platform. That helps your customer service team keep track of who’s spoken to who on which channels and when. This means your agents can be brought instantly up-to-speed and pick up the conversation where it left off.
“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 Bertrand, Digital Content Officer, Orbit
Housing association challenge #2 – customers don’t want to describe their issue every time they contact you about it
There's nothing more frustrating than being passed around from pillar to post by a customer service team only to have to explain your issue over and over again continually. Customers want to know they've been understood and that your team are dealing with the issue, and repeating themselves undermines confidence in your team’s ability to deliver a resolution.
That’s why it’s vital to be able to track conversations between a customer and different agents, across different platforms and on different dates. A Customer Data Platform, or CDP, allows you to store a vast range of information about your customers, their issues and preferences. It also means you can access readouts of previous communications simply and effectively to engage with the customer proactively from the get-go.
Housing association challenge #3 – people want to talk to you on the phone
People still like to use the telephone. Our customer service research found that 69% of consumers prefer to use the phone for support.
However, for customer service teams, the phone is one of the most time-consuming contact methods. Call deflection is about giving people options beyond picking up the phone, and one excellent alternative is the voicebot. Voicebots provide the familiarity of a phone call with the efficiency of a chatbot. Able to retrieve information and deal with many customer queries at once, the voicebot can reduce agent stress and allow them the time to focus on delivering superior customer service to those customers that need them.
“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, “it goes live after eight and over the weekend and has five main topics, pointing customers to where they can find more information.”
Joleene Bertrand, Digital Content Officer, Orbit
Housing association challenge #4 – customers want instant answers
Often, customers will get in touch when they need urgent help. That could be because there’s an issue with their property that, if not dealt with quickly, could lead to financial loss. In these instances, they’ll want to know they can get hold of you fast. In a recent Hubspot survey, 90% of respondents said that an immediate response (60% defined this as 10 minutes or less) was ‘important’ or ‘very important’ in customer service terms.
“Our customers don't compare us to other housing associations because they don't get services from them. They will, however, compare us to every other provider they use, so the bar is already very high. That realisation allowed us to free ourselves from the attitude of ‘this is the way we do it in housing’, which meant we could create a service far more advanced than anything other housing associations are currently offering.”
Justin Crittall, Head of Innovation, VIVID
Live Chat lets you dive straight into the conversation with your customers and allows them to get instant responses to their questions. It also means your customer service agents can field multiple conversations at once; which is impossible using the phone.
Housing association challenge #5 – people want to talk to you out of hours
The idea of being available round the clock can be daunting, and while 24-hour customer service may seem like a pipe dream given the logistical issues and logistical and staffing issues, it needn't be.
“The way that we set up the Conversational AI solution means it’ll send us an email if a customer can’t find the answer to their query. That way, we can resolve their issue without them having to call or email us separately.”
Chantal Mitchell, Customer Experience Manager, VIVID
Installing a chatbot on several of your social and messaging channels will allow you to deal with customer issues quickly and ensure that they're resolved swiftly and effectively.
Similar issues can be dealt with via a knowledge base, and more complex ones can be passed to an on-call agent or, at the very least, flagged for immediate attention at the customer service team’s first available opportunity.