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The housing sector must embrace tenant CX demands

27th Feb 2020
CEO Oneserve
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Customer experience (CX) has become a significant buzz word of the last couple of years, with most sectors prioritising CX more than ever before. This has led to a real improvement in customer service delivery, which in-turn has increased the expectation levels of consumers across the board.

This has been an issue for the housing sector. Tenants are after-all, consumers interacting with multiple other sectors and they do not, nor should they, hold back in comparing each against the other. The level of transparency and communication consumers receive from other sectors, particularly online retailers such as Amazon and service providers like Deliveroo, mean that they are used to, and expect, to wait a matter of minutes, rather than days for an update or response to an enquiry.

This demand, added to the increasingly complicated and dynamic regulatory landscape, has placed real strains on local authorities, housing associations, contractors and associated companies. The need to operate with more transparency and communicate in a way that meets tenant expectations, continues to rise and shows no signing of slowing.

How transparency has changed

Initially, sharing a rough Estimated time of Arrival (ETA) with tenants was considered enough to satisfy consumers. This is no longer the case. As customer service levels have increased across most consumer touchpoints ETA is now the minimum requirement. Indeed, providing a broad ETA is not seen as good enough. Today, consumers are expecting down to the minute rather than down to the hour ETAs. Alongside a more specific ETA, tenants also expect progress of job, likely completion date, next steps, updates on delays and reasons behind them, alongside an almost immediate response to any customer-initiated interactions.

Okay is not okay anymore

As has been seen, the bare minimum of communications with tenants, which up until this point has been the policy of some in the sector, is no longer acceptable. Indeed, as the volume and exposure of consumer complaints increases (especially online), the result of remaining ‘okay’ is simply exacerbated.

However, housing providers, contractors and the like should not see the efforts of improving customer service as a painful one, but rather an opportunity to make a major impact on their CX levels whilst also improving operational performance.

Internal as well as external transparency

By delivering greater communications, transparency is a natural bi-product. Increased transparency will ensure that workforces perform optimally, helping to drive efficiency and productivity. Greater communication and increased transparency also leaves no room for complacency as an audit trail of any work being undertaken is generated, and feedback can come in immediately from tenants.

Historically, this situation has not been helped because until recently the communication between the office and those operatives on the road has been difficult. Apps have gone a long way to help alleviate these problems, designed specifically for mobile workers to enable them to update those in the office of progress in real-time, directly through the software. Not only do apps unite teams within organisations however, they also better unite organisations with their end-users. Apps enable mobile workers to operate more transparently with their customers, improving communication channels and enabling a better overall service to be delivered leaving customers feeling increasingly satisfied.

No pain, just gain

Although on the face of it ensuring greater transparency and increasing communication with tenants seems a somewhat arduous and painful task, the reality is that the housing sector can no longer ignore the increased expectations of their customers and a complicated regulatory environment. Aside from the need to address transparency from a reputational and regulatory perspective it can add efficiency and productivity to your internal teams, whilst ensuring that tenants remain satisfied with the service they receive. This is particularly important in an age where the housing sector is under real scrutiny from the regulators and press.

To bring about meaningful change The Housing Federation has suggested creating a clear, public mandate with a set of guidelines that recognise the need for change. These should include: creating a national public framework of locally-led actions, placing accountability in the hands of the Housing Association board to oversee the delivery of transparency across the sector, reinforcing trust among tenants by showing accountability and providing tenants clarity on what to expect from a landlord. By delivering against these measures housing associations can demonstrate without question that tenants are at the heart of what they do.

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