The past eighteen months have certainly been a challenging time for the social housing sector. Like many other contact centres, social housing providers have had to operate with the majority of their staff working from home. At the same time, the pandemic has taken its toll on the communities they serve. Being there to support tenants that are vulnerable has been paramount.
As the current lockdown eases and a degree of normality returns, now is a time for you to reflect on how you engage with customers in the future. The pandemic forced a number of things to change, we have proven that we can support flexible working and many have found this can be very effective. Many social housing providers have also seen changes in tenant behaviour with different communication channels being adopted as well as a growing use of self-service.
Long before the pandemic, you were likely to be thinking digitalisation, looking at channel shift as a way to service customers more efficiently, or exploring smarter ways to provide self-service to increase accessibility and free up agent capacity to help your most vulnerable tenants. Now is not the time to revert to old ways, but to embrace some of the changes that were forced on us, and drive on to deliver on those objectives.
We have shown that flexible working is possible. Agents can work from home and we can be more accommodating to a work-life balance. There is a real potential to create a win-win scenario moving forward, giving agents more flexibility when they work and better aligning resources to the needs of tenants, whether that be through shift patterns that are aligned to peaks or having the flexibility to extend operating hours.
To make this possible requires an infrastructure that’s not fixed to the contact centre but leverages a cloud environment able to support agents in any location, whether that be a centre, a regional office or working at home.
When all your lines were busy, customers turned to other channels. They have been emailing you, going to your website and even messaging you. The pandemic has accelerated channel shift and now we need to capitalise on this to make it a long-term behavioural change. To sustain and even increase channel shift you need a modern communications platform that supports omni-channel. A way for your agents to handle voice, SMS, email, web chat and even social channels. Empowering agents across all channels and enabling them to see conversations that traverse channels means they can serve customers in a far more efficient, more proactive way.
For change to have the greatest impact requires a clear understanding of customer needs, behaviours and preferences. One downside of operating a virtual contact centre is that you can no longer walk the floor and gain an instant understanding of what is happening. This is where interaction recording and analytics is proving invaluable. The ability to capture every interaction across every channel allows you to understand why your customers are contacting you, it enables you to understand the customer experience you are delivering and more importantly it highlights trends in customer preferences. With these insights, you can make more informed decisions about how you serve customers in the future.
With many more tenants using self-service options during the pandemic, there is a great opportunity to build on this momentum, using insights on customer needs to offer up different ways for tenants to access information or to serve themselves. Leveraging a platform that can support automated speech, web self-service and even AI-powered chatbots can help to deflect more customer engagements out of the contact centre and free up agents to be there for more vulnerable tenants.
Connecting The Whole Organisation
Although the contact centre in social housing is an important first point of call, many enquiries need to be handed off to other departments or teams to manage cases. As such, it is not just the contact centre that can benefit from moving to a cloud-based communications platform. Deploying hosted telephony and unified communications across the entire organisation can drive greater flexibility and accessibility across all operations and ensure that customers are connected to the right people first time.
So, is this the perfect time for Social Housing to drive transformation in customer engagement? The answer is most certainly “yes”. The technology is available to enable change and empower agents, Customers’ appetite to embrace different ways to engage has been created and who would not want to move forward to a more efficient and effective way of working?
If you would like to find out more about how Liquid Voice is helping Social Housing organisations to transform customer engagement, please visit our web page.