16 Feb Transforming the Housing Association: Using Tech to Treat Residents with Respect
Housing Associations, like many other agencies, government groups, and companies, have encountered a number of significant changes and challenges in the last few years.
Not only has the pandemic led to significant alterations in the way these organisations operate, but housing associations are also dealing with growing request backlogs, supply chain shortages and skyrocketing inflation levels too. All the while, new government regulations and requirements are placing increased pressure on Housing companies to innovate and evolve.
Government whitepapers, like the “Charter for Social Housing and Residents” outlines a number of expectations Housing Associations must be able to adhere to in the years ahead, in order to raise the standard of social housing initiatives throughout the United Kingdom.
These documents demand housing associations to become more “resident centric”. They focus on concepts like ensuring citizens have access to transparent information, making sure every individual feels like they have a voice, and “treating residents with respect.”
The Quest to Become More Resident Centric
Delivering an excellent quality of service and support to residents in the Housing landscape may not seem like a challenging concept at first. After all, virtually every “consumer” expects more from the agencies and groups they interact with today. It’s not unusual to expect local residents of Housing Associations to demand greater respect, empathy, and care from Housing groups.
Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against Housing providers. As standards continue to rise, as a result of whitepapers like the “Charter for Social Housing and Residents”, Housing Associations are struggling to balance the demand for excellent service with the need to build more properties, provide faster access to maintenance, and make rapid citizen-focused decisions.
The legacy technology and communication systems still present in the Housing market are complicating these issues further. Currently, Housing Associations are still dealing with challenges that make it almost impossible to deliver the right level of care to customers, such as:
- Siloed technologies: Without a centralised view of communications and citizen data, it’s much harder to deliver personalised, valuable, and efficient services to consumers. Many Housing Associations still don’t have a 360-degree view of households, residents, properties, and partners to work with.
- Inefficient processes: Inefficient processes hampered by legacy technologies lead to frustrations for both housing associations and their residents. Many companies are still dealing with time-consuming workflows which leave citizens feeling overlooked and unappreciated in a difficult time.
- Agents under pressure: Excellent experiences for citizens start with better experiences for employees. Agents struggling to deal with legacy systems and rising demands are under increased pressure, which can lead to mistakes, inefficiencies, and strained relationships.
- Lack of availability: Delivering excellent service means ensuring consumers can contact and connect with Housing Associations whenever they choose, on the channels they prefer. Yet most Housing Associations are still reliant exclusively on voice as their primary method of communication, and don’t have the platforms required to branch out.
- Poor personalisation: Limited access to data and insights means housing associations can’t show a higher level of respect and care for their customers through the use of personalised services.
Using Technology to Improve Resident Service
The number one expectation outlined by the Charter for Social Housing and Residents is that all Housing Associations should “treat residents with respect”. Simply put, this means investing in a better quality of personalised, supportive service for all citizens. As citizen sentiment towards government institutions and agents continues to dwindle, groups are facing increased pressure to strengthen their relationships with the people they serve.
To accomplish this, and meet the standards set out by government regulators today, Housing Associations are increasingly turning to technology, and the benefits of digital transformation. Indeed, even before the pandemic, many social landlords and Housing groups had already begun embracing new digital tools, designed to help them support their residents more effectively.
Social Housing companies have begun to implement self-service tools, digital communication platforms and similar solutions to empower citizens and give them a voice. Some of the core areas Housing Associations will need to focus on to ensure they’re “treating residents with respect” include:
- Communication management tools: Tools for managing, routing, and processing communications are crucial to making sure citizens feel heard and respected. ACD (Automatic Contact Distribution) technology built into modern CCaaS systems can assist housing groups in sending the right calls and communications to the correct agents, based on techniques like “skills-based routing”. This helps to ensure residents can avoid the frustrations associated with being kept on hold, or consistently transferred between departments.
- Omnichannel communications: Part of being respectful to residents in the Housing Association landscape, is respecting their communication preferences. As such, groups are beginning to invest in omnichannel platforms which allow citizens to share their issues using a range of platforms, from SMS, to voice, video, and even chatbot interactions. Through an omnichannel environment, agencies can ensure residents have the freedom to communicate in the format they feel most comfortable with, without having to repeat their issue when a conversation is transferred to a different medium.
- Artificial Intelligence: Artificial Intelligence tools like intelligent IVR systems and chatbots provide Housing Associations with various ways to help citizens serve themselves and answer their own questions, without waiting for an agent to become available. Self-service solutions show respect for a citizen or resident’s time, by ensuring they don’t have to wait in long call queues to get answers to a simple question. Some tools can even allow residents to complete actions like paying a bill without having to speak to an agent.
- Unified interfaces: Consolidated interfaces for Housing Association agents ensure professionals can rapidly access information about each resident, and tailor the conversation to their specific needs. Some unified tools in the CCaaS environment even allow users to rapidly access information from other integrated technologies, like CRM services and help desks. This makes employees more operationally agile, improves their performance levels, and delivers a more efficient experience to residents.
It’s Time to Transform Resident Service
In order to deliver the level of respect and care outlined by the Charter for Social Housing Residents, Housing Associations need to be prepared to digitally transform. The right technology can unify communication systems, empower citizens to communicate more freely with agents, and pave the way for more personalised, respectful interactions.
If your Housing Association needs help investing in digital transformation strategies to enhance customer service, contact UC Advisor today to see how we can help. We even offer a free Transformation fund, to help you handle the costs associated with innovation.