Customer Service

“I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change.” 

Voted by the public as the best one-liner at Edinburgh this year, Ken Cheng’s clever pun taps into our dislike of change.

Attitudes to customer service are changing rapidly and, like that new pound coin, it is not something we can avoid. Our customers’ changing expectations already impact upon us and we will have to adapt our processes and technology to meet them. The American magazine, Forbes is very clear that value and experience are now more important than price for most customers. It is the way we treat our customers and the processes we put them through that influence their satisfaction.

Riverside’s customers have expressed an increased degree of satisfaction with the value for money of their home since 2015 and yet, overall, customer satisfaction has failed to rise. Insight from the Institute of Customer Service found that “keeping promises, being polite and providing the right information first time are all essential to drive [customer] loyalty.” Riverside has a strongly developed service style which seeks to resolve issues at first contact and fix repairs on the first visit, and yet customer satisfaction remains stubbornly static. The new structures within the Target Operating Model are already bringing a heightened profile to our performance and increased collaborative working to resolve issues. We need to ensure we maintain focus and push for the highest standards.

Increasingly, customers do not expect to have to tell us when a problem arises. We live in a world where data is shared so readily requirements are pre-empted; your car can tell you your tyre pressure is low before a blowout and GPS tracking means coffee shop offers appear on your phone as you approach it. Our property MOT seeks to resolve issues before they occur and our Tenancy Intelligence Model combines customer data to predict interventions. But we need to be smarter with our data and innovate with technology so we know there is boiler problem and we contact the customer before they realise it themselves. Our customers will not expect to receive information about services that are not immediately relevant; they will expect an invitation for money advice the moment they lose a job or for employment support as soon as the lone parent’s youngest child hits five. This is the service they are receiving from the commercial world and it is shaping expectations, behaviours and satisfaction.

We know the demographic of Riverside customers is ageing and more rapidly than wider society. However, this does not mean their expectations remain the same. The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) highlights the expectations and behaviours of millennials can be seen to be shaping those of their parents and grandparents. This generation is “tech-savvy”. They have high expectations, are unafraid to complain and will switch allegiance if let down. The ICS says we need to “value their time, embrace technology, listen and continually evolve to be truly multichannel.” This generation expect a response to a tweet within 60 minutes and emails within a couple of hours. Customers expect a multi-channel service of consistent information. Investment is required to ensure technology is robust and integrated and whatever the channel, the answer is the same and available immediately. Consistently followed processes results in reliable information.

So we know technology, data and processes influence customer satisfaction hugely, but what of our people? There is a strong link between employee engagement and customer satisfaction. A workforce aligned to the values of the organisation, that itself feels valued and engaged in shaping processes and technology delivers better service to customers.

We all know the old adage; “the only constant is change” and many people struggle with change, but like the new pound coin, it is something we cannot avoid. The change required to deliver better customer service and meet rapidly changing customer expectations requires investment in technology, smarter use of our data, new processes, faster, more accurate working, and engagement of our employees on the journey.


Anna Bishop

Anna is Director of Customer Service

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