Putting customers in control is the future of social housing

The old dog and bone is no longer the preferred method of communication. We continue to signpost our customers to self-service aids, which critics may suggest is due to efficiency savings being sought as a result of Government benefit cuts. We are becoming smarter in our ways of communicating with customers, whilst keeping pace with the ever-expanding digital age.

Riverside, at its very core, strives to be people-focused. But are we failing the most vulnerable of our tenants by encouraging them to ‘self-serve’ and in turn disconnecting them from the one-to-one human contact that has historically enabled them to transform their lives?

Or are we succeeding in being ambitious in our communications approach by embracing new age technologies?

A plethora of online self-serve options now enable us to better connect with a Britain where, according to the Office for National Statistics, nine out of every ten households now have access to the internet. Given this particular statistic, and knowing that redesigning customer journeys to deliver great digital experiences can reduce costs and improve satisfaction, it seems particularly astute business sense to tap into this avenue.

Within the Customer Service Centre (CSC), advisors like me are always at the forefront of technological advances in customer communication. We use emails and webchats in order to interact with our diverse customer base and self-service repair logging adds to this metaphorical bow.

The latest tool to be rolled out, initially to 3,500 customers in the Liverpool City and North regions, aims to enable our customers to log routine repairs as well assign appointment slots that suit them.

It is still fairly early days to gauge how successful this new channel has been from my parapet in the CSC, and my exposure to enquiries has been minimal. However it’s clear that this self-serve approach gives our customers more control, whilst freeing up me and my fellow advisors to handle calls more efficiently, which is surely a positive impact for all concerned.

In fact, as I write this blog, in an effort to energise our customers to engage with self-service, prompts have now been added to targeted addresses in order to identify the root cause of any issues or barriers our customers have had which has stopped them from using the service.

Therefore, I believe, just how transformational this new communication channel will be for Riverside remains to be seen; however it is certainly one we should be all be grasping with both hands.

William Steele, Customer Service Centre Advisor, Irvine

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