contact centres creaking
18 / 10 / 2023

Contact centres creaking

With heightened resident expectations, following a well-publicised DLUHC campaign, housing being much higher on the agenda in the media and imminent consumer regulation. Then we need to layer in an almost daily shop window of Housing Ombudsman cases,  it’s no wonder that contact centres are starting to feel the pinch.

You might expect the CEO of a sector-leading digital transformation agency to trot out a list of well-worn buzzwords.  Omni channel, digital by default, self-serve and so the list goes on - but you won’t hear me talking in soundbites.  Understanding your customers' needs and preferences and using that insight to understand what works, what people want and how to improve customer experience is what you will hear me going on about in an obsessive way.

So what’s happening in the world of readiness for consumer regulation?  The answer is mixed. There is no question that landlords are strengthening customer voice, engagement and scrutiny of services and you can’t blink without seeing another new prediction around where TSM performance is settling or action plans to help providers get there. But we are facing a bigger threat in the readiness battle - basic service delivery!  In real terms contact centres are going backwards, with less staff, fielding more calls and trends in quality indicators such as waiting times and call drop-offs spiking. Combine this with relatively low levels of digitalisation and lack of technology to provide transparency, accountability and ultimately build trust and you are left with a serious risk in service delivery.

As the CEO of a digital company that is all about building trust and unlocking capacity, you might think that I’d be evangelical about moving the digital needle north of 80%. But I’m not, I’m evangelical about understanding customers' needs and preferences, and using them to create a user experience that provides ease of access, transparency of service and ultimately a service delivery that holds the landlord to account.  If 30% of your customers are digitally excluded, for whatever reason - economic, needs or preferences, you won’t find me suggesting you try and convert them to digital. What you will find is me advocating to get the 70% who want a digital service to enable 24/7 contact, online appointments, and push notifications for an ease of access experience transacting digitally to create the capacity for the 30% who need a different service.

We know that ease of contacting and doing business with my landlord is a key driver of overall satisfaction, so why do we insist on making it so difficult, and despite all our efforts we are still only seeing sector averages for contacts through digital sitting at around a third. Are we saying that 66% of customers need or prefer telephone or face-to-face contact or are we saying we don’t know enough about our customers and therefore we can’t drive participation and volume through digital channels? I suggest it’s the latter, and we are now seeing some top performers at over 50%, those landlords who have systematically embraced digital for customers who want it and can access it. 

What does that mean for capacity in real terms? At a time when resources are stretched and call volumes are on the increase, a move to digital can free up 1 FTE per 1000 properties. We are working with landlords who have freed up 9 FTEs through the digitalisation agenda. Now stop and think what you could do with an extra 9 people pointed towards targeted service delivery, based on a real understanding of customers' needs and preferences. Then layer in reduced volumes and increased trust as customers know where they stand, all leading to reduced complaints and increased satisfaction. 

I’m not suggesting that it’s a simple linear equation of channel shift to a higher percentage and the leaderboard of satisfaction will shine like a beacon of brilliance, but I am saying that the link between ease of contact, transparent service delivery and trust and higher satisfaction is proven. It’s also clear that unlocking capacity to support those who need a different type of service will serve landlords well as they demonstrate a real understanding
of customers. 

Three months into my new role, as CEO of Prodo, I’m loving being able to support the complexity the sector is facing and helping landlords on their journey to build trust and unlock capacity.


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