How can the CRM movement in social housing support your customers?
10 / 05 / 2024

How can the CRM movement in social housing support your customers?

Historically, the social housing sector has been slower than others in embracing technological advancements, for various reasons. However, a recent push towards implementing comprehensive CRM systems signifies a pivotal moment.

This strategic move not only reflects a desire to bridge the gap with other sectors but also demonstrates a proactive stance towards enhancing customer management practices within the industry.

Why are housing associations looking to CRMs?

With HAs having to do more with less they’re looking at new ways in which they can benefit from digital transformation and technology to improve the efficiency of their operations and enhance customer experience.

At Prodo, we've witnessed numerous examples of this during stakeholder and tenant workshops. Housing professionals frequently encounter persistent challenges stemming from reliance on legacy systems, manual workarounds, and inadequate data governance. These obstacles pose significant barriers to effectively segmenting customer and asset data, ultimately resulting in less personalised and targeted communication and service delivery approaches.

From speaking with Paul Earnden, Managing Director at our sister company, Fuelius, we can understand the importance of HAs taking that move to an effective CRM to help them to better assist their residents with their queries and service requests.

Fuelius is one of the few HubSpot Elite partners and next year will mark 10 years that they’ve specialised within the CRM space, so they’re well-placed in helping to showcase the benefits of bringing CRM to the housing sector.

The legacy of the Housing Management System

It’s long been the case that HAs have worked with a Housing Management System (HMS) to maintain data and perform key functions, however, Paul highlights how this has meant that the stock has always remained the primary objective, with the importance of the customer lagging behind.

It’s now crucial that HAs make sure they’re catering for their tenants, both efficiently and effectively. Relying solely on legacy systems which often remain static in their development and are difficult to integrate with hamper these plans.

The resulting workarounds have led to a colossal manual workload. Hours spent replying to unsuccessful applicants could be drastically reduced to just a couple of minutes through CRM automation. This not only frees up capacity to address more pressing customer concerns but also builds trust by demonstrating a commitment to communication and transparency, which are equally important to both the landlord and customer.

A CRM system proves invaluable in placing the customer at the heart and forefront of operations. It ensures diligent tracking of customer satisfaction, engagement, issue resolution, and communication, prioritising these aspects in every interaction. With metrics continuously evolving based on customer insights, resources are liberated to address significant customer concerns identified through this data-driven approach, a strategic shift and focus as described by Paul.

Starting with an HMS establishes what's commonly referred to as a Hub and Spoke Model, where all operations, such as repairs and scheduling, stem from this centralised system. Consequently, adjustments need to be made to other systems, such as external communications platforms, to align with this structure.

As CRMs take centre stage, this centralised data system prioritises the customer, enabling seamless integration with other systems to streamline housing processes within a single source of truth. Leveraging customer-specific data, actions can be based on accurate insights and the implementation of automation serves as a pre-emptive measure, reducing the need for extensive follow-ups and administrative tasks. This optimisation means more time for informed decision-making across all systems.

According to Statista, “The adoption of CRM solutions in the UK has experienced a twofold increase from 2016 to 2024, with projections indicating a further doubling by 2028.”

Paul discussed how, in the past, some organisations have been put off by the initial expense of some CRMs or the extent of the learning curve necessary to successfully navigate some others. Now, with CRMs such as HubSpot, you can action certain requirements you want to focus on, starting small with a view to focussing on what’s currently important and building from there.

How can CRM benefit housing?

When looking at the ‘how’, it’s important to look at the ‘what’, namely, which areas CRM can benefit the housing sector. These can include:

  • Applications and onboarding
  • Shared ownership and marketing
  • Customer sentiment and surveying
  • An overview of a customer, including interactions
  • Segmentation by tenure type, location, need, preferences
  • Targeted service delivery and comms
  • Enhanced digital engagement
  • Data governance
  • Process management - request a pet, report anti-social behaviour, log complaints, provide feedback etc.
  • Automation of processes based on smart logic and triggers

A CRM can make light work of these process for HAs of all sizes, and HubSpot in particular, can cater appropriately to the needs of tenants, landlords and you, as an association. This can be done with the help of HubSpot’s five Hubs:

  • Content Hub - Where you can create content and landing pages
  • Sales Hub - A conventional CRM to see how sales are functioning
  • Service Hub - Where you’ll have your CS desk, live chat, ticketing, contact centre
  • Operations Hub - For your data manipulation, data cleansing etc.
  • Marketing Hub - For automation functionality - to help you get the right content in front of the right people at the right time

Using these five Hubs allows you to save information and to build on what we know about customers, there can be constant communication for explaining processes and for giving an interactive experience. This, thereby, keeps the customer at the heart of the system, with incredible efficiency gains to be had.

With no end to how segmented you can be with a CRM, having the ability to apply various filters and layering them up means you can be hyper-targeted with your customer comms.

What do you need to consider when planning and scoping a CRM implementation project? 

With many CRM implementation projects failing, it's crucial to understand the root causes of these failures. Often, it's not the platform or software itself that's to blame but rather the inaccurate scoping of the project right from Phase 1 and therefore an ineffective implementation.

Workshops and customer-focussed groups have indicated to us in the past that a lot of issues are down to a lack of communication and having a stronger digital system behind you can help to rectify this issue. As Paul discussed with us, it’s important to choose a platform that’s appropriate for your organisation and, in some circumstances, HubSpot may not be the right platform for you. However, for many, HubSpot is an ideal CRM for their organisational needs as it allows you to start small when improving efficiencies. Consider a holistic approach, thinking about what your tenants and your organisation need, then choose your best-fit CRM platform based on this, scope first, platform second.

If you’d like to talk to us more about a CRM project for your housing organisation, please get in touch, we’d love to speak with you further.

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