In today’s digitally connected world, consumer expectations have evolved to the point where self-service solutions in some form are becoming the de facto way people communicate and transact with big organisations. Allowing people to get answers or fulfill their own requests whenever it suits them is now one of the most common types of information discovery, with self-service usage at 80% across all industries.
So why should housing sector customers be any different? Tenants expect more connected, available and easy to access services than ever before, and the traditional mindset that customers don’t have access to IT or don’t want to self-serve is diminishing rapidly. Most housing organisations will recognise that many of their tenants have never known a world without the internet and mobile phones. What we term ‘self-service’ and ‘digital’ are, to an exponentially increasing majority, not distinct concepts at all, but simply inherently expected norms.
It’s up to housing organisations to live up to tenant expectations of how a modern landlord should work and a self-service portal (done well!) has the potential to transform your organisation’s capability to deal with enquiries, manage customer data and provide a beneficial customer experience in line with that.
There can be significant costs and investment of time involved in procuring a portal that meets all of your requirements so we’ve pulled together these key considerations to help you assess whether a solution meets your needs and has the potential to make a positive impact on your organisation and its customers alike.
Does it meet both tenant and organisational needs?
Your tenants needs are likely be at the root of every decision you make but whilst you’ll no doubt want to meet their needs, you’ll need to do so in a way that is helpful to your organisation too.
So what do your tenants need from your organisation, what do you want from your tenants and how can a self-service portal help fulfill these needs? If you haven’t created them already, customer personas will aid you in understanding the preferences and characteristics of the broad customer groups you serve. Once you’ve mapped out these customer groups in line with analysis of existing customer contact channels, you’ll be in a better position to assess where digital self-service can bring the most benefits and to whom.
There are some obvious quick-wins to look for too. Straightforward transactions like paying rent or reporting repairs are prime areas for self-service that touch every tenant, regardless of their persona group. Offering these commonly accessed services via a self-service platform will benefit tenants by introducing enhanced 24/7/365 access to key services and solve problems for your organisation by reducing the impact of routine calls and repeatable tasks to your customer contact teams.
What does the return on investment (ROI) look like?
The premise of planning, implementing and operating a brand new self-service solution brings to mind one major concern: how much is it going to cost? Clearly, you need to assess if your organisation has the capital to sustain this new project and create a cost estimation before you proceed in order to calculate the ROI.
The shift away from face-to-face and phone interactions will naturally lead to a reduction in operating costs due to time saved. According to Dr Gerald Power, the average cost per transaction by phone is £3.39, versus just 8p online. Ideally, you’ll be able to see a decline in tenant contact via the call centre mirrored by an increase in portal usage.
Take a look at your channel shift goals alongside costs of the different vendor offerings available to get a feel for how long your self-service solution will take to pay for itself and start generating real savings for your organisation as transactions move online.
What data is available?
By introducing a self-service portal, you’ll gain access to a wealth of information about your tenants from how they use and interact with the tool as long as the vendor you select has a good reporting offering. This will help with tracking that all important ROI but will also help to feed into continuous improvement of the solution. Utilising monitoring and reporting tools to see where users complete actions the most or where there are significant drop-offs will offer valuable insight into the customer journey. You can use this insight as an opportunity to improve your knowledge base and create more better services both online and offline.
Who will benefit most?
When assessing the various vendor options available, it’s worth grouping criteria by the key stakeholder groups like IT, Finance, Project Teams and of course Tenants who will benefit most from specific functionality or criteria. This will help you stay focussed on the stakeholders that matter most and ensure nobody gets left behind.
So if a vendor solution is hugely beneficial to IT because it’s really easy to implement and maintain but very low benefit to tenants because the UX is poor and it doesn’t work on mobile - is this really the right solution?
To help you assess suppliers and get your brief ready for them check out our Self-Service Procurement Toolkit - including a digital profiling tool and vendor review matrix.