The UK is one of the most ‘digital’ nations in the world, and there are cashable savings to be made by taking services online, allowing organisations to divert time and budget into more complex and nuanced frontline services that would previously have been used on repetitive and time-consuming administrative tasks. However, successfully using channel shift to enable redeployment of budget is dependent on having genuine insight into your housing association’s contact volumes, costs and the services and processes that drive them.
As the first step in any channel shift program, it’s vital to understand where you are on the digital scale to start with. Realistically assessing your level of digital maturity will highlight precisely where you need to make the most progress, so you can identify and prioritise channel shift goals. All of this will support your ultimate objective: to transform your existing service through the enablement and adoption of digital channels to deliver financial savings. This should be regarded as a win-win scenario, where greater choice and better levels of service for your tenants on their platforms of choice go hand-in-hand with the economies of channel shift.
For an organisation that may never have formally measured its digital progress before, benchmarking can seem like an overwhelming task at first sight, particularly if your systems don’t easily lend themselves to interrogation. It needn’t be. There are no prizes for over-complication – you’re simply breaking down benchmarking into simple chunks. To borrow an apt proverb, ‘the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ Think of benchmarking as a diagnostic process.
With any channel shift initiative, there should be some guiding principles for benchmarking. Start by asking some simple questions and answer them honestly; for example :
- Is the current process for [task] simple and straightforward for our tenants?
- Could we shorten and simplify the process for the end-user?
- Are we encouraging tenants to access services online as their first-choice channel?
- Are we providing online channels that tenants want and are able to use?
- Are we ensuring that our digital channels are used?
Moving forward from your starting point will involve behaviour change (internally, as well as from your customers) and the use of lower-cost channels as you improve both the service itself and the quality of delivery.
What does channel shift look like in your organisation right now?
Every organisation has its own challenges, but the process of adopting channel shift is similar no matter where you work, and no matter where you sit on the continuum. To kick off your benchmarking exercise, drill down into the information you already have to see how far along you are. Using the data available to you, think about the following questions?
- Have you achieved high or low adoption of digital channels so far? Why?
- Do you have a self-service channel? If so, how well signposted is it, and how is it being used? Are your website and other digital channels driving customers to it? Do people self-serve willingly
- If the will is there but adoption is low, what’s wrong with your platform?
- Is your portal integrated with your system housing management system? If you don’t already have a portal, what alternative options are you giving people?
- What are the top 3-5 customer queries / calls about? Is there a specific theme / area that emerges? Talk to frontline staff (including your call centre, if you have one) to ask. Perhaps ask those same people what their biggest frustrations are, too – are they constantly giving out the same information to people or going through the same process time and time again?
- When are you busiest? What are the log-jams in your service?
- How satisfied are your customers with the options available to them?
How much are you spending, and what could you save?
Once you’ve gained a clear picture of the current state of play, it’s time to work out your current cost per transaction. This will give you a reference point from which you can use an ROI calculator to understand what savings you could achieve through channel shift. If you can’t calculate your transaction costs easily, it makes sense to use published figures – PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ report for Marth Fox Lane is widely used in the social housing sector, and gives the following figures for each channel.
|Face to face||Telephone||Online|
Looking at your main channels, break down the amount of time spent on key activities and the associated additional resources. For instance, on examination, your call centre may spend 70% of its time handling enquiries about repairs, indicating that area this is a prime candidate for online automation.
Benchmarking and KPIs
Benchmarking and setting KPIs are two different exercises, but while you’re going through the benchmarking process, it’s the perfect time to put your internal goals under the microscope, too. Now you’ve analysed your existing service and understood its financial implications, you can home in on KPIs for your channel shift objectives, strategy and metrics. Maybe you already have these in place – if you don’t, it’s an excellent idea to set some measurable targets.
For websites, think about:
- Device usage
- Website entrance page by device
- Traffic sources
- Engagement with and abandonment of transactional services
For emails, metrics can include:
- Click rate
- Open rate
- Engagement rate
- Subscription per subscriber
- Overlay impact
The benchmarking process will help you to assess whether you can meet your KPIs through your existing digital channels, or whether it makes more sense to look to modify, replace or augment them.
Look beyond your own organisation
As part of benchmarking, remember to look at how what you’re doing right now compares with the progress of others. The underlying purpose of benchmarking is to see how you measure up against superior examples of best practice and look at how that’s been achieved through processes and ways of working. Assessing how other housing associations are performing digitally will not only provide inspiration for what’s possible, but will also give you a feeling for whether you’re ahead, behind or keeping pace with the majority of your peers. For instance:
- Which platforms are they using?
- Do they have a self-service portal?
- What have they automated?
Take advantage of the information that’s available to gain an understanding of the direction you should be taking your channel shift program in – the social housing space is well-known for being collaborative, so why not take your research a step further and talk to your peers in other organisations for further insights.
It’s worth pointing out that, as with any program that involves a significant change, mindset plays a critical role. Good communication about why you need to benchmark current achievement, identify aspirations for the future and agree milestones along the way are all part of gaining buy-in across your organisation at all levels. Identify how you currently communicate digital goals and achievements and be honest about whether there is room for improvement in supporting a positive approach to adopting new ways of working.
Finally, when you’ve completed benchmarking and set your goals, makes sure that you share your targets in a dashboard. That way, everyone involved will be on the same page, and can gain a snapshot view of progress quickly and easily.
For more pointers on benchmarking and planning your channel shift project, download our e-book How to prioritise, action and measure your digital transformation programme