Why You Can’t Ignore Digital Channel Shift

Ivo Kerkhof
14 / 04 / 2017 | Channel Shift

The current policy paper regarding the UK government’s digital strategysets out how Britain will become a world-leading digital economy. When it comes to embracing digital change, the private sector tends to be an early adopter. As soon as government latches on and follows suit, you know it’s time for a digital channel shift.

Channel shift or web transformation is applicable across industries and is driven by the evolution of customer interaction. The need to be ‘digital by default’ is fast becoming a prerequisite for communication and service delivery. Over time our communication methods have changed from face-to-face to telephone, to communicating online. The next logical progression we are already seeing is for much of online communication to be delivered by automatedbots .

However, this doesn’t mean that every facet of your housing association will eventually be run by robots. A digital transformation process doesn’t eradicate personal interaction, nor does it happen overnight. In the housing sector, channel shift forms part of a broader digital transformation agenda. The overall aim is to offer customers choice in their contact methods and match expectations of digital experiences from other industries. Let’s take a look at the factors prompting digital transformation—and why you shouldn’t delay your channel shift:

Meet Customer Expectations

According to Deloitte’s sixth annual Mobile Consumer Survey, 76% of UK adults own or have access to a laptop, and 4 out of 5 have smartphones. Smartphones give us immediate access to a wealth of information and applications in the palm of our hands—never before have we been able to do so much with a small device whose original function was simply to make phone calls.

When we need information, the first port of call is to ‘ask Google’. If we want to read the news, do banking, pay utility bills or shop, we go online. Because we’re on our mobiles, tablets and laptops 24/7, we expect businesses to connect with us in real time through our mobile devices.

We’re conditioned for convenience—app usage is becoming instinctive—and when faced with old-fashioned bureaucratic paperwork or inefficient processes, we’re less impressed by the service and wonder why we can’t transact by pressing a button.

Future-Proof Your Business

Embracing technology is essential to provide the best possible customer experience. Ignoring a digital channel shift is like deciding to post letters instead of using email. Sure, both remain valid methods of communication, but an email is cheaper, faster and easier to track delivery.

With an integrated website or self-service portal, you can offer multichannel service delivery to suit the needs of your customers. For example, a self-service portal with a secure registration and login experience might allow tenants to make online payments, provide maintenance summaries, let them request a repair and gain access to frequently asked questions. And, if they still need assistance, you can provide email and call-centre links so they can contact you. The tools are readily available to take advantage of our hyperconnected digital world.

A Step Towards Digital Transformation

The policy agenda of the current government is accelerating digital transformation, emphasising cost reduction and increasing competitiveness. Forward-thinking housing associations know that to remain agile and relevant, they need to embrace channel shift as part of wider digital transformation. This means re-engineering communication strategies and adapting internal processes.

Remember: communication channels between you and your tenants should be easily accessible, simple to use, streamlined, convenient and robust. Because digital transformation takes time, you need to start shifting communication channels sooner rather than later. Bear in mind the complexity of the contact channel, and the skillset you need to ensure you can maximise your communication and service delivery.

For example, let’s say you want to decrease maintenance calls made by tenants and allow them to request appointments online, which later is confirmed via Email or SMS. Before making this change, you need to make sure you have the right systems to automate or part-automate appointments. Also, you need to determine whether your tenants are tech-savvy and capable of making the transaction online. If not, you will need to think of ways of encourage and facilitate their switch to online communication channels.

Increase Business Efficiency

A digital channel shift should also streamline an organisation's processes and improve staff productivity. Having an integrated self-service portal where tenants can personalise their accounts means you can track their transactions and accumulate valuable data. This information can help you address common issues and improve customer service.

Streamlining processes and eliminating or decreasing the use of inefficient delivery channels also improves staff productivity. With fewer phone calls to answer and less paperwork to fill out, your organisation and people can be more proactive and productive in servicing value-added customer needs.

Consumer behaviour, technological innovation, government policy and business efficiency are the main reasons why housing associations need to embrace a digital shift. It’s about demonstrable ROI, providing better customer service and future-proofing your business within a digitised economy. If you’re interested in seeing how digital channel shift can affect your business, head on over to our free channel shift ROI calculator.

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