Why 2021 is the year of digital & self-serve for housing associations and their residents

22.01.21 Written by Kitty Hadaway

2021 – the year to invest in your digital and self-serve tools, amplify your channel shift and make your customer experience even better! But why specifically now, and how can it be achieved? Here, we explain everything you need to know.

Why is now the time to increase digital & self-serve tools available to residents?

The pandemic has seen housing association receptions and resident hubs across the country close and remain shut.

Alongside this, normal face-to-face interaction with frontline operatives has been hard to maintain.

So, it’s little surprise that against this backdrop, residents’ behaviour changed significantly in 2020.

Globally, internet usage increased by as much as 70% during the pandemic, and across the UK housing sector, residents’ appetites for digital channel use were no different.

In line with this, housing associations have had to adapt. Head of Communications at Catalyst, Anna Mitchell, explained to us that in 2020, ‘we adapted at pace, to communicate with our customers digitally.’ She added that, now, ‘customers have come to expect this level of service.’

In fact, research shows that a massive 90% of consumers now expect an immediate response.

So it is hardly a surprise that a key learning from 2020 for housing associations is that it is ‘a myth that heaps of customers only want to speak on the phone or via paper’, as Head of Customer Experience at Alliance Homes Group, Cath Pullin, put it.

Rooftop’s Chief Executive, Boris Worrall, pointed out that ‘customer expectations have been rising over time, partly because our experience as consumers in the private sector’.

This sentiment is echoed in the social housing white paper, which declared that housing associations should provide ‘the best customer service of the private sector’.

But how can we achieve the goals set out in the white paper and meet residents’ expectations?

Self-serve tools are the key, but the challenge is balancing cost & effort of implementation, whilst ensuring sufficient uptake among residents.

In the mix of customer portals, apps, and new housing management systems, one tool, in particular, is proving a quick-win that can harmonise self-serve tools and capitalise on the wave of multi-channel digital adoption: chatbots.

Investing in conversational chatbot technology ensures that your housing association is ready to respond to the growing appetite for omnichannel. 

This technology can automate answers to a wide variety of your residents’ questions, educate on and signpost to existing self-serve tools, and provide 24/7 support in the language the customer speaks.

Chatbots also allow for consistent messaging – essential in keeping residents up-to-date and connected with you, especially through the rapidly changing circumstances of the pandemic. 

Even better, chatbots free up your customer support colleagues to work on more complex issues – because this isn’t about taking away existing services, but instead giving your residents more choice and thus improving customer service.  

So let’s break down how a chatbot can help:

  1. Available 24/7 Perfect for weekend warriors, night-owls and Bank Holiday queries!
  1. Any channel Speak to your residents in the apps they use to speak to everyone else in their lives, be that text, Facebook or WhatsApp, as well as on your website – of course!
  1. Any language Automatically translate conversations into over a hundred different languages.
  1. Immediate responses We’re living in a time in which society expects an instant response as standard.
  1. Consistent responses Write the perfect answer to questions and be confident that human error will be a thing of the past.
  1. Seamless live chat handover Sometimes human-to-human interaction is essential, let your chatbot handover seamlessly to a live chat agent at the right moment.
  1. Get to know your residents even better You can learn an enormous amount about your residents from your chatbot, guiding content creation and how demand into the customer experience team is managed.

What next? 

Well, if you haven’t got a chatbot yet – or you have one that just isn’t up to scratch – now is the time to begin the conversation. This time tomorrow, we could be live.

Get in touch, and we can chat through your existing setup, understand your goals, and share a little more on how other housing associations are already using this technology! 

  • Published 22.01.21
  • By Kitty Hadaway
  • In Features