The housing industry has undergone some substantial changes within recent years. From the digitisation of data management systems and the collation of big data metrics to the relationship between the tenant and the housing provider.

These developments have certainly revolutionised the sector; however, housing associations will need to leverage existing and emerging technologies to solve-real world problems while continuously adapting to a changing landscape.

The Challenge: Cost of Managing Contact Centre Enquiries

The way that people connect with their service provider is changing rapidly. The amount of time adults spend using the Internet has significantly increased throughout the country. 

The prevalence of smartphones and smart devices has significantly increased in recent years, and this is especially true amongst lower-income households.

Given the growth in the implementation of online customer services by an array of different industries, increasingly more customers expect to be able to access support and information through a diverse range of channels including social media.

Nowhere is this more relevant than in the housing sector, where tenants often want to access services on their own terms, such as to report a maintenance fault outside traditional working hours.

Enquiries made to housing associations range from the simple to the complex, and the digitisation of customer services enables tenants the flexibility to switch communication channels in line with the nature of their specific request.

Contact Centres – The Key Opportunities:

CRM System: A CRM System can be particularly beneficial for contact centre enquiries. A solution such as Dynamics 365 CRM can bridge the gap between cost savings and in-house efficiency, due primarily to the omni-channel support offered.
Not only can D365 provide an additional layer of inter-departmental accountability, but its ground up natures has been designed to offer substantial cost reductions over time due to the ability to embrace a centralised means to collate, interpret and resolve any customer enquiries in an amenable time frame.

Social Media Management Centres: Housing centre automation can often be achieved through the integration of a social media management centre. There are several advantages resulting from this approach. The time necessary for engaging, reporting and addressing an issue can be dramatically reduced; increasing levels of efficiency.
One of the key takeaway points is that all existing infrastructure including phone calls, VoIP systems and live chats should be fully integrated together with traditional response templates such as automated emails.he addition of the Microsoft Social Engagement Tool (MSE) can provide additional layers of control and flexibility.
It uses algorithms to pull user sentiment from social media feeds. These sentiments can then be interpreted via the use of a graphic interface providing an excellent stop-gap measure to allocate specific user sentiments into dedicated client support cases before they are entered into a CRM system. This approach will further enhance levels of efficiency while reducing in-house expenditures.

The Internet of Things: Otherwise known as IoT, is a means by which housing centres can effectively collate and interpret data by measuring various metrics from data sent by housing units. This method is particularly useful for enquiries, as a greater level of accuracy from data received by housing providers will lead to better service-related outcomes.

Digital Self-Service: There has been a rising trend towards self-service from tenants seeking to enquire about specific interests or to raise awareness of key issues for example. Self-service portals make all this possible and more whilst helping to strengthen the reputation of the housing provider. This also enables existing in-house resources to be reallocated to other core areas such as sales and real-world interactions.

Chat Bots: The increased accuracy of AI has given rise to the automated chat bot. Appearing much like a real-world representative, these bots are able to address common questions and queries within a matter of seconds. Not only is this support scalable, but it is available on a 24/7 basis when the need arises; Helping reduce strain on contact centres and improving efficiency.

Digital Life Cycle Management: Optimised End-to-end life cycle management is key in helping contact centres better oversee their enquiries while simultaneously allowing for the interpretation of existing datasets through process automation and fully customisable reporting. CRM processes are dramatically streamlined and as a result, client-based services can be tailored around very specific needs of a tenant.

The Challenge: Rent Regulation

The Welfare and Reform Act of 2016 was intended to reduce social rental prices by one per cent until the year 2020. While this regulation had been formulated to provide more amenable prices to renters, one offshoot was that the decrease in rent-derived revenue was estimated by the (NHF) National Housing Federation to reduce the number of new homes constructed by up to 27,000 units.

However, this presents contact centres and similar stakeholders with a unique opportunity. By employing workflow systems and data analytics to streamline internal operations, significant cost reductions can be enjoyed.

Rent Regulation – The Key Opportunities:

The numerous rent regulations leave tenants pressed for good living conditions. Social landlords, on the other hand, want to comply with the regulations.

As such, deploying various forms of technology offers an opportunity for them to automate systems in a manner to improve business efficiencies while enhancing tenancy management. Some innovative solutions are more applicable within the social housing industry than others. Here’s a handful of innovative methods which have recently gained ground. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) can help to control and potentially abate rising rental costs when appropriate. This is accomplished by collating data across numerous categories which provides a better top-down view of any trends well in advance. Thus, a greater sense of pricing flexibility is achieved.

CRM System – An effective CRM system can enhance communications between renters and housing associations. A solution such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 will allow management to remain informed of any developments. The synergy of this architecture in conjunction with a centralised framework enables landlords and similar individuals to improve relationships with tenants as well as to address any complaints in regard to renter conditions.

In the same respect, Digital Self-Service platforms will enable clients to directly interact with contact centres and similar portals to address basic queries. Not only can this address small rental issues before they evolve into larger problems, but social landlords are more likely to retain the tenant in question.

Chat Bots are another key component in regard to rent regulation. As these bots will provide the client with relevant information within seconds, common enquiries can be addressed without the need of a live customer service representative. These bots also illustrate that the letting agency cares about the needs of the renter.

Good Data Life Cycle Management will help to ensure that existing processes are fully automated while adhering to the appropriate rules and regulations that govern the industry and personal data as it pertains to data privacy laws (GDPR). Another benefit of data life cycle management is that all relevant information is presented in a centralised fashion to in-house personnel. Therefore, a greater-  amount of clarity and insight into the tenant-landlord relationship can be enjoyed.

The Challenge – Stock and Asset Management:

In housing, a well-maintained asset tends to last longer. However, the current social housing environment makes it challenging for housing associations and landlords to manage their assets effectively.

Stock and Asset Management – The Key Opportunities:

Reduced government funding, rent, and other factors brings its own challenges; however, it also creates unique opportunities for Social Housing providers to leverage, i.e. by taking advantage of new transformational technologies to enhance their existing operational structure.

Housing officers can now update customer information online, request system checks and liaise with the social housing contact centre using a diverse range of connected devices such as phone, tablet or PC.

Some of the transformation technologies that can really make a positive impact with stock and asset management include:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology has advanced considerably enough to prove itself a very useful tool for the social housing sector. Predictive analytics will utilise data mining, statistical analyses and similar models to effectively anticipate any issues that may arise in the future.
A real-world example of this would be tracking when items are fitted and then predicting the window in which they will break by looking for patterns in previous repair data. This means items can be repaired well in advance, before evolving into costly and time-consuming problems.  It is also a great way to remain fully prepared for any potential changes in the housing sector in the near future.

Social Media Listening and Management Tool: As mentioned previously, (MSE) Microsoft Social Engagement collects and interprets client sentiments from across several social media channels. This functionality can be very useful to stock and asset management. MSE is effectively able to detect maintenance or renter issues before they cause an irreparable rift with management.
It works by collating information around discussions and comments relevant to search topics and keywords you pre-define in the application and actively concatenates this data based on the sentiment value which you can easily observe via the dashboard in a range of different reporting views.
Microsoft Social Engagement also allows management to communicate with renters directly through these very same social media channels, a greater sense of efficiency is naturally achieved. MSE can also spot emerging trends (such as numerous complaints revolving around the same issue or problems with rental costs) well in advance. This approach also empowers social housing staff to provide a more proactive and effective service.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is able to provide a virtual link between the property and the management firm. It can remotely monitor metrics such as temperature, energy consumption and even the presence of mould. As a result, minor maintenance issues can be addressed before they become costly concerns, whilst acting as an effective maintenance tool when scheduling visits and when addressing the needs of the renter.

The role Digital Self-Service plays is pivotal –  renters can now highlight their concerns to social housing administrators and similar stakeholders. As a result, a more proactive response can be taken. This is critical in terms of effective asset management as well as helping to ensure tenants are fully satisfied over the long haul.

Chat Bots will likewise help to streamline the communications process and if the need arises (such as a maintenance issue or a general property concern), the correct stakeholders can be placed in contact with the tenant.

Data Life Cycle Management is critical in overseeing ongoing operations and providing valuable insight into past responses (such as the number of maintenance call-outs within a given period of time). More efficient approaches can therefore be adopted based on historic data intelligence.

In Summary, the social housing industry faces several challenges, some of which have been discussed in this article. Our team has extensive experience helping client’s with their digital transformation programmes.

Speak to a digital transformation technology partner such as cloudThing today to find out more about how technology can enhance your business operations.

We would be delighted to discuss how we can help you adapt to and take advantage of the digital environment, enhance service delivery and help cultivate a propitious tenant/provider relationship.