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How Contact Centre Tech Enables Human-Centred Housing


The British housing sector is facing a heady cocktail of individual challenges

Housing associations will be acutely aware of the grave shortfall of social rented homes, and that 4.2 million people in England, including 1.3 million children, are in dire need of social housing. (Source: Big Issue)

Housing developers will be aware that over 50% of government subsidies for social housing in England now goes to the private market (Source: Big Issue), leaving housebuilders with a significant social responsibility alongside on top of their "business as usual".

And of course, issues like damp, mould, and the fallout from the Grenfell disaster occasionally appear in the headlines, publicly raising questions about social housing, and the capacity of the UK housing sector as a whole.

None of us can wave a magic wand and make all of these problems go away. But we can agree that it’s more important than ever to be a conscientious and responsive housing provider.

There are many ways that a housing provider can improve their standing amongst tenants and customers, but it’s the contact centre that stands on the front lines between the provider and the end user. And in order to make a contact centre the best it can be, providers often need to invest in positive technical change.

Exploring the Housing Sector’s Pain Points

When thinking about communications between housing providers and tenants/customers, there are some significant pain points felt by both sides. Let’s explore these issues before we start to explore solutions:

Tenant/Customer Concerns

When tenants or customers interact with their housing provider, there can be a few potential sticking points:

  • Tenants and customers understandably want quick, no-fuss contact when something goes wrong; whether that’s relating to paperwork or something that physically needs fixing with the property.
  • When things go wrong, especially with your own home, you just want a solution - and you certainly don’t want to explain a problem twice! Tenants and customers can easily get frustrated by being passed around by a poor or unresponsive contact centre.
  • Customers/tenants will want to initiate contact in ways in which they are most comfortable, be that through phone call, email, SMS text, WhatsApp message - the list goes on. However not all providers are able to facilitate this.
  • Tenants and customers require a consistent, approachable, and familiar experience where they are recognised as more than just an account number.
  • Sometimes the need for a repair or site visit is rather urgent - in these cases, a prompt assessment and escalation protocol is
  • Housing associations often need to handle very sensitive life-altering matters such as households where domestic violence may be involved, or individuals with breathing problems being presented with issues of damp and mould. In these cases, the contact centre needs to facilitate informed, appropriate, and responsive safeguarding action.
  • Those looking to buy a new build property may be on the fence given the recent economic instability. These potential buyers need to be kept happy and on-side in order to proceed with a sale.

Housing Sector Concerns

Housing providers also have their own concerns when it comes to contact centres as it is their end users’ first port of call for anything housing related.

  • When answering a call from an end user who has a particularly lengthy or complex case, operatives may have to review that case from scratch in order to assist - potentially putting that person on hold in order to get up to speed. This isn’t an optimal situation, as the individual may already be annoyed or worried.
  • Coordinating paperwork for a huge amount of end users can be incredibly painstaking. For housing associations, they frequently have to juggle matters relating to their tenants, the council, benefits, and factors like care in the community for each property. Similarly, housebuilders have to juggle matters relating to customers, mortgages, snagging lists, subcontractors, and so on.
  • Sometimes, housebuilders and housing associations grow incredibly quickly, and they just haven’t had a chance to holistically improve their tech in order to keep pace with new demands. This may result in a segmented and siloed tech stack with lots of different moving parts, not least around contact centre functionality.
  • This “battle” with a siloed tech stack may stand in the way of providing tenants/buyers with speedy resolutions to issues. And when things stand in the way of a solution, that reflects poorly on the provider.
  • Many providers recognise that end users would like to initiate contact with them through whichever method they are most comfortable with, but they have no current way to bring communications from different platforms into a single, manageable platform.
  • Providers often also recognise a need to monitor contact centre productivity in order to improve their processes, but currently have no way of recording or analysing that data.

How Digital Contact Centres Help Deliver Human-Centred Housing

So, to summarise, housing providers need to start providing the human-focused contact centre functionality that their end users crave - but how? Arguably the best way to address this is to invest in omnichannel digital contact centre tech. Let’s dive into some of its benefits.

All End User Comms, All Rendered Through One System

Omnichannel contact centre systems let you provide support through a variety of channels, including phone calling (VoIP), live text chat (with AI chatbot potential), email, SMS text, social media messaging, messaging apps, and more. Your operatives can respond to any such contact seamlessly through the contact centre system, and all interactions are automatically recorded against each user’s record.

Most importantly, this lets your end users get in touch with you in the ways that they are most comfortable with, without your operatives having to juggle multiple different platforms. You’re giving your end users the freedom to connect with you however makes sense to them, whilst also providing a slick, cohesive experience.

Reduces Caller Queueing, Boosts Agent Productivity

So, let’s talk about those contact centre operatives who may need to review a complex case history with an increasingly impatient caller on the line. Our omnichannel contact centre solutions can come equipped with AI tools to provide a simple, easy to digest summary of any end user’s case.

This benefits both caller and operative - the operative doesn’t have to pause the call to read up on the situation, and the caller doesn’t have to endure common annoyances like being put on hold or having to explain their case repeatedly to different people.

However, the tool’s AI capabilities don’t end there. When someone calls in, the AI can promptly confirm the caller’s identity through their unique “voice print,” so there’s no need for a caller to scramble for an account or reference number when a quick response may be critical.

AI can also provide at-a-glance sentiment analysis for each end user, which can help operatives understand a caller’s overall sentiment before responding. Therefore, they can better prepare for calls where an individual may be quite irritated, as they won’t enter that call immediately “on the back foot.”

All in all, omnichannel solutions enable you to provide an appropriate, timely response with minimal delays or distractions for both parties.

Good Tech Can Help Your Duty of Care

Let’s go back to that point about AI being able to positively identify callers for a moment, as it can significantly aid providers’ capacity for duty of care.

Housing associations are hyper-aware of issues like domestic abuse, financial abuse, and anti-social behaviour. If someone is trying to commit fraud by impersonating a tenant or trying to get sensitive information out of the housing association, this AI caller verification can help identify foul play.

Though this functionality isn’t 100% error-proof at the time of writing, it is getting better every day, and can provide some essential validation around who your operatives are talking to (or not…).

Naturally, data privacy is a huge concern for housing providers and their end users. Yet our contact centre software comes with UK GDPR-focused privacy baked in from the outset; because secure data makes for happy tenants and customers too!

Streamlined Pre-Sale/Pre-Move-In Processes

Omnichannel contact systems present numerous “pre-start” benefits to both housing associations and developers.

Housing associations are always keen to instil trust in their services when a new service user comes along, so it’s essential to identify ways that you can help tenants feel heard and well looked after. Investing in good contact centre technology is a great way to do this.

New tenancies also mean new applications, new tenancy agreements, liaison with local authorities, and potentially also health and wellbeing concerns for the new tenants. Rather than chasing these communications and paperwork across a busy tech stack (or worse, manually) an omnichannel platform gives you everything you need for each case at a glance.

Similarly, housing developers are also keen to improve the quality of their service. Given the recent economic turbulence, actually winning over new home buyers has proven a challenging task lately. It’s therefore an opportune time to invest in your customer liaison processes with omnichannel systems that can provide full CRM, sales, and marketing functionality.

Automating Common Queries & Processes

Omnichannel tools can even help you reduce calls by automating the processes that follow everyday queries and complaints.

Firstly, automation can easily help speed up processes that need an urgent response; let’s use a case of mould and damp as an example. In days gone by, the end user would have to call in, a home visit would be arranged, and then action would be taken.

Omnichannel solutions can completely automate this process - the individual can create a case online, upload images of the affected areas, and specify an ideal repair date, which can all be automatically sent to the provider’s building specialists to handle. What could have been a couple of days’ worth of “email tennis” is reduced to potentially less than an hour! This is ideal for housing associations but can also be used by housebuilders in handling snagging lists.

Secondly, when tenants, customers, or potential buyers simply need some straightforward knowledge - say, to do with a common model of boiler that you use in your properties for instance - you can provide them with a self-service AI chatbot that is loaded with information from your FAQs, white goods manuals, and troubleshooting information. Having these simple queries handled by a chatbot keeps contact centre operatives free for more complex cases that need human intervention and thought.

Managing Subcontractors, Minimising Expenses

Tools like these can understandably streamline your processes around repairs, maintenance, and relevant subcontractors - potentially reducing costs in doing so. For example, cases created online can be automatically forwarded to the appropriate subcontractor.

Having all repairs and site visits flowing through the same system can also help site management personnel to rationalise such visits. Say, if a specialist subcontractor needs to go to number 30, but number 26 and number 31 are also waiting for a similar visit, you'll be better placed to tick off all three problems in one go, potentially saving on subcontractor call-out costs.

These are the sorts of dots you can join when you have all end user data in one place - something that’s much more difficult to do with a more manual or siloed system.

Improving Contact Centre Productivity

Given that everything is flowing through one system, you will also be able to see real-time productivity data about each agent, uncover which contact channel tenants/customers are using most, learn how quickly calls are being answered, and get an overall idea of the contact centre’s efficiency.

This allows supervisors and higher management to make effective, data-led decisions, and make intelligent, on-the-fly changes to adapt to the sector’s challenging and evolving demands.

Helping You Provide Human-Centred Housing

Looking for ways to streamline and improve your contact centre operations? The team here at Crimson have helped housing providers up and down the UK with tailored Microsoft contact centre solutions. Book a call with our contact centre transformation experts today!


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