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21 Apr 2021

The pandemic has expanded the opportunity for housing associations to increase the effectiveness of their self-service digital offer outside of traditional office hours, according to new research.

As the debate about the future of the workplace continues, the latest thinking focuses on businesses offering a hybrid solution where staff can work flexibly between home and the office.

For housing associations that provide vital services to their residents and communities, ensuring continuity of services during and after making significant changes is critical. As well and continuing to meet service levels and KPIs, it is also important that residents continue to feel supported and that their needs are being met.

So, as we all start to think about making permanent changes to working arrangements, a consortium of six housing associations sought to learn more about their tenants’ experience and expectations of the services they provide.

Carried out by market researchers Service Insights, over 2,500 residents across the six housing associations took part in the research, which took place ten months after the first UK lockdown.

Dr Simon Williams, managing director of Service Insights and author of the report, said: “Many tenants perceive their service expectations to have more or less remained the same as pre-pandemic levels and feel housing associations have adapted better during the COVID-19 pandemic than other organisations they are familiar with.

“Moving into the second year of the pandemic, tenants will increasingly expect ‘business as usual’ with services resuming back to the speed and scope of pre-pandemic levels.

“With the pandemic having the potential to be part of British society for many years to come, tenants’ recognition for housing associations to be increasingly flexible and adaptable could form the basis of core skills essential to effective future service delivery.

Effecting channel shift to enable permanent flexible working

The report concluded that whilst the phone remains tenants’ preferred main method of contact, digital forms of communication offer housing associations more consistent levels of expectation.

“This suggests an opportunity exists for housing associations to increase the effectiveness of their self-service digital offer outside of traditional office hours, thereby reducing workloads during normal office hours and support more flexible working,” it said.

Whilst channel shift is well underway, according to the report there is still some ground to be covered before the majority of residents opt to solve most of their routine and repeated requests using digital, self-serve options.

Although unproven, it is likely that the remaining residents yet to routinely take up digital service options are less engaged with technology. The digital divide still exists today, and as we all know, the barriers which can create digital exclusion are often complex.

But taking a supportive and customer-focused approach to enabling further channel shift can help housing associations to overcome some of the barriers, such as lack of skills, confidence or motivation.

An excellent solution to encourage channel shift amongst this group, the ActiveH customer portal gives residents access to your services around the clock, at a place and time that suits them.

Easy to use and user-journey focused, the front-end design can be customised to your brand identity for a seamless, familiar customer journey transition from website to portal. With the ability to enable Browsealoud and the flexibility to ensure WCAG compliance, you can deliver an accessible and seamless customer experience to assure and encourage residents on their digital journey.

And for residents that would like additional support to learn how to use their portal, the web assist feature enables a staff member to log in on a customer view and guide residents set-by-set through the navigation and process.

Customer features
  • View and update personal and household data   
  • View rent accounts and make online payments  
  • Log a repair request and book repairs appointments  
  • Request a meeting with a housing officer  
  • Send and receive secure messages and documentation  

Customer benefits  
  • Instant access to self-serve options, at a convenient time and place  
  • Instant, 24/7 access to customer, property and rent account data  
  • Swifter resolution of routine requests and processes  

Technical features and benefits 
  • Fully integrated with core system eliminates time and resources used maintaining data warehouses  
  • Real-time, two-way data updates maintain high integrity, single source of truth data  
  • Supports automation using workflows and tasking for greater process efficiency  
  • Multibindings enable the use of multiple skins for one portal – a cost-effective solution for groups, or providers that want different user journeys for tenants and leaseholders  
  • Responsive by design – works seamlessly across platforms  
  • AI-powered chatbot reduces or eliminates the requirement for out of house chatbot support, and reduces the number of agents required during core hours  
  • CMS enables in-house configuration  

A user-friendly, intuitive and feature-rich portal empowers you to accelerate channel shift, redeploy resources, enable flexible working for staff, or free up their time to focus more on the issues that make the biggest difference to your residents. And using a user-journey focused approach, you can take your customer experience to the next level, enabling you to reduce the number of touchpoints within key customer processes such as repairs logging and booking.

If you’re thinking about improving or replacing your customer portal to continue meeting your teams’ and customers’ changing needs, read our Q&A with Maria Hale. There you’ll discover how housing association Citizen achieved a significant uptake of their customer portal, with a daily average of 86 new registrations and 615 logins, along with an uplift in online repairs bookings from 8% to more than 20%.

Or you can learn more about the ActiveH customer portal here. Alternatively, get in touch with a member of the team - we’d love to chat:   

You can find out more about Service Insight’s research report on the Housing Executive website.   

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