Peter Paterson
Executive Director
Improving the customer experience is now at the top of every board’s agenda, as the customer is king. Digital is at the heart of every customer-centric business model, fuelled by technology, readily available data and new mindsets.


Ahead of tomorrow’s Inside Housing Customer Experience conference, which we are proud to be sponsoring, we’ve taken a look at the housing sector and highlighted how four providers are using digital to improve the customer experience.


Halton Housing Trust

In response to the changes anticipated by the Government’s welfare reform, the Merseyside-based Halton Housing Trust established a digital-first initiative to shift their focus of work from face-to-face contact centres to digital. Its aim is to have 90% of its day to day customer interactions conducted online. These can include anything from paying rent, reporting repairs or anti-social behaviour on the HHT app or web portal. The channel shift has turned it traditional customer service teams into digital advisers; with their roles becoming more about helping customers help themselves by imparting skills such as how to access the internet, use email, and register for products and services online. In addition to this, it has introduced a Digital Champions initiative to provide a community-focused and community-assisted support network outside to help facilitate the transition online.


Orbit Housing

Orbit Housing, a national social landlord with around 38,000 properties, has introduced a live web-chat service on its website to help its customers chat in real time with contact centre advisors. The webchat initiative is part of Orbit’s broader digital strategy, which aims to move 75% of customer interactions online by 2020. In addition, Orbit has created a digital tenancy website and an app called ’Orbit Move’, to help staff and customers complete the sign-up process in five simple steps. Unlike other digital platforms in the sector, Orbit Move, which won ‘Most Innovative Housing App/Online Tool’ at the Housing Innovation awards and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) award for ‘Excellence in the use of Technology’, it is an end-to-end process that covers all customer touchpoints, produces electronic documentation including digitally-signed tenancy agreements and populates the existing housing management system. Reducing the manual admin for housing officers has freed them up to focus on the individual needs of customers.


The Hyde Group

The Hyde Group, a London-based housing association that supports 100,000 residents in 50,000 homes, is using social media as a customer service tool and an extensive and ongoing customer focus group. It is using social listening tools to learn the needs of its customers. It actively searches for posts relating to its brand name along with keywords such as ‘repairs’. It also uses social channels to proactively engage with its tenants where appropriate to provide timely responses to inbound enquiries. The organisation has established a team of 30 social media users across communications, customer service and other departments, to deliver fast and accurate responses to inbound customer service queries. It also launched a new responsive website in 2017 that enabled its residents to self-service and carry out common requests, such as checking rent statements and booking repairs online. In addition, it has introduced a new online anti-social behaviour tool, which provides guidance and advice to help residents understand the role they can play in helping to resolve ASB issues in their community.


Torus Group

Torus Group, formed in 2015, has created a Fit for the Future programme with the aim of reducing operating costs and improving the customer experience. Its mission is to develop a ‘digital by design’ customer service in the next few years, where its tenants use digital platforms to register, log complaints and take part in community forums. Torus Group has improved its IT systems, deployed new technology and introduced mobile devices to help it streamline its organisational development. Migrating to a single platform has increased efficiency savings and created slicker processes, as well as facilitated the introduction of self-service and e-learning solutions.


ORM's view

The rapid pace of change in digital technology, plus the prolific use of social media as a customer contact channel for service, enquiry and complaint, means social housing providers, like all customer-driven organisations, must ensure they are delivering an ‘effortless’ online experience. People expect the same levels of online service from whoever they’re in contact with, from Amazon to their housing provider.