How can digital tech drive cost savings for Housing Associations?

OPINION / 8th May 2019

Housing Associations are under pressure to deliver more for less, as their budgets are continually squeezed. Our experience shows us that Housing Associations who adopt digital technology can reap the benefits of cost savings as well as improved customer satisfaction.

The key driver of these savings within Housing Associations is digitising high volume activities that are currently handled manually by contact centre colleagues.

Much of the work carried out by contact centres is done over the phone, or via email, and could easily be automated, saving Housing Associations time and money. Colleagues working within these areas can then be freed up to support vulnerable tenants or more complex cases.

Online payments

Our collaboration with helping Moat Housing Association launch an online portal last summer has shown that more customers carry out key activities online – such as paying rent, once you give customers an intuitive, easy to use digital solution, reducing cost and call centre volume.

As the number of people registering to use the online portal increases, Moat has been able to significantly reduce the number of customer service agents handling payments over the phone, thus reducing the cost of running this service.

Repairs

Logging repairs is an area where Housing Associations typically have the highest volume of calls. Our experience shows that tenants will log repairs through the online portal, reducing contact centre pressure. Further convenience for the tenant is provided when the portal is integrated to the repair provider’s system, to automate scheduling of maintenance teams.

In the future, many Housing Associations will be able to digitise this process entirely. They will be able to integrate customer requests into a dedicated repair interface. Tenants will be able to then choose when a tradesperson can come and carry out the repairs in their home, at a time convenient for them, in the same way they can pick a supermarket delivery slot.

Encouraging remote working

Housing Associations who are digitising their systems and processes can free up time for people in contact centres and working in the field. Allowing them to better support those more in need. Many now provide housing managers with an app that allows them to submit reports whilst on the go.

By contrast, the digital laggards in the sector are still using manual processes. Their colleagues still have to fill out paper forms, then go back to the office and input the data into the system manually. This is a time consuming and costly process, which could easily be digitised.

Housing managers should be able to input information straight into the CRM using an app on their tablet or mobile. This would save them having to come back into the office to complete their report, reducing costs and time spent travelling; and ultimately it will provide a much better, more efficient service for the tenants too.

Improving registration speeds

Becoming a Housing Association tenant involves a lengthy registration and form filling process, which is then processed manually and inputted into the Housing Management System.

With the introduction of an online portal, registration can now be automated and the data entered straight into a CRM system – negating the need for someone to manually process the form and enter onto the system.

In the past, processing online forms lacked back office sophistication. The data from these forms, rather than integrating automatically into a CRM system, was manually processed. Today’s digital technology marries the front end portal with the back end CRM, cutting out lengthy manual processes, saving time and money for Housing Associations.

Improved customer experience

Although Housing Associations can benefit from cost savings through online portals, this isn’t the only driver for “going digital”. The motivation should also be about creating a consistent and high standard customer experience for tenants.

As digital makes operations more efficient, it also means associations can reallocate resources into supporting and helping the most vulnerable tenants.

Return on investment

For some Housing Associations, especially smaller ones, the cost of adopting digital technology may seem prohibitive.

Yet, with help and advice about prioritising which technology to adopt where, and when, Housing Associations can quickly see a return on their investment. ORM specialises in helping all of our clients make a business case for digital. Together we map out and plan where digital can best make savings and deliver value.

We conduct extensive modelling at the beginning of a partnership, setting clear KPIs against everything we deliver, looking to find where digital is going to have the biggest impact.

As with all our clients, when working with housing clients, we analyse the current operations and help to identify where digital could be used to save them money, so they can become more efficient and effective.

ORM’s view

We never suggest going digital for digital's sake – it’s all about aligning digital technology to business objectives. We believe in helping our clients to own their digital freedom, which is why we prefer working collaboratively, in partnership with everyone we work with.

For our work with Moat, we worked in their offices, collaborating with their teams, co-creating solutions and up-skilling them in unfamiliar technologies. More importantly, we instigated agile ways of working in their business – which they have carried on since completion of the project.

If you want to be part of a one-day event to innovate on digital initiatives for the housing sector, then check out PITCH – People Innovating to Change Housing