Housing associations are now making the best use of digital technology to enhance their customer experience, improve internal processes and make efficiencies. Yet, as Mark Rogers, Moat’s Director of Business Transformation admits, as an industry housing could look out of the sector more for ideas.


This is a trend Rogers is hoping to buck. He said: “If you look at the websites and portals for most housing associations, they all look very similar. We want something a bit different. So, we’ve looked outside our sector and partnered with ORM to push the boundaries of what we can achieve.”


We spoke to Rogers about Moat’s digital transformation, how it will improve its internal processes and open up new ways of working.


Where is Moat on its digital journey?

We are in the early stages of our digital transformation, but we’ve been doing a lot of groundwork in terms of trying to make sure we’ve got the right infrastructure to support the changes we are keen to make. We’ve already implemented a new telephony system, which is integrated with our Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and now looking to further develop this. We are getting very excited about our new website and customer portal which we’re developing in partnership with ORM. Our current website doesn’t meet our, or indeed our customers, needs and I think the focus on the user experience that ORM is bringing to the project will have a significant impact.


What do you want the new portal to do? How is it going to service your customers?

We want to provide customers with the ability to securely log in and, where possible, easily access information, files and services, such as making payments, request repairs and to track progress on their requests.


How is your digital initiative going to benefit your operational/organisational structure?

We are trying to make sure our digital transformation isn’t just about technology and that it’s about people too, improving how and where we work. It shouldn’t matter where staff are, they should be able to access everything they need from a digital device in order to provide the best service to our customers.


When did you start this journey, and what was your starting position?

The first part of our digital transformation started with the introduction of our Microsoft Dynamics CRM. We’re now working on a version so staff can access that system on their mobile devices.


We’ve held a number of workshops, with both customers and staff, to identify the different opportunities for incorporating digital into our work. Some of that was about promoting opportunities that are already there. We’ve then reviewed and prioritised them in terms of what will make the most impact, what will save us the most time, what efficiencies we can save internally and how can we improve the customer experience.


Can you give an example of how digital transformation will change the way you operate?

A really good example of how digital will improve operations can be found in our letting process. There is a huge opportunity for improvement here. Currently, it is a fairly manual and paper-based system. We want to turn this into a digital process from start to finish, from application forms, organising appointments for customers, tenancy agreements, welcome packs, through to taking the first payment.


To what extent has the technology that your customers are using driven your need to transform?

It has in a big way. For example, the phone you have in your pocket is more advanced than the systems in most businesses. We’ve talked to thousands of customers to find out about how they would like us to engage with them and found that a large proportion of our customers have smartphones and their preferred methods are via text messaging, emails or the self-service portal.


What about those who don’t have access to this tech, how will you provide for them?

For our customers who want to pick up the phone and talk to someone, they will be still able to do so. We want to use technology to enhance our customer journeys and we want to do it in a way that it naturally becomes the preferred option for them.


What are the obstacles in trying to implement digital transformation and how are you overcoming them?

We haven’t faced any real obstacles yet, but it’s still early days. I would say that a potential obstacle is not bringing your staff on the journey with you. Right from the very beginning, we’ve made sure that we have clear two-way communication with staff and got the right people involved at the right time.


What advice would you give to others about to embark on their digital transformation journey?

Digital transformation is not about having a start and end – it’s about continuous improvement and the focus shouldn’t always be about new technology. It’s about changing the way we work and making the organisation easier to do business with.