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Housing Association Stadlander Takes Another Digital Leap Forward and Gives Its Customers Better Service

By January 16, 2019

By: Albert Zeeman, Marketing Consultant, Stadlander

Housing association Stadlander has a long-term focus on planning exactly the right kind of new housing, and a short-term strategy to communicate more effectively with individual tenants. Stadlander selected Salesforce to help it achieve these goals.

The composition of the Dutch population fluctuates continuously, reflecting both an aging population and the influx of new additions to the population headcount. Housing associations must constantly keep pace with these developments. In West-Brabant and Zeeland, the area served by Stadlander, some of the developments are more pronounced than in the Netherlands as a whole. This is why Stadlander has a long-term focus on planning exactly the right kind of new housing, and a short-term strategy to communicate even more effectively with individual tenants. Stadlander selected the Salesforce Platform to help achieve these goals. So what exactly does this involve?

Stadlander rents to low-income households

Stadlander rents approximately 15,000 affordable homes to households earning below the statutory income threshold which is in place in the Netherlands. One in three homes in the Netherlands is rented social housing. Few other countries have such a high percentage of social housing. Housing associations work within the social sector, and are nonprofit organisations with a remit bound by law. The main role of a housing association is to plan, build, manage and provide housing.

Developing financial resources for better housing

Although housing associations are nonprofit organisations, they still need to be financially healthy in order to provide better housing.

In 2015, Stadlander consolidated several offices in a single location and began to use digital technology as the main means of communication with tenants. For a significant portion of the tenants (some 20%), this move proved to be a bridge too far. In some cases, these tenants had little or no digital access owing to their financial circumstances, and in others they were not able to use smartphones and the Internet due to disability or old age. The tenants in this group therefore continued to contact Stadlander by phone, resulting in such pressure on the helpline staff that people began to leave their jobs. It also became apparent that the existing IT environment and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system were no longer fit for purpose.

From standalone applications to a global standard

Stadlander decided to make the switch from standalone applications to a single global standard based on an ERP platform with an open Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for contact with customers. It was vital that the financial side of the system was accurate to the last cent, and the client contact system had to link seamlessly with new forms of communication. Nonprofit Cloud proved to be the best match for Stadlander’s needs and requirements.

The first place Nonprofit Cloud was implemented was the ‘customer hub’ — the customer support department. The transition began with Service Cloud. Repair requests are the main reason that customers contact Stadlander, and the company has opted to develop a unique collaboration with local repair companies. Working within the confines of a framework agreement, the repair companies are free to carry out the repairs at their own discretion. Communication between the customer hub and these contractors is now handled entirely through Salesforce.

More and more applications are gradually being migrated to Salesforce solutions. The next step is to deploy Salesforce Communities as a platform that tenants can use to resolve their own issues. With the new Lightning interface and communication opportunities, use of the ‘My Domain’ feature is set to grow.

Implementation process

The setup within a housing association is all a little different and a little more complex than it appears from the outside. The collaboration between the first Salesforce implementation partner and Stadlander was not without its difficulties, but the challenging start was soon forgotten and thoughts quickly turned to new beginnings once got involved. Stadlander had the opportunity to work with one of the top Architecture Specialists at on pinpointing the problems and creating a plan to tackle them. Once this step was complete, a new Salesforce partner stepped in to take over the job, working closely with an external project specialist. With focus, planning and expertise now all in place, things began to change and Stadlander was soon able to access a steady stream of new functionality. This represents the largest Salesforce operation within the organisation, and a small team now works continuously to deliver new functionality in response to requests from internal users. This sort of approach would never have been possible with the old systems.

Between sixty and eighty employees currently have direct contact with customers via Salesforce — this means that around half of the workforce works regularly in Salesforce. The biggest challenge that lies ahead for 2019 is to expand the Salesforce deployment so that the entire organisation is making full use of Salesforce and its services. The goal is for tenants to feel that they are central to the process, and this will be achieved by adopting a business-oriented approach across the various departments.

Migration to new ERP system

The Salesforce implementation would not have been possible without the support of our implementation partner, Appsolutely, and our integration specialist, InfoSupport. The migration to a new ERP system began in 2017, and went live early this summer when it was seamlessly integrated with Salesforce. Our ICT department and ICT partners dedicated a huge amount of time and attention to making this impressive project a reality.

In 2019, Stadlander is set to reap the rewards of the foundation it has built in collaboration with Salesforce. Using Salesforce as a platform for tenants to resolve their own issues is a big step forward. Salesforce Communities, Marketing Cloud and perhaps Pardot will be the most important tools when it comes to ensuring that the tenants embrace the new online platform. An omni-channel strategy will ensure that there is always an alternative route for those who are not able to resolve their own issues via digital channels. Perhaps our Einstein technology will help Stadlander gain new insights into the wishes of its tenants. The data is certainly there, in any case!