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How Social Housing Goes Customer-First

By Judith Comber July 14, 2022

With the current economic downturn and cost-of-living crisis, it has never been more important to use technology to empower social housing organisations to provide real help to those in need. If you’re curious about how technology can support these efforts, let me share my story with you.  

Back in 2002, I began my journey in the social housing sector working as a customer service agent with a small local housing association. Our main function was to deal with repair calls, conduct face-to-face tenant interviews, and cash rent payments. Our office was located in the heart of the housing estate we served. We took it in turns to run over to “The Yard”, where our internal contractors lived, with paper invoices and queries from residents. It wasn’t the most efficient process, but we felt like we were really making a difference to the community around us, able to put faces to names and knowing what was happening in their lives.

With mergers came change, expansion, and a multitude of new systems: an access database for rents, a scheduling system for repairs where we still had to telephone to book an appointment, and a CRM that was essentially a Word document to log customer interactions. 

Such a siloed way of working led to angry customers and agents frustrated by their inability to share status updates and resolve issues quickly.  

Fast-forward 10 years. Alas, I still find myself hearing the same stories from the housing sector: disjointed data silos, little process automation, and solutions that are either Jurassic in their architecture or unproven and unstable when used in anger. Coupled with projects that take too long to implement, it leaves all involved battle-weary, losing sight of what they were trying to achieve in the first place, and finding technology has moved on again.

So how can technology help a modern housing association transform its services to ensure their customer is at the heart of all they do? By using the right technology for the job!

I often hear from housing organisations that they want to give their customers the “Amazon” or “DPD” experience, but are hindered by the technology traditionally offered in the nonprofit sector.

Salesforce is dedicated to enabling organisations from all industries to put the customer front and centre in all they do. This ethos is the same in the commercial world as it is in the nonprofit world.

Customers such as Riverside decided several years ago that leveraging a CRM used globally in the commercial world would allow them to deliver effective outcomes to their customers and staff. 

“By empowering our customers through self-service, we can increase the quality and efficiency of our services,” said Graham Weaver, Riverside’s head of digital products. “A digital approach enables us to capture richer insights into the needs of our customers and the maintenance of our properties.”

By deploying Service Cloud and Experience Cloud to manage the entire customer journey, from online portal enquiries and transactions to quantifiable results and outcomes, Riverside built a solid foundation for transformation with a defined roadmap to ensure they are always ahead of the curve.

In 2022, residents have been given a louder voice — and rightly so. They require more communication choices and demand efficient and transparent services whilst ensuring their properties are safe. These key objectives rely on technology that puts the customer first, facilitates true omni-channel communication, and has a single data source with built-in analytics.

Now is the time for technology to step up to the mark, deliver true innovation, focus on customer success, and become a trusted partner to deliver the transformation the housing sector demands. 

To find out more about how Salesforce can help the housing sector deliver class-leading experiences to customers, download the Connected Housing eBook and take a look at Riverside’s success story.