Taranjit Dosanjh (Head of Neighbourhoods) at Mosscare Housing Group is a guest contributor for our blog. Here he discusses the importance of listening to end-users when undertaking a transition to digital and mobilisation services. Taranjit also highlights the importance of learning from good customer service in other sectors and maintaining a focus on customer satisfaction and gaining ‘real’ efficiencies.

At Mosscare, our top priority is customer service. This is both in terms of customer satisfaction and driving real efficiencies in response to the 1% rent reduction. Raising satisfaction and becoming more efficient are a key focus of our approach to Customer Service and delivering our business plan. We want our customers to know that we know what we are doing no matter what they speak to us about.

To achieve this, one of the areas we are focusing on is in how we deal with what we call ‘boomerangs’. When working with customers, we want to make sure that wherever possible a customer’s queries are answered at the first point of contact and that we are able to deal with any questions that they are likely to throw at us (e.g. when a housing officer is conducting a tenancy visit about arrears and gets a question about repairs or a current ASB issue thrown at them). However, we also need to make sure that we do not miss the opportunity to throw a couple of timely ‘boomerangs’ ourselves. For example, when a customer calls us, that the call handler gets an alert if their gas service is outstanding so that we can remind them that they are potentially risking their life and to get an appointment booked there and then. Similarly, when out on a tenancy visit, if a customer has a repairs appointment booked for the following week that we can remind them because missed appointments are very costly for us. It is all about getting the most out of each interaction with our customers. The way I explain it to my team is that it’s no different to a Joiner going out to do a lock change. They are sent with the right tools to do the job we’ve sent them to do. But in their van they have ‘stock’. And if the tenant tells them a window stay is broken, they can fix it while they are there.

To achieve this level of customer service and effectively deal with (and issue) ‘boomerangs’, we need to equip our staff. Part of this includes mobilising our staff and as well pushing customers towards digital services. However, before launching into using these tools, it is important to take a step back. Consider what ‘users’ and ‘recipients’ need and how they want to get it. What does that mean? For me the best analogy is a new park. We landscape it. We put in pathways, lighting, play areas. The pathways tend to suit our idea of the world. People use the park and guess what happens. They start walking on the grass. They walk on it so much it gets worn and the grass dies. They build their own pathways. Our customers tell us how they want to use the park. It would have been far better to see where park visitors wanted to go before building the paths. Banks that have been successful in this area have taken the approach of first observing what information or assistance customers want when they call them, and then build their automated call service around it rather than just launching a service based on what they want customers to do. It’s no different for staff. They start using the worn areas as well.

For us, it is important to think of digital and mobilisation tools intended for customers and staff in the same way if we want to achieve increased customer satisfaction and efficiencies. Yes, there are places that we might want our customers to go, and tasks that we want our staff to do. However, we also need to think about how they actually want to use or deliver our service and engage with us to get the information they need as quickly as possible, rather than just forcing them ‘down a path’ that they either do not like or does not work for them. Customers do not want to be passed around or have to press lots of buttons on the phone just to ask a simple query. And customer facing staff do not want to have to look around for the information they need when dealing with customers.

Whenever we work on a project, we always try to make sure that we have taken end-user’s perspective into consideration. What has been different working with Orchard as part of the Mobilising the Housing Officer project has been taking this to the next level. Putting users at the front and giving them control – and getting used to it. Orchard’s collaboration with City University London has been an eye opener. Something I’d like to keep. The University gets it first hand from the User. They present it the way the User wants to see it, to use it. They fight the Users corner when people like me – non-users – want this moved and that added. Obviously we have to be practical, and we cannot always do everything that they recommend – but if the suggestions make sense, it’s practical and fits into our broader aims and strategies, then we can, should make it them happen.

As we continue to beta test the Tenancy Visits Mobile solution, I am really looking forward to seeing the reactions from our housing officers and discussing our next steps. I am really excited about the potential of this – and if we get this right we could see an increase in customer satisfaction that we have never seen before!

Taranjit Dosanjh, Head of Neighbourhoods, Mosscare Housing

Want to know more? Check out our ‘Orchard Digital’ page, which includes blog pieces by our staff and customers on digital transformation and mobilising your workforce.