Rob Fletcher (Head of ICT) from GreenSquare Group is a guest contributor for our blog. Here he discusses how digital services (particularly fully automated self-appointing repairs) will transform the way that GreenSquare works. Rob also highlights the exciting opportunities for digital transformation to reduce costs and drive up customer satisfaction ultimately enabling GreenSquare to deliver many more new homes.

The Autumn 2015 budget, which included rent reductions, was the ‘digital tipping point’ for us. Our Chief Executive, Howard Toplis, made it clear that the reduced income meant we had to do more-for-less while simultaneously increasing customer satisfaction and constructing more homes. That felt like an impossible challenge at the time and we realised we wouldn’t achieve it by simply rearranging the furniture through implementing small changes.

As well as looking at ways we could increase our construction output, we needed to work out the best way that we could manage our costs more effectively whilst improving customer satisfaction by delivering a great customer service. We knew we wanted to innovate to deliver these changes and transform the business on a lasting and sustainable basis.

It’s an exciting time in the sector and opportunities to digitally transform dated business models are unparalleled. An obvious area that we wanted to look at was how we might deliver services for our customers using on-line self-service platforms.

GreenSquare takes about 200,000 calls into GreenSquare’s contact centre each year and deals with approximately 40,000 repairs. These 200,000 calls include approximately 100,000 calls about repairs and 50,000 calls to make rent payments and other general tenancy management enquiries. It quickly became apparent that there would be huge benefits in delivering a self-service on-line repairs and payments handling system. This drives call volumes out of the contact centre and offers a high-volume and highly utilised service on a 24*7*365 basis rather than our traditional 8:00-19:00 Mon-Fri opening times.

This is a great example of doing more for less while raising customer satisfaction through enhancing and improving the accessibility of core housing services. An additional benefit is that the contact centre staff should have additional capacity to increase service levels and response times while increasingly being able to focus their time on more demanding complex cases.

Partnership

The partnership with Orchard was also important from a financial point of view. GreenSquare’s research showed us that a face to face contact with a customer costs on average £10, a phone call costs £5 and a digital transaction costs 50p. For GreenSquare, this translates between £50,000 to £250,000 of savings each year as we start to move customers away from the phone and onto on-line services for basic commodity transactions like logging a repair or making a simple payment.

We knew a working partnership was key area to delivering a digital strategy as we had limited resources internally and lacked the technical skills required. We started looking within the sector for inspiration and leading lights but noted that although people were talking about digital self-service / channel shift, there were very few examples of it being delivered.

Using an agile approach, we worked with Orchard and the development partners to create customer story boards to help us define what we needed. Working with VIVID Housing and Futures Housing added tremendous value as we all wanted to achieve the same thing fundamentally.

The development partners were working together but all offered their own objectives and priorities to the project which added breadth to the scope through this diversity.

One partner was focussed on security, identity management, good governance, compliance, data protection and GDPR preparation. Another partner considered the broader opportunities of digital self-service such as digital self-service forms triggering full workflow-based service automation and the third development partner wanted to ensure that the self-service solution would interface with a range of dynamic scheduling solutions to optimise operatives’ work schedules and in due course provide an electronic document repository for customers to use. Orchard’s whole team completely committed to this digital strategy and helped make the project a success.

During the project, we developed great relationships through working closely and collaboratively to create a solution that will transform the repairs booking process from a back-office process into an exciting, vibrant, customer-facing service that underpins our end-to-end offering.

What digital services will mean to us

I feel that Orchard’s Digital Platform solutions offer us a real opportunity to change the way that we work. I feel it will help the housing sector finally catch-up with other sectors which have been doing on-line self-service for many years.

This is a game changing moment and I am delighted the Orchard partnership and development has delivered such a fantastic capability that will revolutionise how core services are delivered in housing.

I am very impressed with the Orchard digital platform. They have gone well above and beyond and have started to exceed the requirements and expectations of the original partnership scope. I am very excited about the new forms capabilities and how this will link to workflow for back-office downstream processing of service requests coming in via the self-service portal. I sense this capability will unlock the ability to “commoditise” routine service requests via self-service delivered through a digital 24/7 mobile first solution. This will help us to drive up customer satisfaction and drive down costs as we can concentrate our premium telephone based and face-to-face based contacts on increasingly complex workloads.

I want to say how impressed I have been with Orchard’s team – Colin, Tony and Graham and the gritty determination and resilience they have shown while they have worked on this project during 2016-17.  Ian Shard’s Executive sponsorship was felt throughout the project and I know he was instrumental to Orchard’s ongoing support, resourcing and overall commitment. We also need to acknowledge the vision and creativity of GreenSquare’s own talented team – particularly Kelly Greenland (Business Analyst) and David Berrill (Applications and Insights Manager). Their efforts have paid off and they should be very proud of what they have achieved. I know they have a team of support staff behind them too and I appreciate this is also down to their hard work.

Orchard has repositioned itself commercially in a competitive market as a leading-light in the sector who can lead customer engagements based on digital transformation. I think this a credit to their business strategy as they quickly recognised the opportunity and developed viable software using agile software development methods. Within the housing sector we have to reinvent the way we deliver services due to our need to be radically more efficient and scale up the construction of new homes. This digital platform directly underpins those aspirations.

I want to recognise the talented individuals Orchard has at its disposal and acknowledge the energy and commitment Orchard has shown towards executing a well-honed business strategy built around a heavyweight digital proposition.

Rob Fletcher, Head of ICT, GreenSquare Group.