Written by IFF Research

What matters most: eliminating effort within social housing

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Everyone’s been there.  You contact a company, only to be put on hold – despite being told that your call is important.  Or you’re left waiting all day for a package that arrives the following morning.

Slowly and surely, we are starting to see a step-change however, in the level of effort required to deal with businesses and organisations. With portals, apps, bots and trackers, technology is being used to reduce effort, with a renewed focus bringing benefits for all.

The social housing sector is no different.

Today, in the first of three blogs addressing new measures of customer experience we discuss effort and the importance of understanding and reducing customer effort to improve your customer experience.

What’s the big deal?

As providers of services that are literally close to home and likely to be delivered within your customer’s home or neighbourhood, taking the effort out of services shows that you care.  That you respect your customer’s time and have put in measures to make their experience effortless.

Consumers now expect contacting service organisations and companies to be easy. Expecting that once an order is placed, they will be updated at every step – from dispatch to delivery to satisfaction survey – all delivered instantly and automatically through their desired communication channel.

In public service organisations, the ease at which you can “get things done” has improved significantly – just compare the www.gov.uk self-service options compared to the level of paperwork and delay experienced just 10 years ago.

In terms of registered housing providers, reducing customer effort could result in higher satisfaction, lower complaints and a better relationship.  You can attribute long-term efficiencies in removing transactional effort and, as a result, back office costs (Gershon, 2004), which is a true value for money result in the purest terms.

How can we find out about effort?

We spoke to IFF Research Head of Housing, Katy Wilburn, about the types of questions and response codes to add to surveys to measure customer effort.

Katy says, “You can make the question generic to any transaction and ask it across several services.  This enables internal benchmarking amongst departments.”

She suggested these options:

For a highly granular score, give a scale of 0-10 for responses, and then add in a free text follow up question to understand friction points that are causing effort.

Sample questions to optimise your customer effort feedback

– On a scale of 0 to 10, (where 0 = a great deal of effort, 10 = no effort at all) how much effort did you have to put in to getting your issue resolved?

Following up by asking:  Why did you give that score?

Another option is to word the question to focus on the customer’s specific contact preferences, and whether the service when using these channels was frictionless, using the same scale:

– Thinking about the different types of contact that you have had, how much effort do you feel you personally have had to invest when dealing with (landlord)?

Of course, you can ask service-specific questions relating to a particular point in the customer journey, for example:

Responsive Repairs: Overall, how much effort did you have to make to get your repair completed?  

Adaptations: Overall, how much effort did you have to make to have your adaptation completed?  

Lettings: Overall, how easy or difficult did (landlord) make the lettings process for you?  

Try going effortless – your customers will thank you

Pinpointing the customer touchpoint that is creating customer effort and then smoothing that out for customers can make a real difference in satisfaction and service efficiency.

Katy adds, “when a customer experience or journey is easy, straight forward and resolves their issue quickly the customer is happy, but also less likely to make unnecessary and costly recontacts and definitely has no cause to raise a complaint. If the process is efficient for the customer, then the likelihood is it’s efficient for the business, too”.

In summary, customer effort matters. And understanding where, when and why a customer might experience unneeded effort is good for your satisfaction rates, the relationship with your customers, and your organisation’s efficiency.

Find out how you could measure customer effort and improve your customer experience by speaking to our housing team.