Opinion: Being clear about our offer is an important part of great customer service | News

Opinion: Being clear about our offer is an important part of great customer service

By Steve Hayes, Head of Communications at Citizen

In housing we have a habit of treating our customers differently.

As a sector we have spent too much time debating if the people who use our services are tenants, residents or customers when this is the wrong question to ask.

These things are not mutually exclusive, and while in many cases our product is one of need rather than choice, the simple fact is everyone we provide services to is a customer.

Our work may be special in our eyes, but while we should be rightly proud of the unique impact we are able to have in our communities, the people receiving our services expect the same quality of interaction and output they would from any other organisation they deal with on a daily basis.

That is the real challenge when it comes to customer service – giving people an experience that leaves them satisfied, whatever it is we are doing for them. And a very big part of this is about being clear about what we can do up front.

Early in 2020 we commissioned a research organisation to survey thousands of our customers to get a detailed sense of how we they rate our service.

We found several drivers of dissatisfaction and have made significant changes to address these, including the introduction of a new customer experience platform used by the likes of Sky to give us real-time feedback. This has transformed our understanding of our customers and allowed us to be more responsive than ever.

This, together with the research we commissioned, helped us to establish that one of our main drivers of dissatisfaction was very often little to do with the quality of the service or interaction with our teams, but lack of clarity about what we were and were not able to do and our subsequent inability to manage expectations.

Being clear about our offer is a crucial part of driving satisfaction and it’s something we need to get used to. The Housing White Paper rightly puts more emphasis on clarity for customers – adding further impetus to the need for us to be clear about the services we provide and how well we are providing them.

Part of our work to combat this has been to produce a very simple online flipbook which sets out each of the services we offer and what we are able to do in each area.

It is now front and centre on the customer services section of our website and it is included in our welcome emails to new customers to help us get off on the right foot.

In a few weeks the flipbook has been viewed hundreds of times and our hope is that each of these views represents a customer who is clearer about how we can help them and can measure the service they receive against this.

Of course, we recognise this is just one element of providing great service. The real measure of success is how customers feel after their interactions with us and how well we provide our services.

We have done a huge amount of work in this area too; working with the renowned Mary Gober International to train every member of our 1,000 -strong team as part of our Citizen First programme to embed principles of great customer service and making significant improvements to our website, customer portal and the processes which sit behind our services.

But there is no doubt, in a world in which customer service organisations of all kinds are constantly upping their game, we must up our game too.

We must do what we do well, we have to give our customers great interactions with us that leave them feeling satisfied and valued, and we certainly have to be clear up front about what we can do.