Saturday, 9 August 2014

Trouble In The Message Centre

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Several times over the last six weeks or so I have encountered a bit of groundhog type day with a number of the social housing customers, I have been working with. All are doing different things, introducing SMS text, internet portals, automated satisfaction, manual means of monitoring satisfaction etc. It amazes me how many of these projects are progressing more slowly than needed, due to poor source data. This is particularly prevalent where contact data, phone numbers and email addresses are concerned.

These days most housing associations and groups have reasonably efficient systems at recording different types of contact numbers, at various places in the customer journey. When you get ten minutes, have a look at your own system applications. You probably have a people module, with a concept of family (& other groups) and individual contacts. You probably have a contact number available on your responsive repairs and against the asset too. That latter one might have been the historic place to record a landline. If you hadn’t noticed, a lot of people are not even bothering with a landline these days.

About 7 years or so ago I remember doing a ACIH presentation at the CIH Octavia House in Coventry. The presentation was about better case management of ASB and other processes, using integrated modules of Housing Management Systems, which relied on good contact data for reporting. I recall Abigail Davies (Assistant Director of Policy & Practice), sharp as a tack, asking me that morning what my opinion was on how RSLs actually use those modules. A very relevant question, which I answered honestly as about 50/50, from anecdotal evidence.

Back then, few RSLs were using tenant internet portals and the like, automated texting and other things we all now take for granted, from our dentist, car servicing garage etc. Having accurate contact mobile, landline, work, carer and other numbers, also a reliable email address is now paramount to providing better customer service.

The better organisations have a set method of recording all contact numbers. This can be instigated by good training from day one, enforced by good managers and problems caught by exception reporting. It’s not rocket surgery to detect an ‘07’ number in a contact group home number field, or a ‘01’ , ‘02’ or ‘03’ number in an individual contact mobile field. On reporting this, it should also be possible to identify the member of staff involved, who might need help in getting this right in future.

What if you regard your contact numbers info to already be in a mess? Have you many thousands to clean up? How to tackle that? Maybe you would be best not even attempting an archaeological dig on it. Are you actually seeing the wood for the trees, are these difficulties just knocking your objectives into the long grass?

Thinking how you are looking to use the data can be the key. Where is your low hanging fruit? If you need a mobile number for response repair text alerts, put a procedure or (if you have the luxury of) scripting (Omfax / Locator) to capture, in the correct place for each repair request. Your organisation then has 100% of response repairs covered. On average then, within 2 years, your overall contact data should have improved to above 85%, based on an average of 1.7 repairs logged per tenant. While you are at it, why not ask to collect an email address too, so a reminder can also go to that and allow easy sign up to check where open repairs are up to and ability to log online 24/7?

If you use scripting, ensure the script checks and confirms various pieces of essential data, at sensible intervals. You decide, but maybe checking a mobile number at least each repair, landline/work number every few months, email each month, when any call or contact is recorded. As already mentioned in a previous blogpost you should be using your CRM system for all types of interactions, not just calls into your customer service centre. CRM data, then becomes a valuable resource for everyone in the organisation. Ensure they are all stakeholders in it.

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Blur - Trouble In The Message Centre.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, please get in touch and let me know!

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