Monday, 9 August 2021

Open the Door to Self-Service

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I get involved in a lot of Social Housing digital plans and strategies, particularly around self-service. Often I meet newbies to the process, who seem to think 90-95% take up of tenant self-service is possible, and others who basically are a little afraid to put a figure on it. ‘Just an improvement’.

Would that be enough and would it really motivate staff to ‘convert’ tenants to self-servers, if there was no target at all?

Now I think it’s very important to have great self-service tech with practical usability that means residents will choose it as a preferable channel to interact.

We choose Amazon and EasyJet because it works and it’s efficient. In other ways we have channel shifted because we were driven to by sticks, not carrots. We stopped using cheques because the banks stopped filling stations processing them, moving to cheaper credit/debit cards. We stopped walking into bank branches and using internet banking, because all the branches turned into coffee joints and wine bars.

I feel we can have better carrots in the sector, than harder sticks. My experience of suppliers in the sector, such as Hallnet with their Active Housing brand, show that done well, those carrots can be extremely tasty. I was telling someone just last week a story of a visit I made a few years back to Torus Housing Group and an experience in their foyer, in St Helens.

It was a busy morning and I joined a queue of seven residents, trying to get to reception. During the lengthy wait, the tenant in front of me started to chat with the guy in front and asked him, “what he was here for today?”. He replied he was “reporting a repair” and the other chap told him, “you don’t have to come here to do that, why not do it online?”. In the following 3 minutes, I watched him help his neighbour sign up, log his repair and then he was out the door!

So that was a story of carrots so good, residents were sharing them among themselves! How good would that be?

I recently had a chat with a contact at Active Housing, who provide the leading one-stop fully integrated self-service solution Active Portal, about how practically, Housing Providers can better introduce the self-service tech, to the benefit of their residents. They shared that comms is very important, as is involving your tenant panel and internal key stakeholders in the project, to ensure it’s easy to use and hits the spot of what residents want from self-service. At every touch point with the organisation, self-service as a time saver needs to be introduced. Where staff interact, rather than taking away a request to progress, they should be working as evangelists, to introduce residents to self-service, where they have smartphones or similar means to take advantage of it.

If you are like me, everyone or any company I ever work with, I go to their website first. Active Housing provide an easy means of picking up this traffic and are able to provide a short tailored video, for organisations to introduce the benefits of self-service to their customers. Check out this one here from one provider and their new responsive webportal MyPhoenix -

Another really effective technique recommended by Active Housing, is to encourage clients to adopt an inbound call campaign. This is when a tenant calls (about anything at all) and the call handler signs them up for an account over the phone. ActiveHousing’s portal admin section has full support for this and the user still sets all their own login credentials to ensure security. It sounds old fashioned, but given they have to take the call anyway and organisations often have data issues which can prevent registration (eg incorrect Date of Birth’s), it's a proven but simple technique. 

Thinking back to my Torus experience, an important takeaway to share is that a degree of internal staff attitude and culture shift will be necessary. Reassure your Customer Services team that smaller might be better. Done well, this will cement behaviours for staff and reveal the benefits for a greater number of residents   

Checkout the best in self-service, with integration to multiple systems on the Hallnet Active Housing website here:


Related Post: Effective Self-Service, a no brainer for all customers these days ?


I would be pleased to connect with you on LinkedIn - Message me with any issues or queries, you would like to be explored in this blog. We generally receive a couple of suggestions each month.

Blues Cousins - Open the doorBlues Cousins - Open the door.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting 07854-655009

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