There’s a customer experience revolution going on – but are our own customers being left behind?

Technology is at the heart of how many organisations engage with their clients on a day to day basis. According to The Path to 2020, a worldwide marketing research report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, it is believed that by 2020 customer experience will drive brands more than ever, leading to loyalty and a rising reputation. Greater personalisation is expected to be achieved through technology such as social media, the world wide web, and mobile apps.

What did the report suggest would be different? Crucially, how our understanding of customers will be matched by direct action. Organisations will blend a deep understanding of a customer’s contextual situation with timely, tailored delivery of relevant content and marketing. In the context of social housing, I see this as ‘the offer and provision of services’.

So where does that leave our tenants? As my colleague Denise Raine wrote in November, Acuity surveys have found residents without internet access are far less likely than the general population to say they don’t need it: 48 percent compared with 64 percent. They are more likely to be missing out for an external reason, than through their active choice. Those reasons may include lack of skills, high cost of access or equipment, or disability.

Ofcom, meanwhile, found that 20 percent of disabled people don’t have access to the internet while older people and under-25s are more likely to be tied into expensive contracts which make it harder to switch to be able to use more: and all this in a world where 90 percent of UK households have internet access, almost 75 percent via a smartphone and half via a laptop or tablet.

It’s not just our tenants who may be unwilling or unable to connect to the digital world and technological customer services in this way: many smaller housing providers are finding it tricky to technologically transform delivery of their customer experience, which is why we teamed up with 3C to provide specialist IT consultancy at a fixed price for our members.

But it’s not all about the technology: it’s about the way we think about engaging with customers and delivering services. Read the Economist’s report and you glimpse a world of personalised customer experiences, where companies understand what services people want and when they want them.

These companies expect to understand their customers and communicate in all sorts of different ways online.

Our residents deserve to enjoy the same high-quality customer journey from their housing providers as they do from other organisations. Whilst we will have to keep pace with changes in customer experience, by truly engaging with residents on a regular basis using a range of tools, such as customer satisfaction surveys, customer journey mapping, and other customer engagement tools that Acuity offer, we stand a much better chance of delivering personalised services at scale, whilst tailoring services for the benefit of all.

About Simon Williams

Simon Williams (FCIH, MMRS), Associate, Acuity Research & Practice. Acuity is a leading UK research agency providing resident satisfaction, performance benchmarking, learning & development, and consultancy for the social housing sector.

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