The Magic of Customer Experience

Posted: 4th October 2023 Kirsty Hickson, Senior Consultant, Rebecca Taylor, Principal Consultant

This week is National Customer Service Week, and to mark the occasion, Altair’s Transformation and Change consultants, Kirsty Hickson and Rebecca Taylor, reflect on what the social housing sector can learn from riding rollercoasters.

One thing remains constant in business: the customer is ‘king’. Organisations must differentiate to attract and retain customers by developing an exceptional customer experience.

Social housing across the UK and Ireland is a demand-led sector. Yet, it is unique that customers have little to no choice in their provider; they can’t easily change if their experience with their landlord is poor. Whilst this balance of ‘power’ is out of kilter and risks complacency and a ‘that will do’ attitude, many providers are making customer experience a primary focus of their housing offer.

This year, Kirsty visited two well-known theme parks. The two experiences were hardly comparable. In one, the experience was all-consuming, slick, professional, meticulous and a ‘well-oiled machine’. The other was clunky, disorganised, and wasteful; staff engagement was mostly absent. So, what can the housing sector learn from this example of a seemingly incomparable sector that helps transform their customer experience?

Anticipating the thrill of the journey

Just as rollercoaster enthusiasts anticipate a thrilling ride, social housing tenants begin their journey with high hopes for a secure and comfortable home. Services designed effectively, based on a clear understanding of the diverse needs of different customer groups, create this sense of anticipation through welcoming communications, transparent processes, and well-maintained properties. Providers can and should harness this excitement to create a positive customer experience. 

Navigating the Ups and Downs

Delivering both exhilarating highs and nerve-wracking lows, the emotional journey, when on a rollercoaster, adds to the overall experience. Likewise, life in social housing will be marked by moments of satisfaction when needs are met promptly and frustrations when challenges arise. By consciously designing the end-to-end customer journey, rather than leaving the direction a customer travels to chance, providers can ensure consistency in delivering positive experiences while devising solutions to mitigate negative ones. If you consciously design the path you wish your customers to travel, there will always be consistent destinations.

Safety at the Core

Just as rollercoasters prioritise safety alongside thrills, social housing providers must prioritise the well-being of tenants. Adopting a proactive approach to mitigate hazards and repair needs before they arise enables safety and comfort to become non-negotiable elements for an enhanced customer experience.

Personalisation as a key element

Rollercoasters are successful because they are designed by default for their target audience, with something to suit all ages and preferences. Social housing providers must recognise the value of personalisation, going beyond “personas” to dig deeper into the different segments of their customer base, understanding the diversity of their customers to build services and processes that are truly designed to meet differing needs – not just attaching bandages across existing ways of working.

Understanding the purpose

We all know the core purpose of a rollercoaster, why we’d ride one and what to expect from it. There are plenty of providers who can learn from this. Going back to the fundamental mission of social housing, offering safe and comfortable living for tenants must be the focal point of all service design and delivery. That’s not to say we forget the bells and whistles (after all, who doesn’t love a loop-the-loop on a rollercoaster). Unless, the fundamentals are established, embedded, and consistently delivered, Housing Providers cannot meet their core purpose.

A continuous improvement mindset

Rollercoaster designers continuously seek ways to enhance rider experiences, from smoother rides to more thrilling features. Social housing providers should adopt this mindset of continuous improvement guided by effective service design. Regular tenant feedback should be actively solicited and acted upon to identify areas for enhancement. By iterating their services, housing providers can ensure they meet evolving tenant expectations.

A thoughtful journey’s end

Just as a rollercoaster ride concludes, a tenant’s journey with social housing will eventually end. The exit process should be smooth and respectful whether they move to a different accommodation or attain homeownership. Service design principles play a pivotal role here, ensuring a positive departure experience that leaves a lasting impression and fosters goodwill.

The social housing sector faces ongoing challenges, but by drawing on inspiration from unexpected sources, providers can continuously enhance the customer experience. In doing so, they can ensure that tenants enjoy the ride and remember it as a pleasant and fulfilling experience.

If you want to know more about Change management services contact, our Transformation & Change team:

Kirsty Hickson

Rebecca Taylor

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