Housing Series: Customer Service training - the one thing you can do to increase resident satisfaction and reduce complaints

Housing Series: Customer Service training – the one thing you can do to increase resident satisfaction and reduce complaints

 

Housing Series: Customer Service training – the one thing you can do to increase resident satisfaction and reduce complaints

1st Feb 2024

Housing Sector

We know from our experience with many social housing customers that teams are working hard to achieve good outcomes for residents are working in a challenging environment often influenced by factors beyond their control. Our frontline knowledge means we can be confident that there is one thing you can do straightaway to improve satisfaction and reduce complaints across the board, especially among maintenance and repair teams.

Firstly, what do residents really want from customer service teams?

It’s clear that residents want their issue or repair resolved as quickly as possible, and properly. Excellent communication and being informed throughout the process will also be much appreciated, particularly as many residents understand that market forces, delays and backlogs are regular challenges for customer service teams.

The one key thing Customer Service teams can do is make sure that customers are kept regularly updated with progress updates and reports with realistic and achievable timeframes. This simple step can literally transform the ongoing pressures on your customer service teams, reduce complaints and increase resident satisfaction.

When looking to equip your people to confidently keep their customers up to date, even when things are taking longer, and they may need to find other options and solutions, it’s helpful to consider some important factors.

1 – Check the process is in place and is clear

The first step is to assess your current processes and determine whether they encourage, flag and track resident progress updates. Do these systems make it easy for your service providers to return to the customer on time with updates and alternative solutions if things don’t go as planned?

2 – Equip people with positive language skills

Secondly, consider how your people phrase a customer update. Do they use positive, solution-focused language even when delivering unexpected or disappointing news?

If they lack the skills and tools to deliver the messages effectively, their responses could lead to complaints, leaving residents confused and wondering what is going on and whether they will ever get good news.

Addressing this lack of skill and competence can give your people the confidence, systems and processes they need to provide a meaningful update and the polished ability to frame and communicate it in a positive, solution-focused manner.

The one key thing Customer Service teams can do is make sure that customers are kept regularly updated with progress updates and reports.


A positive way to do it


Let’s look at a typical example of an effective way to deliver a progress report that may contain disappointing news:

“Hello, Mrs Smith. I’m calling to provide you with an update because I understand how important it is for you to be kept up to date on the steps we are taking to repair your bathroom. What I can tell you is that our team is still looking for the parts we require, and as promised, I will keep you updated on our progress. At this point, we haven’t been able to locate those parts and are considering all options to come up with a solution, so I will commit to calling you back on Friday before 3pm to let you know where we have got to.”

Contrast this positive and thoughtful response with the following options:

1. Silence – not telling the customer anything, leaving them to wonder what, if anything, is happening; or

2. “Unfortunately, Mrs Smith, we haven’t been able to get the parts for you. We don’t know when we’ll get them because everything is so difficult out there right now, but we’ll let you know when we do.” This response may well cause frustration and anxiety and is more likely to escalate the situation into a complaint because it gives the customer little hope of a resolution.

It’s important to note that we use specific, easy-to-remember timescales in the positive response above, as this added clarity allows the other person to know when the next action will be taken and removes doubt. Make sure that the times given are always realistic and achievable. Empathy should be used when appropriate before moving quickly on to the action you can commit to.

One other key question to ask…

In addition to regular progress reports and updates, there is another important aspect to consider, which is finding out what is most important to the customer, especially if you are working to resolve a complex situation. For example: “So that we’re working our way through this together, let me just check – what is most important to you about this situation?”

The customer’s response will give you something to build on and will show that you care, are taking ownership and responsibility and are optimistic that you can find the best way forward while meeting their most pressing needs.

We know through our ongoing work with multiple social housing customers that keeping customers informed and providing specific timeframes for next steps is a tipping point for reducing or managing complaints and keeping customers as satisfied as possible under the circumstances and challenges the sector is facing.

Get in touch to find out how our Mindset, Language & Actions Toolkit can equip your people with the skills and tools to deliver excellent customer service.

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