The state of social housing in the UK has always been vulnerable to changes in government policies (like Brexit) and shifts in the economy. But now, it also stands to be affected by a new trend: digital transformation.
While housing associations have long made strides to provide an array of digital services to their tenants, the pandemic has accelerated the shift to digital. A recent BDO survey shows that 67% of housing associations launched a digital transformation initiative because of COVID-19. Around half said they had introduced new IT systems and platforms since the pandemic began.
Automation is coming for housing associations
Automation is perhaps the most practical starting point for the average housing association’s digital transformation journey. With tenants having higher expectations for round-the-clock support and customer service teams dealing with high call volumes over the same set of concerns, the industry is ripe for repetitive processes and workloads to be automated.
This is where chatbots for the housing sector come in.
Powered by conversational artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP), chatbots offer a simple solution to a common problem: too many customers (or in the case of the housing sector, tenants) and too few live agents to answer their calls and messages.
But chatbots bring so much more to the table. They offer benefits that can transform a housing association’s ability to engage tenants at scale when implemented correctly.
Here’s a closer look at the benefits of chatbots for housing associations.
1. Round-the-clock self-serve
Self-serve is the ability for customers to complete actions online without any human intervention or assistance. A basic example of this is a customer using a vending machine to buy coffee.
Chatbots can also be designed with self-serve features. For example, chatbot platforms can automate answers to customers’ frequently asked questions — by far the most common chatbot feature.
However, this only scratches the surface of possible self-service options chatbots can provide. In the world of housing associations, the right chatbot can enable tenants to:
- Submit a tenancy application
- Sign tenancy agreements
- Pay for rent
- Report antisocial behaviour (ASB)
- Request and schedule repairs.
Best of all, these tasks can follow through to resolution without having to leave the chat or involving live customer service agents.
2. Data analytics and insights
Many chatbot platforms come with a built-in data analytics platform that provides real-time visibility of critical metrics such as:
- The number of queries and responses
- Chatbot activity volume
- Bounce rate
- Chatbot conversation length
- Usage distribution by hour
- The number of conversations escalated to a live agent.
These performance metrics can also tell housing associations everything they need to know about their tenants’ most common questions. In turn, these insights can help housing leaders answer questions such as:
- What are my tenants’ common frustrations?
- What kind of repairs are my tenants requesting?
- How many incidents of ASB have been reported?
- Are my tenants pleased with the service they’re getting?
Remember, feedback fuels business intelligence, which, in turn, helps create a better tenant experience.
3. Multilingual chat support
Approximately 14% of the UK population was born outside the country, with many speaking English as a second language. Housing associations have an opportunity to add a layer of customer engagement to their services by rolling out chatbots with multilingual features.
Chatbots can instantly translate tenant questions in real time through multi-language APIs and conversational AI, injecting convenience into your tenants’ digital experience.
For example, believe housing, one of the largest housing associations in the northeast of England, engages tenants with a chatbot named EVE. When starting the chat, EVE provides users with a list of languages so they can converse in their preferred language.
What’s the catch with chatbots?
As with many things involving digital transformation, the success of implementing chatbots in a housing association lies in getting the details right. Chatbots are far from a magic bullet. But tailoring to a housing organisation’s specific needs and customers increases its likelihood of enhancing the tenant experience.