Jacob Howell, Digital Strategist at Prodo, looks at how to support customers in making the change to self-service portals
Starting your digital transformation journey is all well and good until your customers refuse to join you. And for housing associations, it can be particularly tricky moving forward with your digital evolution without leaving anyone behind.
It’s likely that you’ll have a wide range of residents and unfortunately there will be some who are adverse to change or even feel they’re unable to use certain online channels. Did you know that 20% of housing associations surveyed cited community or client resistance as a barrier to implementing a digital strategy?
Prodo has been a leader in digital transformation for over two decades and their Digital Strategist, Jacob Howell, has pulled together some of their top tips for helping your customers make the change.
1. Don’t forget to support the most vulnerable
Digital exclusion is an issue that’s not going to go away and can be a major inhibitor to your success, especially when it comes to those who are vulnerable or disabled, so supporting this group will be an essential part of your strategy. Your tenants could be classed as vulnerable for many reasons but as a housing association it’s your responsibility to ensure that their needs are met.
As more information and services shift online, this group of people are at risk of being left behind and are arguably the ones with the greatest need for digital services. For example, some tenants may struggle with hearing loss, so to be able to speak to customer service via an online chat system would be a huge benefit. Another example could be someone who is facing domestic abuse, they might prefer to use an online channel to reach out confidentially.
“Pointing people towards support and clear information on how to use your online services will be a huge step in the right direction”
You really have to consider the specific circumstances of your vulnerable tenants, such as the older age groups. Ensuring your website and portal provide a simple, friendly user experience for all is so important to encourage visitors to keep returning digitally. Other aspects of accessibility are driven by an inclusive design, like optimum colour contrast for those with low vision or colour blindness, and accessible fonts for cognitive impairments.
2. Don’t be afraid of feedback
One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to implementing digital channel shift. If you find yourself falling at the first hurdle, go to the source of the issue and speak to your tenants, feedback is the best way to truly understand what your customers need from your digital platforms. Find out why they’re not using your new services and alter them to suit their needs. Just because you have moved to digital doesn’t always mean it’s accessible for everyone or that it’s solving your customers’ pain points.
Communicating with your tenants can actually highlight key usability problems within your systems that you can then look at fixing. Providing education, demo videos or even training on how to use your new software is another area to look into, clearly demonstrating just how simple and easy it is to use, enabling more of your customers to join you in your digital channel shift.
Pointing people towards support and clear information on how to use your online services will be a huge step in the right direction. A great example to get you started is to use short but helpful online videos to explain and direct people to the right areas.
3. Understanding the customer journey
Recognising your customers’ behaviours and the journeys they take can present better ways to interact with them. Analyse your data and ask yourselves questions such as ‘what channels do they use the most?’ and ‘what kind of problems do they report?’ Then you can better understand how and why they use your services in order to educate them and nudge them towards your new online options. This is also an opportunity to find gaps in content and areas you may have missed that you should include.
4. Get the right promotion
Channel shift can provide totally new ways of connecting with your tenants, but only if they’re aware of these new options, that’s where promotion of your new digital channels comes in.
Now that you have an understanding of how and why your customers contact you, it’s important to promote your digital services in the right way. Whilst creating educational content like infographics, videos and blogs are great, they’re all digital, so make sure to promote offline as well as online.
For example, start having conversations face-to-face with residents who drop in to speak to you and host live demos using iPads and computers with them to get them set up and guided through the new online process. Don’t forget about the more simpler ways of promotion, such as adverts in resident publications, direct mail promotional leaflets and informative posters placed in high-traffic areas of group homes.
5. Broadcast the benefits
All your promotion needs to clearly define the advantages to your tenants of using an online portal or a chatbot over picking up the phone. Encourage your phone agents and local housing officers to do a survey. Simply ask the question of why people aren’t choosing to use your online platforms, however, be mindful in this situation, just because someone is vulnerable, doesn’t mean they’re incapable.
An established Umbraco and HubSpot Diamond Partner digital agency, Housing Digital Stakeholder Prodo has been accelerating growth and transformation since 1998. The organisation has since become the market leader in digital transformation for the social housing sector.
Read next: Northern Housing Awards launches for 2022
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.