Jeremy Payne, Group VP Marketing & Alliances at Enghouse Interactive, discusses how housing associations can decarbonise customer service as part of reducing their carbon footprint
Part of the UK Government’s commitment to bring all emissions to net zero by 2050 is to improve the energy efficiency of homes, meaning housing associations have a key role to play in the race to a more sustainable future. But not only do associations need to support the move to decarbonising homes, they must also make efforts to reduce their own carbon footprint by ensuring working practices are designed to be low carbon.
One area that has been traditionally overlooked when housing associations assess how they can reduce their carbon footprint is the contact centre. With sustainability now an urgent priority, these attitudes are changing. And now equipped with the right communication tools and cloud-based technology, housing associations are starting to successfully shift their call centres to greener ways of working.
How cloud holds the key
One way in which housing providers are increasingly looking to cut costs, become more efficient and drive sustainability at the same time is by moving away from a rigid adherence to the traditional bricks and mortar contact centre of the past. Those buildings typically featured serried rows of agents working in shifts and travelling to out of town sites, typically by car.
Added to all that, you have to factor in the environmental costs of heating, powering, and cooling these large contact centres and the large numbers of agents working there.
Using a cloud-based contact centre helps housing associations move away from these costs and the environmental impact associated with them. Cloud-based technology now means that contact centre systems can be accessed from anywhere from one central point – all that it is required is a laptop and a broadband/mobile data connection.
Employees can log on and use exactly the same applications and systems that they are familiar with, with all the same functionalities. Voice over IP solutions and enhanced connectivity can easily route interactions to the right person or department, wherever they are located.
“One way in which housing providers are increasingly looking to cut costs, become more efficient and drive sustainability at the same time is by moving away from a rigid adherence to the traditional bricks and mortar contact centre of the past”
And all this can be done while keeping the carbon footprint generated by the organisation and its workers to an absolute minimum. Travel is significantly reduced, the association incurs less heating and electricity costs and the cost and environmental impact of printing is minimised.
How video collaboration drives sustainability
Video technology is also something that can be embraced to enhance the service offered to tenants while cutting carbon emissions at the same time. Associations are able to diagnose an issue via video to ensure that the right tradesman is then sent to the property to fix the issue, saving on wasted journeys.
It could also be the case that an engineer isn’t needed on site, and associations could explain any difficulties tenants may have working the boiler or the heating system in general over video, for example, thereby saving time and cost and helping to support sustainability all at once. That both reduces the carbon footprint of the association and saves it money at the same time.
We are also seeing video collaboration tools used much more widely across the housing sector as an alternative to traditional face-to-face meetings. Association staff can use video collaboration tools like Microsoft.
Teams for example, to cut the costs of travel, food and maybe even overnight stays, and the associated environmental emissions, and get businesses meetings completed more quickly and efficiently than before. Where tenants and citizens would have previously visited an association’s premises for meetings, these can also be completed via video.
The bigger picture
Housing associations increasingly want to be at the forefront of decarbonisation and the drive to sustainability. In line with this, the National Housing Federation (NHF) recently launched a major new project on decarbonisation while at the end of 2020, the ESG Social Housing Working Group published the Sustainability Reporting Standard for Social Housing.
As they look to address this key issue, housing associations are focused not just on the stock they look after but on their own customer-facing activities too. Increasingly, thanks to the use of cloud contact centres and video collaboration tools, they are delivering a truly sustainable approach.
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