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Phone and Beyond

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The role of the contact centre is crucial to improve experience delivery. Modernising this function can pave potential pathways for progress.

Bridging the Gap Between Voice, Salesforce and Your Interactions with Residents

Housing associations are confronting a multitude of challenges that have reshaped their operating environment. The UK’s recovery from the pandemic has compounded long-standing challenges such as political shifts, economic fluctuations, and evolving social needs. Navigating this complex landscape requires innovative solutions and forward-thinking strategies. The bedrock of this is simple: technology. The role of the contact centre is crucial to improve experience delivery and modernising this function of the organisation can pave potential pathways for progress.

“Pathway” is such an important term here, and getting the fundamentals right is something that is critical but often overlooked when starting a transformation journey. Too much too fast can set you up to fail. Therefore, a logical place to start is the customer service team, which is the foundation for customer experience transformation. 

Customer service functions in housing associations are unique when compared to the private sector for a number of reasons. Foremost is the importance of users outside of the customer service functions and their role in ensuring a seamless resident experience. A common problem is a disconnect between users in the field such as housing and repairs officers and contact centre agents, with agents often having no visibility on whether the field user they want to transfer to is available. This is combined with having to work in siloed systems and lacking reporting capability across the full caller journey.

Support is a must in your transformation journey

We believe that consolidating telephony across the organisation and unifying the voice and digital channels with CRM data is the best way to address these issues and future-proof your organisation. Of course, this is easier said than done and requires careful consideration. The first step is selecting a supplier who can support you on your transformation journey, no matter how ambitious your plans are. Vonage is a key partner of Salesforce for telephony and contact centre, and have been working together for over 15 years, with over 800 joint customers. 

Online collaboration & communication tools are crucial for housing associations, particularly in this post-pandemic world and whether it’s Slack or MS Teams, Vonage can provide a native integration to both, offering bi-directional presence sync and single sign-on. Their suite of communications APIs (voice, SMS, messaging) can be used to proactively reach out to residents about a repair, gas safety checks, or rent balance, or you could start a video call to diagnose a problem with the property. For outbound use cases, the Salesforce dialler can be used to chase outstanding rent arrears. If the goal is improving inbound or outbound communication, the possibilities are practically endless with Vonage.

That being said, the contact centre is the beating heart of housing associations and it is critical that the technology and strategy implemented here is right before moving on to the “bells and whistles”. 

So how do you do this?

We believe it boils down to four key areas:

  • A single source for all resident data
  • Ensuring the most emotive and complex issues are always addressed by a human agent
  • Prioritising each interaction based on need and circumstance, not the channel they are choosing to contact you on
  • The ability to consolidate vendors across the whole organisation

Single source of resident data

The key value of Salesforce is that it enables housing associations to aggregate all data related to residents’ property or assets in a single place, allowing every department to access this data (within privacy guidelines) from anywhere on any device. While the benefit for the customer is clear, the employee experience can be overlooked in terms of the importance to your organisation. 

By embedding our contact centre solution inside of Salesforce, agents never have to leave the platform and toggle between screens. This improves first contact resolution, reduces average handle time — and most importantly, maximises your investment in Salesforce. 

The importance of human interaction

The topic on everyone’s tongue right now is AI. Naturally, this has led to conversations about how this can assist housing associations. It is a very fine line between getting deflection right and trying to self-serve interactions that need a human touch. This is even more pertinent in housing when agents in the contact centre deal with a wide range of issues from money advice to mental health, and lodger rights. 

The key to getting this right is working with a partner who has experience in identifying where this line is for your organisation and planning accordingly. Using the Vonage virtual assistant, we can identify and deflect basic queries such as repair dates or rent balance checks by reading and writing data into Salesforce. This frees up agents for more high-value and emotive interactions while having a clear path of escalation if they need to speak with an agent. We also support integration with the Salesforce chatbot and social channel capabilities with a single routing brain, which leads us to the next point. 

Need and circumstance, not channel

For this point, think of the contact centre as a hospital waiting room. Every person’s need and severity of injury is different. You could go in yourself, be referred, or come in an ambulance — regardless, every arrival is triaged in the same way and you are prioritised based on your need. 

We treat contact centre interactions in the same way, with a single routing brain across the voice and digital channels — meaning we can apply consistent logic to all interactions. If a resident contacts you via call, email, chat, or social, the interaction will be treated the same way and routed based on need and circumstance. 

For example, if you are a vulnerable resident reaching out via webchat, you should be prioritised over a less-urgent resident who is calling, regardless of SLAs. Or perhaps you have someone with an outstanding complaint, in which case that takes priority. The strength of our Salesforce integration means we can route interactions based on any field in Salesforce, even custom objects. 

Consolidation of vendors

The last thing a housing association needs is the headache of having to contact multiple or different suppliers when an issue arises. Vonage has the ability to provide telephony across the whole organisation without having to involve partners or third parties. This means you can benefit from streamlined support and a single call plan across all teams while ensuring the front and back offices are working in unison. 

There are many factors to consider when starting with a CX transformation strategy

Reach out to Vonage for an explanatory conversation.

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Alex-Audland-Vonage
Alex Audland

Alex joined Vonage in 2022 to help develop Vonage's housing practice. He has been working with housing associations for over 3 years, with an in-depth understanding of the challenges modern housing associations face and a passion for helping HAs develop their customer contact strategies to be more efficient, personalised and consistent.

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