For many years, the measurement of customer satisfaction [CSAT] has played an important and high-profile role in the housing sector. Most RSLs publish annual CSAT targets – for both repairs and ‘overall satisfaction’ – and they publish attainment against those targets. There’s a regulatory imperative behind this, and of course, CSAT provides a useful barometer of ongoing performance and quality, but what else could be, or should be, derived from gathering feedback? And what can be done to ensure feedback is representative and actionable, rather than just an annual statistic?
The high profile of CSAT within social housing is interesting, especially given the contrasts with the commercial sector. You can read reviews on almost any product or service these days, and we know that CSAT in many walks of life has a direct impact on sales, reputation, retention, referrals, etc. But given that most RSLs have more demand than they can cope with, rents are largely regulated, and the concepts of upsell/x-sell/repeat-purchase don’t really apply, it begs the question “in housing, what are we actually trying to achieve in gathering feedback?”.
Now, of course, most RSLs are genuinely committed to providing a great service and want to measure their CSAT for all sorts of good reasons. We also know that happy customers cost less to serve, that long tenure is cost-effective, and that advocacy and reputation have a tangible value. So how can you make sure your customers’ voices are heard?
Putting aside the (sometimes controversial) variation in the ways CSAT is calculated from the available data, there is also variation in the mechanisms by which feedback is collected. In many cases, it involves monthly surveys of randomly selected customers using phone, email, or even mail. Putting aside the significant cost of this approach, the response rates are low, and as time passes we know that negative experiences are recalled more readily than positive ones. It’s also largely unactionable feedback, certainly on a case by case basis for repairs, because the experience happened days or weeks ago, and the comments are seldom linked directly to a job ID or specific colleague.
In some cases, repairs operatives are asked to hand their tablet to the customer before they leave, asking them to complete a questionnaire – effectively asking “how did I do?”. For obvious reasons, this approach is unlikely to be especially accurate when the operative is still in the room!
What’s in it for the customer?
When you think about the objectives behind gathering feedback, the interests and motivations of the customer really should be paramount. If customers become conditioned to their feedback being listened to and acted upon, they are more likely to take the trouble to provide it, and their perception of their landlord will be dramatically improved – “these people are actually listening to me!”. If they realize their feedback ends up lost in an annual statistic, why should the bother in the first place?
Example of real-time back-office alert for poor feedback.
So, what makes for good feedback?
- Timing – ask for feedback immediately after the experience (repair, housing officer visit, lettings appointment, etc), but not whilst the colleague is still at the property. Prompt feedback requests get more responses, better reflect the moment, and – importantly – mean that actions can be taken quickly and efficiently in the case of problems.
- Keep it simple & convenient – ask for a rating out of 5, plus what was good, and what needs improvement; just 3 questions. The more questions you ask, the fewer the responses. Make the process easy and use a channel that is convenient for the customer to use.
- Make it actionable – perhaps the most important aspect of all. If customers don’t think you’re listening, they won’t bother. If you use automated back-office alerts for poor feedback you can act promptly – and therefore at a lower cost – and your customers will be delighted (and amazed). This also avoids survey fatigue.
- Make it personal - ensure feedback is linked to individual colleagues so you can identify training needs and spot trends; good or bad.
- Assess frequently – look at feedback ratings - by function, team, and individual - all the time so you can make changes quickly. An annual ‘ta-dah’ moment for the past year’s stats will not support dynamic change.
- Ask everyone, always – don’t just ask a random sample; by definition, you’ll leave gaps and will dilute validity.
- Use technology to make it affordable – you can’t phone all customers all the time; it’s cost-prohibitive, as well as being invasive and ineffective. Make feedback an automated part of a digital communications process linked to every appointment.
In summary: timely, simple, and actionable mass feedback will provide a real-time guiding light for your operations and, above all, will support an amazing customer experience. After a problematic experience, if you react quickly to make amends then you’ll turn a disgruntled customer into a long-term advocate.
Read the original article in Housing Technology Magazine.
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Posted by Paul Swannell, Sales Director at Localz
My fundamental approach is to properly understand clients' priorities, requirements, and desired outcomes, and then to match these to a thorough understanding of my proposition. My thirst for knowledge and attention to detail help me quickly to become an SME in my field, in turn enabling me to act genuinely in the role of trusted advisor to clients. | LinkedIn