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Giving customers a digital experience they actually want

An exploration into what it really takes to make digital customer experiences work – in housing and beyond.

Dean Anderson, Director of Customer Services
12 January 2022

Call me a geek, but I think watching Amazon in action is quite cool.

They’re at your fingertips when you need them. You visit on your terms - when you want something. The digital interfaces are effortless to use and, more often than not, they under promise and over deliver.

That’s what you want as a digital consumer. And that’s why it works.

Whenever I see smart digital journeys, I can’t help thinking, what’s stopping us from doing this in the housing sector? And if we did, what would it look like? What would it mean for the customer experience?

This is the thinking that’s shaped a lot of our digital strategy here at Futures. And it’s already delivering results.  

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on how to create digital experiences that customers want to use. I hope they support you in creating yours.

1.  Start with a solid understanding

If you don’t know what people want (and need), you can’t create it. Understanding customers, their lives, the properties they live in, and most importantly the experience people want, is the essential foundation to your plan.

Data is your friend – the guiding star to your digital strategy. This is not just about the handful of people who shout the loudest or are the most engaged. It’s important to reach out and listen to the silent majority too. In my experience, the themes that come from this group are often far more representative of your broader customer base.

At Futures we survey a quarter of our customers every year. This helps us to see the common themes that matter to people. From this, we create the right interventions focused on what people want – rather than what we think they want, or what we think might drive efficiency savings.

2.  Enable your team

Digital isn’t just about financial efficiencies with technology. It is also about making the customer experience of interacting with your organisation better too.

As an example, our 2019 survey showed us what customers wanted most was a first-time fix through a channel of their choice. So we created a new digital tool in response.

Built on the same technology used by the likes of Boots and Esure, the Futures’ Help Hub acts like our very own Google. It enables any team member to access and give instant information anytime, anywhere. This means a customer is not passed around from person-to-person, they either get the answer to their query immediately, or we can advise them what they need to do to get it sorted.  

The same tool has then be flipped to be consumer facing, enabling customers to resolve their own queries.

This tool has become the foundation of our digital transformation and the source data that other digital tech, like our chat bots and virtual assistants, use to obtain resolutions and provide automated answers.

It’s accurate, intelligent and easily updateable in real time. On average it gets asked 700 questions a day to help our team members and our customers get the answers they need.

3.  Be willing to pilot, refine and go again

If you read Amazon’s mission, it might not surprise you to see they aim to “continually raise the bar of the customer experience by using the internet and technology…”. this is a great thing to aspire too – but what could this look like or mean for us?

I believe we have to obsess about delivering the experience the customer wants.

When people need us, it’s generally because something has gone wrong – and they want reassurance we can fix it. They want answers and action quickly and easily.

If by using a digital interface they get those things easily and faster, you will build confidence in the technology.

To encourage customers to adopt new behaviours and technology, we have to take responsibility for creating a new, better experience that gains and keeps their trust.

In my experience, piloting is a really important part of this process. At Futures, we test new platforms with a small base to be sure the technology works and delivers what customers want. This ensures we can deliver on our promise when we roll them out to a wider group.

So if you want customers to get on board with your digital tools, obsess about an experience people want. Get feedback. Refine. And go again.

A final word…

If we make it easy for people to use digital, they will.

This isn’t about digital for digital’s sake. It’s about putting customers at the heart of our strategy and plans.

And that’s what matters.

 Making it easy isn’t easy, but it is the right thing to do.

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