When Cross Keys Homes (CKH) sought to build a sustainable customer base, they chose to incorporate live chat into their website.
During our Social Housing Customer Day, Communications and Marketing Manager Katie Taylor led delegates through the journey she and her team took to deliver the function and communicate, support and connect with customers in real time.
Customer service is the backbone of any business. Getting it right can involve an initial outlay in both time and money, but the subsequent rewards are often significant.
During our Social Housing Customer Day, Katie Taylor, Communications and Marketing Manager at Cross Keys Homes, highlighted the impact VerseOne’s Vocoll live chat function has made on the provider’s ability to deliver high-quality, affordable accommodation which changes lives.
Katie and her colleagues started work shortly before the pandemic hit.
“In 2019, we decided to look at our digital transformation journey. At that point in time, we’d just launched our portal [with VerseOne], and we'd seen some good successes with that. But we wanted to make our website more mobile-optimised.
“We thought, actually, what's the next thing that we can do to help get people – especially our customers – to self-serve and understand more about us.
“We are all leading very busy lives now and a telephone call can be a good option. But sometimes you want to do other things and that is where live chat comes in.”
The virtues of live chat mean that many businesses with a significant online function have embraced text-based online services. Unlike traditional telephone inquiries, live chat connects customers almost-immediately with agents, wait times are low, conversation transcriptions can be kept for the future, queries are often resolved quickly, and clients can even multi-task.
Katie added: “Our aim was to hopefully see less phone calls coming into the business, and then to be able to do what you can't do with telephone calls and get those solid stats, the data, which lets us know exactly what people are contacting us for, where we can see trends and where we can utilise that – especially on our website and within our portal – to help better promote a customer journey that allows our residents to help themselves.
“We know that the next time [they contact us], they may not even need to have that conversation with us because they will understand where they can get the information [they need].”
Cross Keys Homes’ relationship with VerseOne originally began when the Peterborough-based social housing landlord – which manages over 11,000 properties and houses around 14% of the city’s population – wanted to refresh its website and deliver online services to tenants and leaseholders.
Since its launch, the Shared Ownership section of the CKH site has been redesigned to deliver a more commercial look and feel and, more recently, the social housing provider has extended its digital technology solutions to include intranet services and secure tenant portal MyCKH too.
But none have perhaps had the same impact as live chat on the business, which has recently expanded into Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire.
“As a business back in 2019, we wanted within about five years to get around 50% of transactions taking place online, which back then seemed like a massive target.
“We understood there were things that we weren't sure worked for us, so we worked around customising the system, and I think what we have today is much more beneficial for both our agents and customers.”
Katie and the team were initially unsure of the impact live chat would have on CKH residents and chose to add the digital service to their VerseOne CMS without any fanfare.
“We thought OK, let's not go out and let's not advertise that we've got live chat – let's just see if people begin to utilise this system because then we'll understand what we need to do as a business to take it to the next level.
“Without any promotion whatsoever, in the first two months we averaged around 232 chats. We had two areas of the business at this moment in time using the live chat system – our customer services team and our repairs team. And we made sure that live chat was also customised for mobile, so we weren't relying on people going to a desktop to be able to utilise it. Then we started to see how many chats each team was taking.
“It was obvious to us that our customers and residents wanted this platform and were quite happy to use it.”
The team also developed a series of auto-responses to common questions.
“We went through a massive journey to make sure the system was easy to utilise from everyone's perspective. We now have seven teams using it and we're having discussions within the business to increase that further given how well it's utilised.”
To ensure live chat was accessible to all communities, the team went on to add a translation function. Katie, however, told delegates at the Customer Day that the final piece in the jigsaw was perhaps the most significant.
“The tone of voice we used was also really important to us. You know that people remember how they felt, not necessarily what was said. So, in all the training that we did and all the things we learnt along the way, that was really important. I was thinking about the customer journey every step of the way and how we are as Cross Keys Homes – our values and our behaviours. That customer journey is key for us.
“We always want to be human; we want to be approachable; we want to be sympathetic but, also, we wanted to drive change and help residents help themselves.
“We also wanted to make sure that it [live chat] was short and focused on what we were doing. You don't need to say three sentences when three words will do, and we wanted no jargon at all because our residents don't understand that.”
Katie and the CKH team also reaped the rewards available from the data the automated solution can provide.
“The data you get from the digital platform is unbelievable and really helps the business to make decisions on next steps.
“Live chat also gives you the opportunity to add images, files, and documents which direct [residents] through to our portal, which helps support the digital journey too. It makes it a much more efficient service.”
During the first year of operation, CKH averaged 286 live chats. With the onset of Covid-19 in March 2020, however, the team saw a 212% increase in residents using the digital service, moving from 297 in February to an incredible 896 in March. And throughout the last financial year, those rates were sustained.
VerseOne’s Vocoll live chat and collaboration platform empowers staff to talk to residents and deliver an efficient, linear service. It’s even possible to be in when you are out; thanks to the VerseOne AI-powered Vocoll knowledge bot, common customer queries can be answered 24/7.
“We are now averaging about 623 live chats a month,” added Katie. “Which is a 143% increase on the previous year.
“There's still more I want to do with the platform, there’s still more learning I need to do myself. But I’m hoping that what I’ve helped to show and explain is that actually, if you put in the time and the effort and you really understand the system and you work to make it work for your business, the results speak for themselves.”