In all organisations, there is an increasing need to adopt a more streamlined digital strategy. In a rapidly changing arena, many housing associations are suffering due to the reduced investment, funding cuts, the mandatory rent freeze on social housing and the fact that there is a relatively slow uptake in digital efficiency. For housing associations to thrive, harnessing technology is vital in order to enhance performance and make the changes that are desperately needed in the fast-paced digital world.
In terms of digitalisation, the housing sector seems to be far behind other industries. There are many reasons why this may be. Firstly, the fact that many housing associations are fragmented, making it difficult to adopt a singular system. Another issue is the fact that there is a reluctance to switch from the legacy systems currently in place. One of the main problems is the initial investment that going digital takes, which can seem like an unnecessary cost in times of cuts and budget restraints. However, by adopting a digital strategy, housing associations can actually save money as well as enjoying a host of other benefits.
How housing associations can harness technology
One of the most significant ways that housing associations can enjoy the benefits of digitalisation is through adopting a cloud-hosted platform. With this, all team members can enjoy real-time access to the necessary systems on any device at any location. This means that those on-site with customers can instantly log reports. Furthermore, associations can reduce infrastructure and office costs with the flexibility of a cloud-based system.
Another opportunity for digitalisation comes from the automation and processing of customer information. Digitalisation reduces the need for paper forms that need manual processing. Instead, you can store all customer data in secure, personal accounts. This reduces the need for repetitive form filling and repeated information.
Organisations can also perform customer service functions digitally. In fact, using digitalisation, customers can find the answers to their questions instantly, meaning they can effectively self-serve should they have any issues. This will significantly reduce the time taken to resolve problems by staff.
Technology can also provide further communication methods. Using a digital system, customers can engage with the team in multiple ways such as online chat facilities as well as email and traditional methods. With customers becoming increasingly digital-savvy this is an ideal method of communication. The fact that customers can find answers for themselves, through a knowledge base, for example, can significantly reduce the workload for staff too.
Not only can technology improve customer relations, it can strengthen supplier management too. With a system that can be accessed by tenants, association staff and suppliers, problems can be actioned and addressed quickly. Everyone has access to the information they need, and this can stop vital information or actions from being missed.
The benefits of technology for housing associations
When it comes to processing transactions, housing associations can reduce revenue through processing. However, it has been found that online transaction processing can save significant costs. In fact, online payment is 20 times cheaper than phone transactions and 50 times cheaper than face to face
With real-time access to systems, staff can log and process issues much more quickly, which can then provide more customer facing time to increase services and greater flexibility with travel time and costs as things can be actioned on the go.
Enhance service levels
One of the primary benefits of digitalisation is the fact that customers receive a better service. They have the opportunity for 24/7 advice and help thanks to a knowledge base and the fact that account information is accessible. The fact that actions can be completed online means customers have no restrictions with time or having to speak to the right department.
While there is an initial investment in going digital, the benefits far outweigh the costs in the long-term. In fact, Croydon London Borough Council estimates savings of £20 million in 2018 thanks to their digitalisation. This is mainly due to the fact that customers are only asked for their information once with their digital records.
With increased performance, customer engagement and satisfaction and cost-efficiency, housing associations that choose to go digital can reap the benefits. From reduced operational costs to a more productive environment, there are advantages for all involved. Furthermore, those that resist the changes will find it harder to adapt later and will have to do so, with an ever-decreasing budget.