Customer service training in the housing sector
These are hugely uncertain times for all Registered Providers (RPs), who now find themselves very much at the sharp end of a host of socio-economic and political changes that are affecting the way they operate.
One aspect of these changes is that as they are forced to take a more commercial approach they need to engage more positively with their customers. The demand for quality, value for money services means that RPs must both let and manage with a far higher degree of competence, and work intelligently and robustly with stakeholders and customers over the longer term against the back drop of welfare and regulatory reforms.
That’s no doubt what’s driving the increasing amount of work we’re seeing in this sector. But does that make it different from any of the other sectors in which we work? Well, yes, it does. It’s dangerous to generalise, of course, but some of the characteristics in housing are that:
- Morale can sometimes be low (depending on how well the organisation has managed the changes) and this can have an impact both on standards of customer service and on receptiveness to training in customer care.
- Some staff do not entirely buy-in to the idea that ‘tenants’ are ‘customers’ whereas for others, particularly in the more target-driven organisations, the focus on KPIs does not always sit well with individuals’ notions of customer care – in other words, in our training we need to pay particular attention to people’s values.
- The relationship with customers is not the same in housing as in other sectors (eg, retail, utilities, financial services, etc) and in different ways this makes life easier but also gives rise to challenges.
- There is sometimes a dis-connect between office-based staff (particularly those in contact centres) and those having the face-to-face contact with customers, such as housing offices and, above all, the operatives responsible for repairs and maintenance. This can give rise to a number of common causes for complaint that need to be addressed in our training sessions.
- We can find ourselves faced with very mixed groups, from call centre staff to trades people, so we need to plan our approach very carefully to take account of this.
Our training is therefore tailored to enable housing associations and organisations to skill up their staff, using appropriately bespoke content to give them the knowledge, capability and confidence to support change and provide a first class, consistent customer service. It equips staff to communicate successfully with customers in all situations, improving first contact resolution and reducing escalated complaints.
Our thanks to Amanda for writing this page.
Amanda is our practice lead for the housing sector. Her clients in this area include local authorities and housing organisations, particularly but by no means exclusively in the south east, such as Peabody Trust, Homes for Islington, North Herts Homes, Northampton Borough Council/Northampton Homes, Greenwich Council, Wycombe District Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Wellingborough Homes, East Thames Group, etc, etc.
Some of our other trainers are also very experienced in the housing sector, including Melanie in Manchester (whose clients include National Housing Federation, Irwell Valley HA, Women’s Housing Action Group, Three Rivers HA, Manchester Care and Repair, etc, etc) and Jamie in the Midlands (The Together Housing Group).
If you’d like a chat with any of our trainers to discuss your customer service training requirements, do please give us a call on 01582 714285 and we’d be delighted to arrange it for you.