Housing: Customer Service vs Customer Experience

The housing sector, particularly housing associations, are moving away from a view that focuses on individual reactive customer services, towards a much more proactive customer experience (CX) approach that looks to capture and nurture a long-term relationship with residents, building trust over several contact points.


Attending the Inside Housing CX conference earlier this year, we were not surprised to learn that the most highly rated housing providers are those that don’t just consistently deliver the basics, the ‘hygiene factors’, but also go far beyond that.

Satisfaction surveys such as STAR have long been seen as the go-to method for tenant insight and are still widely used today.  Here at M·E·L Research, we carry out these resident satisfaction surveys on behalf of our clients every week. They remain the bedrock for benchmarking satisfaction - over time, between subsidiaries and compared to other providers - for highlighting where satisfaction is low and feeding into strategic plans.

Transactional surveys are also used in gaining quick opinions - by phone, email and SMS - and feeding directly into organisational KPIs, often with dashboards. Combined with strategic research, these methods add a powerful extra layer when it comes to assessing overall customer experience.

In addition to these survey methods, housing providers are also starting to branch out and find new ways to hear the tenant voice. We’ve seen more landlords digging deeper, beneath the surface of headline statistics, such as by hosting focus groups to really listen to resident views and gain in-depth feedback. Focus groups are not only of value to the housing provider, they also help residents feel that their voice is being heard and their opinions are valued.

Social housing is also comparing itself more widely using a method that is mainly applied in the private sector, Net Promoter Score (NPS).  NPS is a measurement based on how likely the customer is to recommend the organisation to their friends and family. When HouseMark first benchmarked this the average score was +26 for general needs tenants, whilst in the private sector Amazon’s NPS was +61 and Apple’s was +89. NPS can be a helpful metric in isolation, it is difficult to draw comparisons with such a different  product/service which makes it harder for benchmarking.

As many housing associations branch off into new areas, such as market rent, private sale and wider community services, perhaps it is right to compare more widely. However, housing associations  must still listen to their customers and aim to see the world through their eyes. After all, these people are the reason housing associations exist.

Here at M·E·L Research, we can help you perform comprehensive research and evaluation projects which help to amplify the tenant’s voice so that you have a greater understanding of their needs and opinions. This includes STAR and transactional surveys, to help you see the full customer experience. Click here to contact our team.

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