Good Communications help the bottom-line

All housing associations are under cost pressures from every angle today. Whether it is trying to address the social housing crisis to build new homes, or managing transparency with service charges. Available resources need to be effectively managed with business processes streamlined to achieve the mantra of “do more with less”.

One area that housing associations could address to help achieve this goal is the quality of their communications to customers (tenants and residents). In our experience, across a number of industry sectors, we come across issues where an effective customer communications solution can, and has, delivered substantial benefits to the bottom-line. Typically, they are not seen as ‘exciting’ projects or internally the communication is just seen as ‘means to an end’ so they don’t get the attention they should.

One area that housing associations could address to help achieve this goal is the quality of their communications to customers

Having customers understand what has been sent to them along with any call to action you want them to take is fundamental to an improved customer experience which has cost benefits in a number of ways. Take service charges as an example. It’s something which landlords need to provide. They need to be broken down to a level which provides the customer with a degree of transparency as to how their costs apply. In many cases housing associations are utilising a combination of spreadsheets with WORD merge templates to generate the documents to send to customers. Some manage the physical production in-house using existing staff to fulfil the mail-piece and frank it for posting whilst others will send print ready files to a local printer to manage the production.

So how can this be changed and the business benefits be realised? Firstly, by utilising the digital technology that is available today. The most cost-effective means of accessing this technology is to outsource to specialists who can support your business from the management of data into an effective customer communication as an end-to-end process. Part of the process is to build customised document content which is data driven. Effectively bridging the gap between your data and the customer information. If this is carried out correctly then you will see benefits to the bottom-line.

Just how will these benefits materialise? Well its not just about the cost of printing a page. When you consider the true end-to-end business process across thearious stakeholder department the gains from efficiencies start to build up. To support this, we have clients where we have saved 44% of their material costs; reduced customer calls following a mailing by 99%; improved customer satisfaction to 86%; reduced postage cost by 15% and in one case reduced the internal time to carry out a mailing by some 800-man hours. Additionally there are the softer benefits around the speed to process and despatch to meet regulatory deadlines, with audit trails for receipt of data to posting, plus validation of data and customised content, you very quickly see the results with VfM.

Customer communications leading to improved customer experience has been a priority for many over a number of years BUT not many have truly achieved it in a coherent way. A lot of the industry examples typically address a single business application, such as the effort put into a new website. This will be heavily branded with a lot of self-service functionality and oodles of information. However, what we then see is the business documentation to customers failing to support the brand in the correct way; creating documents which are very generic as they try to cover all possibilities, which the customer has to spend time figuring out; ignoring the tone of voice with plain English and looking like something that came of a desktop printer, which in a lot of cases has.

It is possible with the technology that is available today to generate a full customised document to the audience of one. The content is relevant to the recipient carrying a concise message in a way which effectively leads them through a ‘story’ from the high-level summary through to the detail.

One verification we have from one of our clients is a customer wrote in after receiving a new statement we had generated. He was a 60-year old pensioner who said “Thank you for sending my statement in its new style. I actually now understand it and don’t have to ask my wife to explain it anymore”.

James Shand

Managing Director, TriPartum Limited