A CONTINUED FOCUS ON CUSTOMERS IN THE NEW STRATEGIC PLAN
Clare McCarty, CEO and Pol Callaghan, Group Director of Housing and Customer Experience
Customers have always been at the heart of Clanmil’s purpose, so it’s no surprise that we have an aim in the new strategic plan that is dedicated to the customer and an improved customer experience. ‘Provide services that make life easier for customers’ intends to deepen our relationships with customers like never before.
“I’d like to think we’ve always had customers at the heart of what we do”, says Clare “but I think this new strategic aim is about having stronger governance around that so that it’s more than a nice to have, it’s intrinsic in everything we do. Whilst sometimes we must make decisions and move things forward quickly, it’s important that where possible we involve customers so that our services are relevant. We also need to be responsive, listening to what customers are saying, or not saying but indicating, and taking that on board.”
Responsiveness is something that Pol also picked up on as a key part of building the ‘healthy, trusting and respectful relationships’ we talk about in the strategic plan, although he was also keen to point out that it’s about being “realistic and responsive”. “Trust works both ways, when we say we’re going to do something, we need to do it, or we need to be honest and explain why we can’t. Often when we see complaints escalate it’s not because something horrendous has happened, it’s because we could have better managed expectations so that misunderstandings and frustrations don’t fester and grow.”
This focus on having a much more equal partnership with customers is reflected in the time, effort and resources Clanmil has already invested in reinvigorating customer engagement. New patch-based groups, scrutiny panels and readers panels are just some of the initiatives that aim to give the customer more of a voice, although we must approach this with caution as Clare explains: “The challenge now is how we hear from everyone, even the voices that are not normally heard. Technology can play a big part in this as it will help us reach more people and get more people involved. We also need to ensure that we are laser-focused on the areas that are in most need of improvement and this needs to be a two-way conversation with customers.”
Technology will also play its part in helping bring greater transparency to customers as well as improving service delivery and both the tenant portal and integrated service centre will be a major part of this. The vision is to get it right first time, so that customers can self-serve to information at any time, or they can talk to someone who can help them, but these new customer touchpoints will only be as good as the information that’s available to them.
It’s fair to say that overtime and as Clanmil has grown, things have fallen into pockets within the organisation. We have taken a rather sporadic approach to information availability and channels in the past, so different bits of information are stored in different places and that doesn’t lend itself to an excellent customer experience. It also makes life difficult for colleagues. We need to move to a holistic view, where information is collated, and the right structures are in place so that customers and colleagues can access information easily at any time in any place. Pol adds: “Colleagues want to do a good job and so the work to bring information together in an accessible way, along with the integrated delivery framework will help them deliver a better service, hopefully with less frustrations and increased job satisfaction.”
When asked what they think is the most important thing for colleagues to do when trying to build great relationships with customers, Clare and Pol agree: “We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the customer in everything we do” says Pol, “many colleagues already do this, and it’s absolutely the way to unlock the transformation of our relationships.” “I agree” adds Clare. “We need to listen carefully, keep an open mind, communicate well and be respectful of the customer’s point of view, even when it might be different to ours.”