Finding the right fit
After examining proposals from several vendors, Origin decided to deploy the IBM® Public Sector Solution for Microsoft Dynamics – Social Housing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, which runs in the Microsoft Cloud. IBM Global Business Services® provided on-site consultancy services during the implementation, helping Origin design and configure the solution to suit its business, and supplying training for Origin’s employees. The IBM Global Business Services team provided the technical know-how and knowledge transfer to guide Origin through the development of the enquiries process, so that the organization could develop further services with minimal dependence on third parties.
Mark Lordon, Assistant Director of IT and Office Services at Origin, recalls: “During the selection process, it became clear that IBM Public Sector Solution for Microsoft Dynamics – Social Housing was the best fit for the business, because it supported integration with our legacy systems, and featured a lot of our desired functionality out-of-the-box. By selecting a solution developed for social housing, we got a head start by buying the entities that we needed – such as people, properties and tenancies – and some relevant process templates.
“In our sector, most Microsoft Dynamics implementations have been done on-premises. We decided to follow the product’s roadmap and go for a cloud deployment, taking advantage of the latest functionality whenever new updates are released.
“We hit some bumps along the way, but IBM stepped up to the challenge and helped us to deploy a solution that would provide real value to our business.”
Thanks to two-way integration with Origin’s housing management system and document management platform, the IBM and Microsoft solution delivers a near-360-degree view of each customer across all tenures and service offerings. Once Origin has moved some remaining documents to the platform, it will achieve that elusive full visibility. What’s more, the solution offers an effective means for tracking and resolving customer enquiries, with progress measured against agreed service levels.
Paula Steel, Digital Product Manager at Origin Housing, adds: “The IBM and Microsoft solution helps around 150 employees across our customer-facing business units to find the information they need quickly. We focused on delivering high-quality in-house training to help staff use the solution proficiently. Our efforts are paying off, as user adherence is strong.”
Putting people first
Equipped with the IBM and Microsoft solution, Origin Housing is transforming the level of service it provides to tenants.
Paula Steel continues: “Within the first month of going live, we are already resolving 60 percent of customer enquiries at the first point of contact. Tenants are enjoying a better service, and we are reaping efficiencies by reducing the need to forward requests to specialist units such as the income-management team.
“Since the deployment, we have resolved 94.5 percent of customers’ enquiries, and responded to 75 percent of customers within agreed service levels. It’s still early days, but we are pleased with progress and eager to improve further in future.
“In those cases where we haven’t been able to resolve a request within agreed timescales, we can drill down into the data to identify the root of the problem. The end-to-end visibility afforded by the IBM and Microsoft solution is key to helping us pinpoint areas for improvement and target our efforts.”
The customer-service initiative is a key element of a broader business transformation going on at Origin.
Cathy McCarthy, Director of Corporate Services at Origin, explains: “We are transforming our business to improve customer service and reduce operational costs. For example, in the past we operated lots of small specialist teams – such as a separate income-management team for each type of tenancy. Now, we are bringing those teams together and equipping contact-center staff to solve basic enquiries immediately, so that we can grow our property portfolio without having to hire additional staff.
“By reducing our operational costs, we can plough more money back into maintaining our existing housing stock and acquiring new properties, providing high-quality services for growing numbers of residents as well as continuing stay true to our original charitable objectives, as a community based housing association, to make a difference to people’s lives.
The IBM and Microsoft solution lays the foundations for Origin to shift towards digital channels. For example, Origin is keen to improve its self-service online portal, so that digitally capable customers can complete tasks such as paying rent independently. The IBM Microsoft solution stores the data in a suitable form for it to be made available via an interactive portal.
Additionally, Origin is keen to enable mobile access to the CRM solution, to allow staff to view and update information – such as the status of repairs – when they are on-site in a customer's home.
Paula Steel concludes: “Our housing management system, which is where we previously recorded customer contact, did not have a good uptake by staff who managed customer enquiries, so we lacked visibility of what was going on. That has changed; staff are positive about the CRM solution, and are very engaged in bringing new ideas to the table on how to improve it. The challenge is prioritizing the initiatives and freeing up the resources to deliver them. We’ve made good progress already, and we’re now working with IBM and our business to make the most of IBM Public Sector Solution for Microsoft Dynamics – Social Housing for our staff and customers.”