Improving customer services at the First Point of Contact

The Budget proved that housing is higher up political and media agendas than ever before.

Peter Graddon, Director of Omfax Systems, providers of Keyfax, dynamic scripting solutions for the social housing sector discusses the wider implications of the Budget on customer services.


The need for more affordable homes is rapacious; the Budget committed to building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020’s, but how many of these new homes will be truly affordable? It is unlikely that supply will ever meet demand for affordable homes. The much-vaunted target of one million homes by 2020 is seemingly a long way off.

Against this landscape, we are in the midst of a customer service revolution in social housing, with the development of on-line self-service, coupled with the power of social media. The overarching concept of customer service is that ‘the customer is always right.’ Does that apply to social housing tenants? Most providers have a customer services function but can sometimes lack true commitment to the real principle of the tenant as a customer. Customer care and customer service should be integral to the whole ethos and operation of social landlords.

Tenants and residents face so many financial challenges, with the roll-out of Universal Credit, reductions and caps to benefits, austerity cuts to services, fuel poverty, pre-Christmas and January debt and the real threat of homelessness. The haunting images of Grenfell and the seeming lack of two-way communication between Kensington and Chelsea Council and resident action groups is a graphic example of a continuing attitude towards tenants, not as customers but as deserving or undeserving of society’s assistance. In a Guardian editorial from 27/1/12, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned against “a quiet resurgence of the seductive language of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor.” It is 50 years since the screening of Cathy Come Home, highlighting issues with homelessness, but when you look at the housing crisis across the UK today, the problem is getting more severe.

At Omfax, we are clear that our work is about customer service and that applies to our customers and our customers’ customers. The latter is being achieved by empowering residents with their own self-service options with Keyfax Inter•View Online. Residents can access the services they need 24/7, with the Keyfax technology acting as an enabler, empowering residents to, amongst other things, report a repair, enquire about a tenancy, make a complaint or place a service request.

The Omfax solution is multi-faceted with Keyfax Inter•View also supporting customer service advisors to deal with customer enquiries at the first point of contact. Most significantly, Keyfax enables customers to be treated as individuals, as a person, with a known history of past dealings and where the relationship matters, using call flow intelligence to inform the conversations. Advisors can confidently organise service responses as required, with the expert guidance from qualified technical and social housing specialists available at their fingertips.

Keyfax provides customers and customer service advisors with a consistent diagnostic system for handling all types of enquiries, problems or repairs, at the first point of contact. The Omfax system empowers residents and enables customer service advisors to successfully respond to a myriad of challenges.