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Supporting our freeholder clients through improved customer experience

By Paul Atkinson, Director of Client Services, FirstPort

When working with our freeholder clients we need to be able to demonstrate that customers are happy in their homes and that they are receiving the right response from us, avoiding the need to escalate their concerns.

The way we’ve been living over the last year makes a property manager’s role even more important. More time at home for our residents means they can clearly see the benefits a good property management company brings, but it also results in higher expectations in terms of the service we provide, and, in turn, the expectations from our freeholder clients.

Key to making sure we’re providing the service both our residents and freeholders rightly expect is making sure our colleagues understand how customers ’experience’ our service. In recent months we’ve focused all of our teams on online review platforms as tools that can help us learn more about, and enhance, our customers’ experience. Because of this focus, we’ve seen better and more consistent engagement from our customers with these platforms too. Trustpilot in particular has become a priority customer service channel for our customers to share both good experiences and those where we can improve. All too often online platforms are a way for customers to engage with various parties at the same time, so both a property manager and a freeholder could receive the same feedback at the same time, and a timely and thorough response from us is essential so that our freeholders have the confidence that it’s being dealt with.

Our responsiveness to those who leave a review has helped us better understand our customers’ experiences and how we can improve them. It has also meant that we have been able to turn some reviews around from a negative experience to a positive one. Our now four-star Trustpilot rated service is reflective of our colleagues’ efforts, but also a reminder that we don’t always get it right and there’s always room for improvement (we’re aiming for five stars, of course!).

More choice means better engagement

In the consumerised society we now live in, our customers rightly expect a seamless property management service which makes their lives easier and is tailored to suit their lifestyles. If our customers can easily and quickly get in touch with us, it means that they won’t need to escalate their concerns to their building’s freeholder. It’s therefore important that we have a range of customer service channels available.

Our contact centres are the engine rooms that support our field-based colleagues to provide the very best service, and we’ve made changes to make them more agile and customer focused in recent months. This includes the introduction of Webchat, which is a popular choice for our customers with thousands of interactions since its soft launch late last year. In addition, our online residents’ portal has proven to be a much-valued resource – particularly during the pandemic – helping us to respond quickly and proactively and to update residents in real-time.

Taking ownership

Whilst our teams working from developments have continued throughout the pandemic, it has been more challenging to be visible to our customers, and our field-based employees have had to be more inventive to stay in touch. Zoom meetings have now become a common way of ‘meeting’ residents, not just 9-5, but at times that are more convenient for customers. We’ve found our freeholder clients like this approach too as we can be more agile and responsive when issues arise.

Providing confidence, clarity and choice for customers is our ethos. It plays a vital role in giving our freeholder clients confidence and clarity too about the service we provide, and assurance that their buildings are in safe hands.

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