Resident Experience: We Talk CX With the UK’s Largest Housing Association, Clarion

Clarion are the UK’s largest housing association and provide homes for more than 350,000 residents across the country. They pride themselves on creating places to live for those who need them most; supporting social housing, new developments, and social investment to transform the lives and communities of people with fewer avenues into secure living.

Along with their network of partners, Clarion build more than 2000 new homes a year and are constantly looking for new ways to improve and expand their operation. This means putting people first and listening to what their customers need to live happy, safe, and prosperous lives.

Julie Kay, Head of Corporate Projects at Clarion, kindly agreed to sit down with us to talk about how they’re partnering with Adoreboard and using predictive insights to put customer experience and emotion at the heart of their digital strategy, along with how this is influencing others across the business.

Building happier homes from the ground up

There’s been a shift in the housing sector in recent years to put more of a focus on the wellbeing and security of residents – a welcome change for sure! The core of Julie’s mission over the last year at Clarion has been to improve the customer experience (CX) of people connecting with the organisation digitally.

So, a familiar sticking point emerges: where do you even start? Customers have such a wide range of digital touchpoints with companies these days and Clarion, with one eye always on the future, is no exception. One of the things Julie and her team established early on was that the customer has to be at the foundation (last housing pun – promise) of their strategy.

“When we say we want to deliver for the customer, what does that mean? It can’t be something we define internally. We need a metric and a mechanism that allows us to track if- and how- we’re improving what matters to the customer.”

Traditional methods of customer feedback weren’t going to cut it at a strategic level due to their lack of nuance or context.

“We wanted to make a change to customer emotions from an arbitrary metric.”

Clarion connect with their customers through email, chatbots, reviews, regular surveys, call centres, and even more – but they realised that if they were going to work to improve CX throughout their digital offering, they needed to gauge customer emotion in a modern way. By acknowledging that older metrics can be misleading or misconstrued, they realised that it was time for a new direction.

“With traditional sentiment metrics, a customer could score you a five. They might have had a great experience with your customer service rep but for whatever reason still haven’t resolved the issue. The score doesn’t reflect why they marked like that or how you can improve.”

Julie and her team firmly believe that the focus should be on combining customer needs and expectations with going beyond their regulatory requirements. Building better communities and happier households requires putting customer priorities first in all facets of their business. This means looking to see how their customers’ journeys will best improve with specific improvements to their offering.

Clarion identified a need to centralise a mechanism to make sure the customer has the ability to keep feeding back on more of their interactions instead of being asked about specific things randomly. This way they will get a better view of their lives as residents and not miss out on core experiences they simply didn’t think to ask about.

Customer-centric strategy for a customer-centric business

Having worked with Adoreboard before at a previous company, Julie knew where she could turn to put the customer at the heart of Clarion’s strategy and predict how they’d make the best impact as quickly as possible. Adoreboard worked with Clarion to help them create a holistic, ever-present feedback infrastructure called Heartbeat.

Heartbeat functionality, built from scratch in collaboration between the two companies, allows Clarion to immediately add a mini survey of specifically crafted questions at the end of every digital interaction a customer has with the organisation. This includes online chats, embedded into websites, in emails, and more.

“We’ve had a chatbot working for a couple of years without a feedback option to establish the CX.”

This utilised all the amazing opportunities they had to keep reaching out to customers in an organic, natural way to get authentic answers. Working with Adoreboard gave Clarion the tools, support, and education to make sure they were asking the right questions to the right people at the right time.

“Adoreboard were excellent at steering the conversation and educating us on the right type of question to get the kind of information we wanted.”

The aim of the game was to continuously learn what pain points customers were coming up against when interacting with Clarion online, how they can improve, and what they love. Not only does this help with immediate strategy, it builds an evidence base for future planning across the business. It can be hard to get buy-in at board level for specific action and Julie believes the work with Adoreboard facilitates this.

“Talking about a customer’s feelings is much more engaging than talking about an arbitrary number. There’s a perception in the business that it’s worthwhile to persevere with and improve on certain touchpoints but we need to evidence that.”

They’ve already picked up on subjects like accessibility issues with the livechat, with this being the preferred method of communication for those for whom English isn’t a first language. Aspects like adaptable text size and colour contrast, which weren’t on the radar for improvements, have already been marked as trends to focus on which predict a higher boost in CX.

While at the time of writing, Heartbeat has only recently been implemented, these trends are already emerging and a prioritised strategy can be formed.

“We wanted to break information down to different channels: are you more frustrated by email or chatbots? We wanted to prioritise the work we needed to do to improve those channels. I didn’t want to spend a year working on the chatbot if there was somewhere else that needed it more.”

From here on out, Heartbeat, powered by Adoreboard’s platform, provides the Clarion team with insights that predict the main drivers of CX throughout their digital footprint.

Working with Adoreboard

Julie doesn’t hold back in her praise for Adoreboard on this project – it’s enough to make us blush!

“Every technical barrier we came up against from our side, they went away and found a solution for us and allowed us to do it without losing any of the positive impact it was going to have.”

The partnership between Clarion and Adoreboard has meant that new research initiatives and strategy have accelerated well beyond expected rates as well. This matters so much when people’s homes and living conditions are being discussed, so it makes a real practical difference.

“Sometimes these kinds of changes take a long time and we’ve done this in the space of less than a year. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this without Adoreboard.”

This relationship went beyond technical expertise and infrastructure, Clarion’s entire psychological approach to feedback gathering was optimised after drawing on the Adoreboard team’s years of collective experience analysing emotional data.

We had a whole session on the best way to ask a question. It was a really insightful day where we were taught how to write a question to illicit the kind of information we wanted. We wouldn’t have ever thought about doing it that way.

So what’s next for clarion and Adoreboard?

While Julie and the digital team kickstarted the predictive insights revolution at Clarion, this hasn’t gone unnoticed around the organisation. Colleagues from other teams have begun seeing the immediate effects of the Heartbeat functionality and have asked for a similar feedback loop to accurately predict how they can best improve the experience of their customer touchpoints.

“We’ve found that for areas of business that have recently been launched or enhanced, surveys offer a solution to check whether those changes have met the objectives set out in the first place.”  

We can’t wait to see where the Heartbeat system and Adoreboard’s predictive insights take Clarion’s CX strategy moving forward. It’s become a perfect partnership and a real success story to see Clarion’s vision for a truly customer centric approach take shape so quickly.

Read the Clarion housing association case study here.

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