Opinion: How AI can improve the tenant engagement experience

With ever-stricter regulations on tenant engagement looming, housing associations have begun to utilise the power of AI to meet these expectations, says Rosie Watts, Customer Success Manager at Orlo.

The big question I hear time and time again from housing associations is: how do we improve tenants’ ability to self-serve through the application of AI? AI can be daunting, especially if it’s not implemented correctly, whether that be too much too soon, or staff not being trained properly.

Rosie Watts from Orlo

Rosie Watts from Orlo

For the strategy to work, everyone within the organisation should understand the reason behind the adoption of AI within the business to reduce the fear factor. It’s important to note that AI should not be seen as a human replacement, but rather as an enhancement to the contact centre, as having the option to handover to a person is key to success. 

Understanding the need for AI

AI offers the potential to help housing organisations use limited resources more effectively and improve how they deliver services, especially during periods of intense financial pressure.

AI can help to improve ROI, as it allows human resources to spend their time on cases that really matter. If we strip the role of a housing association’s first response agent down to what their core responsibilities are, it’s about providing a single source of truth and delivering the expected level of care for the tenant. 

If for example 80% of inbound enquiries are FAQs around easily accessible resources and the other 20% require a deeper level of understanding and care, then AI could be your secret weapon. Digitally deflecting the majority of inbound enquiries with seamless customer service for tenants allows agents to excel in their roles and step in when a human approach and particular expertise are needed. 

Rest assured, adopting a self-service approach is still very much a tenant-first approach, with team efficiencies to boot. AI-powered technologies such as Live Chat and Chatbots are easing the burden on agents and helping manage increased inbound demand around common enquiries such as rent payment, maintenance requests or account balances, empowering tenants to self-serve 24/7. The result – queries can be solved quickly, at scale, and agents are freed up to handle more complex interactions coming in via other channels or that require a human touch.

AI is powered by you

When using AI, it is wrong to assume that it doesn’t require a level of training and learning, as human resources are often still needed. Although Chatbots are great for providing real-time service for FAQ queries, it’s important to get those FAQs in order.

AI Chatbots are only as clever as the information you feed into them, so consider the questions your tenants ask regularly and where you can easily signpost to your website to find out more. Also, flexibility is essential – your tenants’ needs and requirements are ever-changing, so be ready to adapt your FAQs in reaction to emerging crises and situations so that you’re ready for any increase in demand.

Furthermore, ChatGPT can also be utilised by comms and marketing teams to create relevant content within seconds, providing inspiration and the right tone of voice for residents. 

How AI is helping with internal operations

Yes, Live Chat and Chatbots are seen as the prevalent use cases of AI in the housing sector but there are so many other uses to help with internal efficiencies that directly impact the tenant. Housing associations can use AI to turn large volumes of data very quickly into actionable insight.

For example, emerging trends and reputational issues that would previously take a human eye hours to discover, can be alerted to all stakeholders within seconds, reducing the risk of issues turning into potential crises.  Here are some examples:

  • Predictive maintenance: AI can be used to predict when maintenance or repairs may be required on properties. By analysing data from IoT sensors, such as temperature sensors or humidity sensors, AI can detect anomalies and alert housing associations to issues before they become major problems. 
  • Resource allocation: Housing associations can use AI algorithms to optimise the allocation of resources such as staff, equipment, and supplies. AI can analyse data on the number of maintenance requests, occupancy rates, and other factors to help housing associations make informed decisions on how to allocate resources. 
  • Fraud detection: AI can help to detect fraudulent activities, such as false insurance claims or fraudulent rental applications. AI algorithms can analyse data and flag any suspicious behaviour, helping housing associations prevent financial losses. 
  • Data analysis: AI can be used to analyse data on tenant satisfaction, occupancy rates, and other factors to help housing associations identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions on future strategies. 

For those in the housing sector, introducing AI into your offering may seem daunting, but done well, a tenant-first approach that provides seamless self-service touch points along their digital journey will, in turn, drive internal efficiencies, a happier workforce and satisfied tenants.

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