A conversation with Rochdale: 'We choose customer focus'

A conversation with Rochdale: 'We choose customer focus'

Every year, the Woningstichting Rochdale customer contact center processes around 220,000 phone calls. Calls vary from simple questions about a broken tap to intense calls about a neighbourly dispute. This asks for certain skills from the employee and a solid contact center solution. CCC Manager Cécile Engelsma and her team work with the Online Contact Center from Mtel.

Housing association Rochdale has 450 employees and owns and manages real estate in the municipalities of Amsterdam, Diemen, Landsmeer, Zaanstad, and Purmerend. This includes 38,000 social housing units and nearly 3,000 other spaces, such as business premises and parking facilities. Furthermore, Rochdale offers owner-occupied housing, often in buildings where a part of the apartments are still rental units. This means the housing association has an important voice in the HOA as well.

Phone Crisis

In 2010, Rochdale underwent a major reorganisation. The two call centers were merged into a single customer contact center. The aim was not only to work more efficiently but, more importantly, to improve the service to the customer. In other words, this resulted in big changes. Cécile explains: 'We also had to deal with a serious telephone crisis, because customers who called us often ended up on a dead trail. They got stuck somewhere in the system and could not get out. Of course, for an organisation like ours, that is unacceptable. Rochdale wants to be accessible and available to its customers via various communication channels. Therefore, it was time to have a full overhaul of our telephone system so that our customers no longer got lost.'

“We also had to deal with a serious telephone crisis, because customers who called us often ended up on a dead trail.”

Solid Foundation

Instead of renovating the existing telephone system, Rochdale decided to switch to a completely new solution. Given the enormous amount of tasks and the diversity of questions, it was important to establish a solid foundation for Rochdale’s services. 'After all, housing is a necessity of life. If something is wrong with your home, you want to have it resolved as soon as possible. Customers often choose personal contact by phone so they can get additional explanations along with their questions. In addition, not every customer is comfortable using online channels. Language also plays a role sometimes. In that case, explaining a problem verbally is easier than explaining it in writing.'

Choose Customer Focus

All that knowledge and skill requires the support of a good phone system. With an ongoing telephone crisis and the customer service being under pressure, Rochdale wanted to take a drastically different approach. No more use of their own hardware and a regular supplier, but a true partner, going from 10 lines to 5, good reporting, a fast management module, and ample opportunities for adapting the system to future developments. 'After a selection procedure that lasted 3 months, we finally arrived at the Online Contact Center solution by Mtel. A SaaS (Software as a Service) solution that met all our requirements and is also cost-efficient. Our main reason for choosing Mtel, however, was because of its customer orientation. What really sets them apart is thinking with you and giving you the attention you need as a client. They are there when you need them, and that is truly refreshing.'

“What really sets Mtel apart is thinking with you and giving you the attention you need as a client.”

Uniform Knowledge

Barely a year after the introduction of the OCC, Rochdale started the "Customer Program". The focus shifted toward the customer even more. This process eventually led to the need for Mtel’s OCC to be linked to a Customer Tracking System (CTS) by a different provider. 'Thanks to the "Customer Program", our customer vision has become clear and we have started making our processes more customer-oriented. For instance, a telephone customer contact ending up on a dead trail is technically no longer possible. Organisational work agreements should prevent that Rochdale employees are still inaccessible to the customer. There are still improvements to be made here. Since March 2013, all incoming customer contacts go through the Customer Contact Center and we are working with a knowledge and customer tracking system, which allows us to see all customer contacts at a glance. This can be both in writing or on the phone, even physically at the counter or with an employee in the neighbourhood. The system also contains an extensive knowledge bank. This allows us to serve our customers in a uniform way. Employees can also handle complaints or questions more easily, without the need to call for help from their colleagues on the second line.'

Two Systems, One Idea

The great challenge was to link the knowledge and customer tracking system with Mtel’s OCC. This was a voyage of discovery for both parties, as it was the first time that such a link had been made. But even during this process, the cooperation turned out to be smooth. 'Integrating different IT solutions can be a nightmare. On top of all that, at Rochdale, we wanted to do something that had not been done before. Fortunately, Mtel vigorously went to work with Rochdale and other partners to achieve a good end product. As a result, we now work with a unique and great solution, and I can look back at what we have collectively achieved with pride and satisfaction.'

“Fortunately, Mtel vigorously went to work with Rochdale and other partners to achieve a good end product.”

Warm Transfer

Thanks to this connection, the appropriate customer card, based on caller ID, will immediately show up in the knowledge and customer tracking system with any incoming telephone contact. One of the most notable new options since the two systems have been linked is the so-called "warm transfer". If the customer contact center cannot answer a question, the telephone customer contact is routed to the right colleague on the 2nd line, based on the complex number and the subject. 'Thanks to the linking of the two systems, the customer information screens also go to the second line. This means the colleague immediately knows what the call is about, and the customer does not need to tell the same story twice. In addition, my colleagues from the first and second line can also consult each other. You do not notice this as a customer. Except, of course, for the fact that you are transferred to the right person immediately and that this person knows exactly what is going on - even if you have called before.'

Positive Development

Working with a completely new system and a different approach takes some getting used to. Especially within a large organisation like Rochdale which, to improve its services, is engaged in a cultural shift and a change in mentality. But many positive steps have been taken. 'In 2011, we were dealing with a failure rate of 20%, whereas now we can help 91% of callers. We have also gone from 400,000 to 250,000 calls per year, and our accessibility is ever increasing. First line handling has also improved: this is now at 72%. Eventually, Rochdale wants to handle 80% of all customer questions directly in the Customer Contact Center. To achieve this, a lot of knowledge must still be transferred from the 2nd line to the Customer Contact Center.'

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