ForHousing is a forward-thinking social organisation whose members own and manage more than 24,000 homes across the North West.
ForHousing is about improving lives for communities, customers, and staff, delivering excellent quality, affordable accommodation, and housing services across the region.
Committed to creating positive opportunities for its customers, ForHousing build much needed affordable homes, empower people to gain training, secure employment, whilst also providing access to health and wellbeing support, creating sustainable and safe communities.
Amillan have worked closely with ForHousing (and the wider ForViva Group) since the introduction of a new multichannel contact centre platform in 2016 and have become a valuable technology partner, helping them in delivering their commitments to provide high customer satisfaction. In 2019 Amillan began a partnership with Converse360 who offer an innovative virtual assistant solution built upon an industry leading service automation platform.
ForHousing were looking to reduce costs within their current contact centre solution whilst also maintaining and increasing customer satisfaction for their tenants. They have a customer service team that are extremely busy, with most tenant interactions provided through a manual process. This meant agents were handling thousands of incoming voice calls, email enquiries and webchat sessions every month, with the number of interactions continually increasing due to the pressures of Covid-19.
ForHousing have always strived to improve how they communicate with their tenants by utilising the latest digital communication technology, they recognized these technologies could help uncover more efficient ways of delivering their current services, streamline processes and reduce costs.
As with most Housing Associations, voice is still the media platform of choice, however this meant only limited services could be offered to tenants at night or at weekends. ForHousing wanted to continue offering voice but also promote new media channels such as Web Chat and expansion into social media. Providing additional channels would allow many tenants to perform self service, which after extensive research they concluded could easily handle simple questions and by following workflows they could even provide interactive responses for more in-depth processes.
ForHousing were looking for automation which could deliver the following benefits:
ForHousing recognised that the key to providing this service successfully is avoid creating a technology silo, the automation needed to integrate with wider business and communications environment (Housing Management Systems, CRM, Contact Centre) and be able to communicate across all media channels that the audience require.
ForHousing engaged Amillan as their contact centre partner of choice, to assist with the automation project. Amillan worked with Converse360 to provide a Service Automation Platform that can deliver Web Bots, Speech Bots and Digital Humans, seamlessly integrating with the Enghouse Interactive Contact Centre Platform which was already used at ForHousing.
It was proposed to set up a dedicated Cloud based instance of this platform for an initial period of 12 months which will provide the evidence required to show the cost savings achievable whilst improving excellent customer service standards for ForHousing’s tenants. This period would also allow ForHousing to plan for the expansion of services, with potential integration into housing management and other CRM or knowledge-based systems.
Following acceptance of the proposal ForHousing were extremely keen to progress the solution as quickly as possible and wanted to be fully involved in building the FAQ’s and Workflows for the solution. Amillan provided ForHousing with extensive user training, split over several sessions, thus making sure the ForHousing staff had the knowledge, ability, and tools to be self-sufficient to build new FAQ’s and Workflows.
The platform is based on embeds technology from the four leading conversational AI vendors; AWS, Google, IBM Watson and Microsoft, therefore if ForHousing’s requirements evolve going forward, the “Best of Breed” solution can pivot to meet the new requirements.
The training was also followed by a workshop to gather in greater detail the ForHousing requirements around colour schemes, company branding, opening, and closing statements and the general design for the ForHousing Web Bot. The name and design of the Web Bot was devised through tenant consultation and the tenants voted to call the Bot “Zippy” to give a friendly, more personable public persona to the Bot.
ForHousing created most of the FAQ’s and Workflows for Zippy themselves, utilising the Contact Centre team to build them. The feedback from ForHousing was that process was very easy, enabling self-sufficiency with Amillan and Converse360’s technical team on hand to assist if required. ForHousing found the Bot solution easy to build and only needed to involve the IT Department when Zippy was ready to Go Live and a simple line of code was added to ForHousing’s Web Page.
The workflows that ForHousing built cover:
A testing instance of Zippy which was identical to the final solution was provided during implementation, this allowed ForHousing to review the look and feel before go-live. Testing itself took a couple of weeks, making sure the workflows functioned correctly and adjusting them where necessary.
Zippy’s Go Live was on the 19th October and tenants began embracing the Web Bot’s features instantly.
Zippy has been trained to respond to enquiries across a range of topics and there are multiple workflows where the questions asked lead to additional detailed information being requested before responding.
ForHousing wanted to reduce the number of routine FAQ calls which come through from tenants to the Contact Centre and as such would point the tenants to Zippy for self-service.
ForHousing also wanted to reduce agent chat time, so when an enquiry does get through to an agent, Zippy has gathered all the relevant information and able to transfer this to the live agent, when required.
Zippy can offer the tenant the option to speak to a customer advisor at any time and should the Virtual Assistant not understand the tenants request, then Zippy will hand-off to a Live Agent to continue the conversation. If the tenant clicks the agent button the system will engage with the Contact Centre, which will look at agent availability, advise the tenant of the estimated wait time and route the chat to a live agent.
In the first week Zippy had:
Now Zippy has had time to ‘bed in’ the statistics are surpassing all expectations.
A review of the monthly statistics are as follows:
Summary of Statistics
Total Time Saved every month equates to 391 Hours or 52 Days or 2.6 Agents
The statistics show that Zippy is answering most tenants’ questions without agent involvement. As the Web Bot is being constantly trained by the ForHousing staff, Zippy will be able to answer even more questions in the future.
ForHousing have already seen the benefits of the Web Bot solution deployed, providing potential cost savings as well as the increase in customer satisfaction.
ForHousing, Amillan and Converse360 are looking to expand Zippy into Phase Two, with integration into Aareon QL, ForHousing’s housing management system. This would mean that tenants could use the Web Bot to:
ForHousing continue to seek new ways to innovate and improve their customer service with communication and automation technology. A Speech Bot version of Zippy is being considered to intelligently automate voice responses by phone. Also, ForHousing are considering other add-ons for both Web and Speech, such as the customer survey feature.