Newlon Housing Trust provides more than 8,000 affordable homes across north and east London.
Their housing including social rent housing, accommodation for key workers, Shared Ownership properties for first-time buyers and supported housing for people with a wide range of additional needs.
Their Service Centre handles thousands of phone and email enquiries a month – helping residents report issues, request repairs and manage their rental payments. It is also where residents can find work, with Newlon promoting employment opportunities to those keen to learn new skills and support their community. In fact, around 60 per cent of Newlon’s contact centre advisers are residents.
We caught up with Assistant Director of Housing, Matthew Phillips, to learn more about their operation and how Puzzel has helped expand and support their services.
Specialising in quality care
Working in the affordable housing sector, Newlon strives to provide its residents with quality service focused on care. They encourage their advisers to take their time in resolving issues and to show an understanding of the problems residents face.
“We’re not in a sales environment, so we prefer people to take a bit longer and help the residents through the problem with empathy. We’re really focused on quality, so we monitor calls and check them off against our quality checklist,” Matthew explained.
To help boost efficiency, Newlon matches its advisers with the channels best suited to their skills. “At the moment, we’ve got certain advisers dealing with enquiries via email because they are better suited to this channel. Other colleagues have a good telephone manner, so they look after our voice channel,” Matthew said.
But in the future, Newlon hopes to introduce a formal training programme where advisers can develop specialities in certain areas and really hone their skills. “The next step is to start bringing specialisms into our contact centre. We’d need to create a training program, bring people in with specialities, and then direct traffic to them accordingly – something made possible through Puzzel. It’s an opportunity for the advisers to grow and develop while providing a great customer experience,” Matthew said.
“Newlon’s Service Centre is regarded throughout the organisation as a good training ground for staff, where they can gain experience in all services and learn the roles of each department. Many colleagues have been able to progress through the organisation after starting their careers there”, Matthew said.
Teaming up with Puzzel
Newlon began working with Puzzel in 2019 with an ambition to improve its digital customer service and gain deeper insight into its performance. Puzzel ticked all the boxes, offering an omnichannel solution with robust reporting and analytics that could be scaled to suit their needs.
“I was looking around for a solution to put all the channels together and give us an overview of what’s coming in, how it’s managed and how quickly we respond,” Matthew explained. “One of the reasons we went with Puzzel was because it really gave us that modular approach.”
Puzzel has also helped Newlon enable its advisers to work from home during the coronavirus lockdown. Since March, they have been logging into their Puzzel software remotely and responding to phone enquiries via their computers.
“Without Puzzel, we wouldn’t have been able to run our call centre remotely as we didn’t have the means to do it. We were very fortunate that we had softphones enabled and the access that we did. It saved us in a way!” Matthew said.
“Our contact centre staff have absolutely loved it. Many of them have wanted the flexibility to work from home for ages and they’ve really proved themselves,” he added. “Some of our employees have requested some quite unusual working hours that are actually outside of our normal operating hours, but which fit with their family requirements. We’ve got some advisers logging in on a Sunday afternoon when we’re not open for calls but can answer emails.”
“Another benefit of working from home is we’re not limited by the number of desks in our office. We can have 20 part-time agents working all sorts of hours using Puzzel anywhere. It’s given us total agility that we didn’t have before.”
Growing and expanding
Going forward, Newlon hopes to build on its success by expanding its self-service capabilities and opening new channels.
“I want us to provide great self-service so that customers can access services at a time that suits them, not us. That means giving customers a lot more choice in channels,” Matthew said.