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Digital Customer Relationship Management

People are living their lives quite differently in the digital age: it has become the norm to carry electronic devices wherever we go, whether on our way to work, exercising or on holiday.

The option of using our smartphones for online banking, ticket reservations and myriad other tasks while on the move has led to a shift in expectations and demands in the field of customer relationships too. In addition to overcoming the major challenges facing the housing sector, including demographic change and energy-related renovation, the (digitally structured) relationship to the tenant as customer is increasingly taking centre stage in the strategic and practical deliberations of housing companies.

The latter are focusing their attentions on the following key goals: optimising customer and service orientation, increasing efficiency and cutting costs, achieving process and cost transparency and, in the final analysis, positioning themselves clearly in the market and setting themselves apart from the competition. In the digital age, a customer relationship management strategy capable of taking shifts in consumer behaviour into account has become a key factor in maintaining a competitive edge.

Digital customer data: having all information constantly to hand

Given access to digitally archived documents and transactions, whichever employee is tasked with dealing with incoming customer queries is always in a position to gain an overview of business relations between potential customer or tenant and landlord or housing company to date, and to dispense the specific information requested. The outcome of every conversation is recorded transparently in digital form.

This approach is followed throughout, from the initial contact, via subsequent handover to the future tenant, all the way to his or her moving in. Customers wish to be given the option of selecting their preferred communication channel from the outset. This means that housing companies have to be contactable by various means: via the website and by
e-mail, as well as in social networks and tenant portals.

The chain of digital contact options starts with the management of prospective customers. Even potential tenants require digital services and offers when searching for a suitable apartment. The offers advertised on property portals or proprietary online platforms should provide the option of making direct digital contact with the respective housing company – and ideally, this should enable the housing company’s systems to capture the prospective customer’s data at the same time. 

Linking queries of this nature – and subsequently digital files, ERP and CRM systems – with modern communication channels on which communication with the customer can continue thereafter makes for rapid and reliable responses. The electronic tenant file can easily have other relevant digital documents, such as PDF files, photos and task lists, added to it. This ensures that staff not only have the general basic data to hand, but are quickly furnished with further information on the case in question. Tenant service and customer dialogue can be combined smoothly here without having to switch systems or media. Moreover, landlords also benefit from the direct exchange with their customers thanks to the digitalisation – and hence streamlining – of their work and communication processes. This cuts costs, and ideally also creates more scope for less standardised tasks over the entire customer relationship cycle.

Digital customer relationships: added value for all those involved

For tenants, the extensive integration of IT systems used for customer relationship management means a better all-round service experience. They can use a tenant portal to read their rental contact or latest service charge statement at any time and can raise questions whenever it suits them best. A constantly engaged service phone line or limited branch opening hours – restrictive factors when it comes to customer dialogue – are now a thing of the past. Thanks to Aareon’s digital solutions, damage reports considered urgent by tenants – for instance regarding defective light switches in the stairwell or broken doorbells – are automatically routed to the staff member in charge, whose system displays the notifications as they are received, enabling them to be dealt with efficiently. Some companies take this idea one step further, authorising tenants to place orders with tradespeople for an agreed number of hours.

If the tenant cannot be contacted directly, the response takes a digital form, for instance as an e-mail. The electronic mailbox in the tenant portal ensures that the tenant can retrieve the information at his or her own convenience.

Flexible use anywhere and at any time: the tenant app

Digital mobility is an increasingly important aspect, so the development of a customer app that provides all the main services on a smartphone as an extension of the conventional CRM portal is an entirely logical step. The app is a convenient way for tenants to check the processing status of their query or access contracts at any time, even on the go, without having to run up a PC especially for the purpose.

What’s more, people’s need for online dialogue has grown as digitalisation has taken hold in general – and this applies to tenants in a housing complex too. Tenant apps also provide community functions that allow local residents to set up an exchange site or debate issues affecting the neighbourhood within a tight-knit community in which people know one another and to which access is clearly regulated. Tenants can use a collective calendar to look up dates of important events, such as building work or tenants’ parties, and find out when the electricity meter has to be read – if this still has to be done manually. Personal push notifications familiar to smartphone users from other applications ensure that messages reach tenants even if the latter fail to consult their app regularly.

Housing company staff also benefit from the app because important messages can be passed on quickly to numerous tenants without having to be sent many times over. Once a particular group of recipients has been selected, the notifications are forwarded directly to customers’ smartphones. As with the portal, the app offers selective control over which queries should ideally be delivered to which housing company employees, thereby ensuring that the mobile dialogue is also conducted by those familiar with the background to the respective case.

In particular, the option of location or camera sharing on mobile devices potentially paves the way for further interesting housing company services, location-based services among them. These would enable tenants to look up the location of the nearest launderette in their neighbourhood, or to find a decent Italian restaurant in an unfamiliar city quickly and easily.

Future-oriented customer relationship management for all target groups

Is there a risk of individual tenant groups being marginalised by this digitalisation of customer dialogue? Not according to demographic trends. Surfing the net is no longer a question of age, although there are age-related discrepancies in online habits. Younger people tend to seek digital dialogue with others, while older folk prefer to search for specific information and self-explanatory service offerings. But all age groups now expect to be able to use digital services, and interest in being able to keep an eye on consumption figures for heating, water and electricity at all times is correspondingly high. The digital capture of such data and their rapid availability is now also governed by law. What could be more reasonable than to pass on this data – which is available anyhow – to tenants in the interests of good customer service?

All those involved benefit from digitalisation of the entire customer relationship life cycle, which enables landlords to maintain and track all dialogues, from tenant acquisition and support all the way to service and customer development, in a single system. There is no longer any need to search for information at length. Tenants, too, are aware of the fact that they will receive a response to queries or be informed of processing statuses faster than ever before. Thus, the timely digitalisation of CRM processes ensures customer satisfaction – as well as the future viability of the respective housing company. 

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