A better digital experience benefits our customers in more ways than one

In the next few weeks Orbit is launching its new, updated digital customer portal, myAccount. Here, Director of Customer Services at Orbit, Louise Palese, tells us how changing customer expectations have shaped Orbit’s new digital self-serve portal.

Our first customer portal was launched over 10 years ago and since then we’ve seen significant changes to society’s digital usage and expectations. Our customers are getting younger and many of them, whatever their age, are getting more tech savvy. Most notably, people of all ages are much more used to using apps on smart phones or tablets for services like online banking or live chats to discuss utility services. Customers today expect digital accessibility and, understandably, we’re being compared to other retailers and service providers, who are leading the way in digital ecommerce and online services.          

We knew from customer surveys and portal usage reports that less than 10% of customers were logging on to the old portal, and those who did were primarily checking their balance. Feedback from customers was that the previous portal was hard to navigate with simple tasks, such as booking repairs, complicated and hard to do, with many customers saying it was quicker and easier for them to phone a contact centre.

Compare this to the growth of online retail and the massive focus on the digital customer experience, and this seemed like a huge missed opportunity for Orbit and our customers. But before embarking on changing our online offer, we wanted to really understand what the appetite for digital services was within our customer-base, and what our customers need and want from us in this area.

We therefore conducted a focus groups and customer research to specifically explore attitudes and usage of portals. We found that 85% of respondents said if they had a user-friendly portal, they’d use it, and the data told us that the there was a significant opportunity to increase the percentage of customers interacting with us online if we improved our digital self-service platform.

This led to the development of myAccount, our new self-serve portal, which allows our customers, be they leaseholders, shared owners or social renters, to manage their account digitally 24/7 and we have set ourselves a target to reach of 70% customer usage over time. It’s quite an ambitious goal, but we know that if we deliver the right user experience and service, it is achievable and that’s what we’re working towards with myAccount.

The customer research has also been a key factor in the development of myAccount functionality with the insights gleaned helping to transform the portal’s look and feel, and massively enhancing the user experience. As a result, the language and terminology used throughout is consistent, user options are simple and easy to understand, and our new repairs module is more straightforward for customers to use; we’ve also added a new enquiries module, which wasn’t there before.

We could also see from our data that there were much higher levels of engagement from customers who self-registered, so our new portal allows for  self-registration with users also having the ability to reset their username and password at any time, reducing user access issues.

myAccount is a huge improvement on what went before, but it is very much the first step on a longer digital journey. Once it goes live, we will be seeking feedback from customers to understand what further changes they’d like, and we’ll be monitoring customer usage and feedback through our continuous improvement programmes.

Of course, we know some people will never want to interact online, and that’s fine too. The improvements to myAccount allow us to free up the time and resource of our face-to-face customer service teams so we can ensure we’re utilising our human resource to the best of its ability. By taking more of these day-to-day transactions for customers online, it means our real-life employees can focus  on adding value to more significant or complicated issues, so the benefits of a better digital experience are felt by all our customers at every touchpoint in the customer journey.