Deutsche Wohnen has around 151,000 apartments in its portfolio – so there’s always something to clear up. To deal with queries more quickly and efficiently, Deutsche Wohnen has centralised its customer service. Janina Teuber, Head of the Customer Service Centre, and Feedback Management team leader Sven Schröter explain why careful management of information and communication are key to what they do.
The Customer Service Centre handled around 115,000 customer contacts in 2021. If you could give an example that quickly sums up why the centre works, what would it be?
Around a third of people who call us already have a solution for their query after their first call, as we offer them points of contact who listen and are forward-thinking and ready for action. We ensure that information is proactively provided to us, particularly on technical disruptions. By way of example, this means that if a tenant calls and reports that the lift isn’t working, we can see in the live update system that we’re already aware of the damage and someone is being sent to deal with it. This gives the tenant clarity in just one call.
We also get a lot of positive feedback. We receive praise from customers for 10% of roughly 350 reports we deal with in Feedback Management each month. The results of our annual tenant survey also show we’re on the right track!
But nevertheless, complaints happen – how do you deal with them?
Communication is always top priority – so we deal with information in a transparent way. If customers need to follow up on a query several times, of course they’ll be unhappy. Experience clearly shows that transparency and sharing information in a timely manner in advance ensures that this dissatisfaction doesn’t arise in the first place. However, if it then comes to a complaint, a process with clear responsibilities now ensures swift de-escalation. It helps that we now usually have all the information to hand and are ready to provide it.
Information, there’s a key word: you and your colleagues can only do your jobs properly if you have all the facts at your fingertips. Surely that’s not so easy to arrange in such a big organisation.
Thanks to centralisation, the different divisions are now pretty well connected. My team also use their network within the organisation to access information and updates swiftly in individual cases. However, standardised processes and defined standards are also important. They now allow us to process customer queries more quickly and efficiently. We are constantly examining our processes – if they don’t work in practice, we change them.
What is the role of Feedback Management in the Customer Service Centre?
The team receives positive and critical feedback from our customers and focuses specifically on complex or unusual issues that cannot be resolved satisfactorily using standard processes. Often, we just pick up the phone and call the customer straight away, as that’s a quicker way to resolve and clear up many things. Social networks also play a key role. Here, we’ve established a process that also allows us to answer customer enquiries that reach us over social media. Even if we don’t always have a solution straight away, it’s important to show customers that we take their queries seriously and we’re here for them. This also helps improve customer satisfaction. We’re grateful for our customers’ feedback. We learn from it, and it helps us keep improving our service.
The Customer Service Centre was set up two years ago as the main point of contact for processing many of our customers’ enquiries. We analysed, standardised, digitised and combined around 60 processes as part of its creation. This means that if a rent certificate is requested, for instance, all steps through to delivery are initiated at the click of a button. The Customer Service Centre consists of five divisions that work together closely:
This is the main port of call for written correspondence from customers. This is where incoming documents are digitised and forwarded to specific departments. On average, we receive around 1,000 written enquiries by letter, fax or email here every day.
The “voice” of Deutsche Wohnen. The aim is to respond to as many enquiries as possible on first contact. On an average day, the team receives around 1,300 calls. If they can’t deal with an enquiry directly, they forward it to the relevant department.
Support for customers with issues relating to technical contractors. This includes, for instance, responding to queries regarding repairs orders and help scheduling meter readers – this amounts to around 140 customer contacts per day.
Processing many written enquiries from customers and authorities regarding apartment lettings. Whether it’s changes to contracts, sublets or requests for information – this division responds to around 100 inquiries per day.
The team processes around 350 positive and critical pieces of feedback from tenants every month, including via our social media channels. This is where cases which couldn’t be satisfactorily resolved through our standard processes end up.