As our business, teams and stakeholders have quickly adapted to new ways of working, we wanted to discover the creative ways that we have continued to drive forward our business in a lockdown.
We have spoken to our own experts to find out how their day-to-day duties have been impacted by social distancing measures. Over the coming weeks, they will be sharing the biggest challenges they are facing and the measures they are taking to keep delivering in lockdown – from leasing industrial and logistics units to virtual-selling new homes.
Jane White, Customer Experience Director for St. Modwen Homes, shares how her team has had to adapt quickly to a new world of ‘virtual’ selling.
“I am Jane White and I joined St. Modwen Homes in early March this year, just a few weeks ahead of the lockdown, as Customer Experience Director. I am a member of the St. Modwen Homes Board and the Senior Management Team, responsible for ensuring we are constantly creating and delivering the highest level of Customer Experience for all our customers.”
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a result of the lockdown and social distancing measures?
“On a personal level, the biggest challenge has been starting a new role in a new business remotely.
“Thankfully, I had the opportunity to visit a few sites and meet lots of the team who are not only dedicated and talented, but also very helpful and welcoming. The site visits showed me the quality of our homes and the engrained focus on safety and the customer.
“On a customer and team level, initially the challenge in St. Modwen Homes was to ensure that we were in a position to consistently deliver a great experience for our existing customers who were anxiously waiting to move into their new home, or had recently moved in. This is despite not having people on our sites or being able to visit customers in their homes. Communication and teamwork, together with an absolute desire to ensure we delivered the best service for our customers, was essential during this time and I am proud of how well we coped.
“We all then very quickly moved into thinking about our virtual/digital marketing and sales offer and tools. This included finding new ways to continue to help customers search, choose and reserve their new home online, and provide tools to help customer and sales teams.”
What changes, adaptations or new measures have been required in order for you to keep delivering effectively under lockdown?
“Despite the current environment, there are still lots of potential homeowners out there looking, so it was key that we quickly adapted our virtual offer and how we communicated our product.
“Our sales and marketing teams quickly created lots of new items to help provide that virtual experience. This includes making videos of most of our house types available on the website and the sales teams video calling customers to talk through homes and floorplans. Customers can easily request call backs and we created a new reserve remotely offer, which allows customers to reserve their house over the phone.
“We also now have 360 interactive tours available on several schemes, available online via our website and on Rightmove. They are also available as a link for the sales team to be able to send to customers for a virtual ‘walk’ around the house.
“The key to the team’s success on sales has been the combination of both a personal and digital approach. The web tools, such as our new virtual tours, help customers to be inspired, view the homes virtually and then ask for more information. It’s then the video calls, sending photos and having conversations with customers which converts it. It’s this hand-in-hand approach and personal touch that has ensured we’re still able to provide an excellent customer experience. Our sales teams have had to adapt to doing ‘face-to-face’ sales in a completely different way.
“I will be working with our teams over the coming weeks to see how we can further embrace virtual selling and the digital environment, which will improve our customer experience even more. After all, UK consumers have become much more digitally aware during this lockdown and this is not likely to change.”
How have your stakeholders adapted and how are you maintaining relationships during this time?
“Constant communication with both our existing customers who have reserved, exchanged or recently moved into their new homes has been essential. We have been reassuring them, to help and provide support and ensure they move into their new home. This has been a team effort, but one we can see from the customer feedback is really appreciated.
“For customers just beginning their search, communication and virtual tools have also been essential. For the sales team it has been a constant approach of ensuring we are there to help and support but also aware of customers who just don’t want to be discussing a new home during this period. The customer service team is really experienced at these conversations so able to ensure they consistently deliver the best service.
“The team has also been incredibly connected to those customers with maintenance needs. In the event of an emergency call-out, the necessary processes are in place. The team are also engaged with those customers that don’t have emergency issues, offering support and clear guidance throughout this difficult period.”
How has your team had to adapt to remote working?
“Some of us were used to working from home, but probably more on a day to ‘catch up’ on work rather than doing the day job. But even with experience of working from home, major change and adaptation has been needed. Everyone has done incredibly well at this and the IT systems have been seamless.
“Regular meetings over Microsoft Teams has been essential, not only for great communication but also for the feeling of being part of a team. We all miss the work environment and direct engagement with our colleagues and Teams allows us to keep that feeling of being all together despite being apart. In many ways, the same is true of our communication and engagement with customers.”