Customer Satisfaction and Service Quality
Customer satisfaction is instrumental in the success of a company. For us, this is mainly associated with the question of whether our tenants feel at home in their apartments and residential environments and whether they feel that they are treated fairly by us as their landlord. Here, the quality of customer care and services plays a major role. Our experience shows that accessibility, speed and transparency in service are decisive factors for meeting customer expectations.
Our customer service team plays a particularly important role as the primary point of contact for our customers. Our customer service department’s main task is to provide fast and uncomplicated assistance and to support our customers in a wide variety of matters. More than 800 employees working in two service centers in Essen (previously in Duisburg) and Dresden are available to our customers through a variety of channels. By choosing these two locations, we also want to express our commitment to two of the large housing portfolios that Vonovia has – in Dresden and in the Ruhr region.
Direct contact with our tenants and getting them involved, e.g., in community developments, are valuable opportunities for us to learn about their wants and make them a part of our decision-making process. On site, caretakers and our own craftsmen, for example, take care of our tenants’ concerns. This allows us to ensure a fast and reliable service and increase acceptance of our measures. We also conduct regular surveys to ascertain the wishes and needs of our customers. The related customer satisfaction index (CSI) was included in the sustainability performance index in 2020 as one of six non-financial performance indicators. It therefore has an impact on the remuneration of our top management and the Management Board.
In addition to personal contact, the digitalization of our services that address customer concerns is an important field for us in order to make accessibility even faster, more convenient, and flexible. This is why we are continuing to expand self-service functions such as our “My Vonovia” customer app. Protecting the data and privacy of our customers is always our top priority, because this is the only way we can build trust. In this sense, every Vonovia employee is called upon to actively contribute to improving customer satisfaction and to fulfilling the company’s service promise.
Responsibility for the customer service center lies with the CRO. While customer satisfaction is assigned to the central customer service center in strategic terms, it affects all customer-facing operating departments and is ensured by each and every Vonovia employee. Designing and controlling the customer app and the customer portal is also the responsibility of the central customer service center.
In Austria, responsibility for customer satisfaction lies with the quality management team, who report the results of the customer surveys to the departments and to management on an ongoing basis and derive appropriate measures from this.
Objectives & Measures
The goal of Vonovia is to increase customer satisfaction by continuously improving its services and products.
Customer satisfaction is measured using a quarterly customer survey and is reflected in the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI). The survey includes aspects such as image, loyalty and overall satisfaction. We use it to collect feedback on customer care, maintenance and modernization measures, the residential building and outdoor facilities, and necessary repairs. The results are then analyzed by all of our operational departments. Measures are then derived based on customer feedback, implemented, and reviewed to further improve service quality.
In 2021, Vonovia reached an all-time high in the CSI. This success is further reflected in an award given by analysis institute AktivBo, which Vonovia received in the fiscal year under review as the company with the largest improvement in the service index. The aim is to cement this positive trend on a permanent basis. BUWOG in Austria and Victoriahem in Sweden also carry out regular customer satisfaction surveys. Looking forward, we aim to introduce a harmonized CSI in Germany, Sweden and Austria in order to be able to compare the results of the individual surveys.
In Austria, we also use customer satisfaction surveys as a tool, primarily online for all new construction projects in Vienna and for 5–10% of the portfolio every year. The results are discussed directly with the departments in order to develop suggestions for improvement. Measures are always implemented using a feedback loop and include a report to management. We create transparency for our customers with regard to the results of these measures, e.g., by posting notices or allowing them to contact our community developers personally. Based on customer feedback and the optimization potential identified in the process of handling complaints, we also develop training courses for employees in Austria to enhance their skills in dealing with customers.
In Sweden, too, customer satisfaction is a fundamental benchmark for all business processes. The aim is to achieve ongoing positive development in the CSI. Indicators such as the vacancy rate and tenant fluctuation support our analyses in this regard.
To achieve our customer satisfaction target and to be able to offer our customers a transparent and fast service, we are continuously working on improving our customer service. This includes direct contact with tenants, expanding self-service functions in order to provide round-the-clock service and, in Austria, improving the website to include customer-relevant topics, and designing barrier-free customer communication. In 2021, we considerably increased the telephone availability of our customer services team, thereby significantly reducing waiting times.
performance metric 2021
In order to further boost flexibility and speed, we are pressing ahead with the digitalization of our service functions. The key channel in this regard is the tenant app, which has already been downloaded more than 325,000 times and is used actively by some 92,000 users. In 2021, we added two new features to the app – the digital lease agreement and the apartment search (see project box “Digital Tenant Service: Expanding the Customer App”). As a result, the entire customer journey can now be shown in the app: from searching for an apartment and scheduling viewing appointments through to digital contract drafting, ancillary expense bills and all other topics for existing customers. In the future, the app will be expanded to include additional features such as consumption data that can be read remotely. The systematic implementation of digital solutions also helps the environment and has already enabled us to save more than a million sheets of paper.
Due to the fact that a large proportion of our customer service processes have been digitalized, we are still able to provide a high level of service despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Our customer service team addresses a wide range of concerns, the majority being everyday questions related to tenancy agreements and heating and operating cost statements. We also provide a wide range of special promotions for our customers. For example, telephone campaigns were conducted to offer elderly tenants assistance with shopping or to organize meal deliveries.
The knowledge database for employees in Austria went live in the fall of 2021 as planned. This will help these employees to provide assistance for customers that is even more efficient and effective in order to contribute to customer satisfaction. We intend to launch a customer platform for owners and tenants in Austria in spring 2022.
During the reporting year, the customer service team relocated from Duisburg to Essen in response to the requests provided by colleagues in the employee survey. The new site provides a wide range of meeting and training rooms, is easier to divide up and has better acoustics and better air. The team in Dresden also moved, but stayed within the city.