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 neighborhoods and whether they feel that they are treated fairly by us as their landlord. Here, the quality of customer care and services plays a central role. Our experience shows that accessibility, speed and transparency in service are decisive factors for achieving customer satisfaction.
Our central, multilingual (telephone) customer service department acts as the first port of call, whereas our caretakers and craftsmen look after the needs of tenants on location. This allows us to ensure a fast and reliable service and increase acceptance of our measures. We run our own customer service centers in Essen and Dresden, and since January 2023 also in Berlin. This takes the merger with Deutsche Wohnen – and the increase in customers that came with this – into account. The aim is to be able to guarantee the same level of quality for the entire portfolio in Germany. Our customers can reach our staff of more than 1,100 employees through a variety of channels.
Our customer service team addresses a wide range of concerns, the majority being everyday questions related to tenancy agreements, payment difficulties and heating and operating cost statements. Our services also include numerous supplementary initiatives and tips to support our customers.
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 key performance indicators. This is then fed into 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” and “DeuWo Digital” tenant apps. 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.
At Vonovia, responsibility for the central 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. The design and management of the tenant apps are 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 and Measures
The goal of Vonovia is to increase customer satisfaction by continuously improving its services and products.
Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI)
Customer satisfaction is measured using a quarterly customer survey and is reflected in the Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI). It is incorporated into the Management Board’s remuneration as a direct non-financial indicator and component. 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.
Year-on-year, we once again succeeded in achieving an all-time high for Vonovia in the CSI, surpassing the previous year’s result, which at that time had been our best yet. The aim is to continue this positive trend on a permanent basis. BUWOG in Austria and Victoriahem in Sweden also carry out regular customer satisfaction surveys. Satisfaction continues to rise among our Victoriahem tenants according to the latest customer survey, which was performed in cooperation with our partner company AktivBo in Sweden. The clear improvement in our service in comparison with the previous year has led to Victoriahem receiving the “Kundkristallen” award for the second time in a row for the greatest increase in the service index in the category of real estate companies with more than 11,000 homes in Sweden. 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. The first ever consolidated survey on the CSI in Germany, i. e., including Deutsche Wohnen, is scheduled for 2023.
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 neighborhood managers 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 around-the-clock service and, in Austria, improving the website to include customer-relevant topics, and designing barrier-free customer communication.
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 are the tenant apps, which have already been downloaded more than half a million times and are used actively by some 180,000 users. The new features introduced to the app in 2021, the digital lease agreement and digital apartment search, were well received. In 2022, the feature for providing consumption data that can be read remotely was added. As a result, we can show the entire customer journey in the apps: from searching for an apartment and scheduling viewing appointments through to digital contract drafting, ancillary expense bills and all other topics for existing customers. The Vonovia customer app has thus replaced the customer portal, which was previously run in parallel to the app. The portal was closed down at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2022.
We plan to roll out the BUWOG customer app in Austria in 2023. With the expansion of user-oriented elements, the new and improved app is more efficient, offers faster processing times for customer inquiries, and features high-quality information architecture.