The Property Ombudsman (TPO) managed to handle 68% more initial enquiries from consumers last year than in the year before, thanks to a new digital partnership that allows consumers to raise questions and queries online at any time of the day or night.
TPO started partnering with live chat service Yomdel in the middle of last year, after it struggled to deal with a 27% increase in phone enquiries.
Rather than enquiries falling, they went up even further, often arriving in the middle of the night as people needing help with their tenancies, property transactions, and other property-related problems, found it easier to seek help.
Yomdel handled 6,824 chats for TPO from initial deployment in June last year until December 31. The overall total enquiries via all channels was 23,841.
Yomdel accounted for 27% of the annual enquiries, but was only live for six months.
On an annualised basis Yomdel estimates this could have been as high as 43% of all TPO enquiries coming via its managed live chat.
Despite that, the volume of complex complaints that the TPO had to deal with only rose 3% over the same period.
Yomdel has collaborated closely with TPO to ensure that its staff are prepared for the most common types of questions they are likely to be posed, working off a form of decision tree in order to resolve queries.
Yomdel founder Andy Soloman said: “What Yomdel has been particularly good at doing is offering people help and support at the point of first contact.
“People will typically have a question about the TPO or another issue that they are facing but they will be unfamiliar with the process that they need to go through because it is a formal process and they need to exhaust certain other channels before they are qualified to actually log a formal complaint through the TPO.
“We are being very successful at helping educate people and point them in the right direction to be able to determine whether or not they have a justified, formal complaint that is suitable for potential redress or not.”
In terms of common questions asked on Yomdel, they fall into one of five categories, including:
1. “Am I in a position to formally complain to TPO?”
2. “Is this agent a member of TPO?”
3. “What is the process for initiating a complaint against my letting agency?”
4. “The agent that I am using is failing to respond to my complaint. Can you help me please?”
5. “Where do I stand…..?”
Katrine Sporle, Property Ombudsman said: “The number of enquiries TPO receives continues to grow year on year.
“Introducing Yomdel did two things — it provided a triage service to ensure that the number of enquiries TPO staff receive has been managed effectively — it started at 27% in January 2017 and has not grown exponentially between then and now, but has levelled out at the higher level.
“The number of people we have helped with initial advice however, has grown, with Yomdel providing that service 24/7 by the use of an on-line chat, which means that we have assisted a wider group of people than before.”