“Personalisation allows you to create a connection with the customer”

20 August 2018

Stig Söderlin, the founder of the Stadsbostäder management company, was born on a farm in rural Vollsjö, in the south of Sweden. Early in life, he realised that provincial life was not where his passion was – he wanted to create something of his own. Today, more than three decades later, the next generation has now taken over Stadsbostäder. Although the business idea remains similar to Stig’s original idea, one difference is that the company has taken the first steps towards the future by embarking upon a process of digitalisation – which is where Telavox comes in.

Stig Söderlin was a born entrepreneur. He wanted to feel free, be independent and create something of his own from scratch where he could make the most of his business acumen. At an early age, therefore, he moved to Malmö and began working at an architectural firm, where some of his colleagues would become invaluable mentors who would change his life.

Learned how to conduct business

Today, Stadsbostäder is run by Stig’s children – Peter Söderlin is CEO and Katarina Söderlin is the office manager. According to Katarina, Stig’s first job was crucial to his future choices.

“My father got to work with a famous architect who had designed Södertull, and he allowed him to become involved in building the project. He taught him the basics of real estate, as well as how to cope with the esoteric aspects of the construction industry, which can be quite a challenge. He was effectively shown how to use a knife and fork, and how to conduct himself in a business environment”, smiles Katarina.

Following this, Stig went on to educate himself in economics and the law. He got a job as a property manager, but would soon come to believe that he could do the same thing himself, but better. In 1986, therefore, Stig founded Stadsbostäder.

“Sadly, my father is no longer with us, but he did pass on all his wisdom and experience to me and my brother. Today, we are the ones running the company, together with forty or so invaluable employees”, says Katarina.

The next generation takes over

The handover to the next generation began ten years ago. Peter was the first of the siblings to take an active role in the company, although Katarina – despite only officially joining a few months ago – has always been greatly involved.

“During the handover period, our father was already sick with cancer, so it was a tough time for us all. It was also at around this period that I met my wife, and it wasn’t really the best possible moment to embark upon a new relationship. Both she and I had to make great sacrifices”, explains Peter.

He goes on to say that, while his father was lying sick in his hospital bed, he would visit on almost a daily basis carrying piles of invoices and documents for Stig to sign.

“We didn’t have any choice. No matter how much we may be suffering in our private lives, as an entrepreneur you still have a responsibility towards your employees and customers”, explains Peter.

From reams of paper to computers

It was at this point that Peter came to an important realisation. He understood it would be unsustainable to carry on using so much paper if Stadsbostäder was to be able to maintain its position in the modern era, where information and communications are transmitted at incredible speeds. It became clear that large parts of the company needed to be digitalised.

“We manage properties on behalf of others. This means that we have to deal with both those who own and those who live in the houses. Our main challenge is to find the balance that ensures that both parties are satisfied, and we switched to Telavox in order to be able to offer a more efficient service”, says Peter.

Today both owners and tenants are more demanding

In the past, all tenants had to comply with the conditions set by the property owner. The owners didn’t really see the people that lived in their buildings as customers. The tenants of today, however, have higher demands for accessibility, fast service and better standards. As a result, the demands of the property owners increase accordingly, as they now want to keep track of reports, statistics and results in real time, not to mention the amount of reported faults, cases and maintenance work.

“Ten years ago, our customers would call our service department on a single telephone line, and the work was then distributed among our property supervisors using slips of paper. It was difficult to follow the progress of cases, and accessibility was far from optimal. This time-consuming system had an adverse effect on other aspects of the service. So one of the first steps we took was to install a good PBX system”, says Peter.

Better accessibility is necessary for customers

Telavox Flow has helped Stadsbostäder to achieve a much greater degree of accessibility. Tenants are no longer met with an engaged tone when they call to report a fault – their calls are now redirected by the PBX system.

“It is so much easier to sort these support cases effectively. Before, we had two telephone numbers, but now the telephone number is just a route into the system, and the key selection function ensures that calls are immediately directed to the correct department”, continues Katarina.

Previously, Stadsbostäder had very restricted telephone hours. Today, however, staff can be reached from morning until evening.

“Our use of Flow provides us with statistics about the number of calls we receive, how long our customers have had to wait, and which calls we have not answered. All this data is invaluable as it helps us to optimise our service and to be able to make improvements. We analyse the results and check our peaks, when we need to be more accessible and provide additional resources. It also helps us to be able to provide an adequate system of reports for the property owners”, says Peter.

Use the PBX system to present yourself

Katarina also likes the fact that the PBX system can be used to show off the company’s ‘personality’.

“We have chosen a local business number, which I think signals to our customers that we are geographically close to them and can, therefore, provide a faster service with greater insight. I am also somewhat allergic to impersonal response messages – our callers should know that it is Stadsbostäder they have reached. Every person records their own personal response; there is no standard default message.”

When Flow was first presented to our employees, they were initially afraid that they would become overburdened due to the increased accessibility.

“Digitalisation is one thing, but if your organisation is not on board with it, you may end up just sitting there with all this expensively purchased technology. This is why I began to introduce this six months in advance, and I ensured that everybody received training in the new system”, says Peter.

More entry routes for customers

Peter has noticed that not all customers want to call by telephone, instead preferring alternative methods of communication.

“We have installed the Flow widget on our website, where our opening hours are stated and where we offer several ways to contact us via email and telephone. The next step will be to launch our live chat service”, says Peter.

The future will be more personalised

Peter believes that there will be greater personalisation in the future. At present, most of the properties contain an infrastructure – including, for example, a broadband connection. Peter can envisage a situation where this will soon be complemented by a digital platform, which will provide the tenant with much more information.

“The technology inside the properties is generating more data, which presents the opportunity to be able to work more efficiently and to provide a better service”, says Peter.

Furthermore, he also believes in developing the business model.

“Someday, our tenants may want help with cleaning, grocery delivery or interior design, or may want to find out about the services available in the local area. We hope to be able to offer this one day. Personalisation allows you to create a connection with the customer. If we can provide everything they need, why would they then need to turn elsewhere?”, says Peter.

In just a few years, Stadsbostäder has been on an extensive digital journey, which is only going to continue. But both Peter and Katarina emphasise that it is at least equally important to take advantage of the valuable experience that was passed on by their father Stig.

“The basis of the change process is to combine experience with innovation and development. Our father didn’t own a computer, but even though he had an enormous amount of work to do, he always managed to clear his desk. He was extremely knowledgeable, and this enabled him to manage his work in the correct way. I, on the other hand, am dependent on digital aids such as Flow”, concludes Katarina.

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