There for all residents - Normal day at the customer service offices

You will become acquainted with Heka’s customer service once you pick up the keys to your home, at the latest. At Heka Western Office, you can find the answers to almost every question related to housing.

Written by Pi Mäkilä Photos by Vilja Harala

When the clock strikes nine in the morning, Heka Western Office service offices start bustling. Several people enter the waiting room to pick up or return their keys.

Customer service agent Laura Laakkonen is smiling, even though she and her colleagues have been taking care of customer contacts since eight in the morning.

“It’s always rather calm with us since we are only open by appointment, so there aren’t large crowds. I’m not expecting too many customers today, either,” Laakkonen points out.

Laakkonen works at the Heka Western Office with four other customer service agents. The office takes care of matters related to Heka homes in the Malminkartano, Kannelmäki, Haaga and Maunula districts. It is also open for walk-in customers on Tuesday mornings. The most common reasons for visiting the offices are picking up and returning keys.

Laura gives a key bag to a customer.
Picking up keys is one of the few things that cannot be done online.

“We also answer phone calls and residents’ online requests. The work involves a lot of guidance and receiving defect notifications,” Laakkonen says.

Laakkonen likes the work at the service desk the best, since that is where the customers are. At the desk, it is also easy to answer the phone and take care of online contact requests.

“The days at work are very varying, and I’ve yet to see two identical days,” she says.

Rarely a quiet moment

Despite the peaceful atmosphere, there is almost never a completely quiet moment at the offices. Overall, Heka customer service offices take over 200,000 calls every year. The high frequency of calls is also seen at the Western Office.

“We recommend you call us if the matter is urgent or you are uncertain about how to handle the matter. We will guide you on the next steps,” Laakkonen says.

Heka’s customer service offices receive over 200,000 calls and over 100,000 other enquiries annually.

In addition to keys, Laakkonen also receives notices of termination and other forms at the desk.

“Often, we also share information. Even if we cannot help with something, we usually can direct the customer to the right place in almost all matters.”

Some of the most common questions are related to paying rent and changing apartments.

“However, we cannot help with matters related to applying for housing, since those are handled by the City of Helsinki. Of course, we can still help customers contact the housing application services.”

Laura in a storage that all the keys are kept.
Laura Laakkonen knows well that learning the order of the keys takes a while. But once you learn it, you can always find the right keys.

Useful Resident Portal

The Resident Portal that launched in February has quickly become popular, and for a good reason.

“Almost all matters can be handled quickly via the portal. Customer service in general has largely moved online lately,” Laakkonen says.

The chat service has also become popular. In the morning of the interview, Laakkonen’s supervisor Sarita Lintelä is replying to chat messages at the back office.

“The messages involve much of the same topics as phone calls. The most common question asked via the chat is how to apply for housing and what to do when you have been queuing for housing for a while. In these matters, we direct the customers to enquire the City about it,” Lintelä says.

Over 12,000 Heka residents have registered at the Resident Portal.

However, the intention is not to turn customer service entirely digital, since not everything can be done via channels like the chat. For example, Heka’s customer service offices will continue to store keys.

Heka Western Office even has a dedicated room for the keys. Heka’s western area of operations includes 10,000 housing units alone. When you count in each spare key and the keys to the laundry rooms, for example, there is quite an amount of key bundles.

Laakkonen expertly picks up the keys to the correct place for the customer who arrived to collect them.

“These are in a very specific order, so once you learn the storage system, finding the right keys is easy,” she says, laughing.

Report acute defects as soon as possible

Often, defect notifications also come to Heka via the customer service offices. Laakkonen instructs residents to report non-urgent defects directly via the Resident Portal.

“This way, they are received directly by the maintenance company. Of course, you can also notify us by phone, but in that case, we will only deliver the message, and it takes a little longer for the maintenance company to hear about the defect,” Laakkonen explains.

Sarita Lintelä, Laura Laakkonen ja Madis Mogiletvtsev talk while sitting on a couch.
Sarita Lintelä and Laura Laakkonen from Heka Western Office and property manager Madis Mogiletvtsev discuss the day’s events.

However, if the defect is urgent, such as water damage, calling is always recommended.

“This way, we can get the information to the right person quickly and we can send a maintenance worker over right away,” Laakkonen states.

Questions vary by season

Sometimes, the customer service offices are busier than at other times. Even though there will be no queues outside the offices, queuing on the phone may take longer than normal. For example, the turn of the month is often a busier time.

“There are rental agreements ending at the end of each month, and we also see more keys being returned. The spring, and January, in particular, are a popular time for moving in and out,” Laakkonen says.

The changing of seasons can also be seen in the number of notifications the customer service sends to the maintenance company.

“In the winter, we get questions about snow and ice, while in the summer, we get asked about barbecuing and pools placed outdoors,” Lintelä adds.

Residents answered by order of arrival

In practice, the customer service offices can be reached via five channels.

“We use the phone, chat service, email, messages via the Resident Portal, and service requests made via the Resident Portal,” Laakkonen lists.

Laura works while sitting at armchair.
Some of the customer service tasks can be carried out remotely. For example, the employees can reply to chat messages while working from home.

Regardless of channel, non-urgent matters, such as enquiries about booking the sauna or parking spaces, are directed to the customer service agents.

“In such matters, we can usually reply to the resident in a few days, sometimes even faster. However, how quickly you can get the parking space or timeslot at the sauna depends on the building’s situation. Some locations have free parking spaces almost always, and in other locations, you may have to wait for a year,” Laakkonen points out.

The customer service agents always attempt to deal with enquiries in the order of arrival.

“That’s our leading policy. We have a weekly meeting where we see if some matters need more resources,” Laakkonen says.

Puzzling questions and positive feedback

At times, the customer service situations are exceptionally joyful and easy. The roses on the coffee room table are a reminder of that.

They came from a customer who wanted to thank the customer service agents a few days prior. There are some puzzling questions and problems, but the customer service agents mainly receive positive feedback, Laakkonen and Lintelä say.

“Occasionally, people bring a card, flowers or chocolates. We definitely do not expect customers to do that, but it is always nice to hear that your work has helped someone. The flowers were a lovely surprise,” Lintelä says.

Sometimes, language barriers pose challenges. Laakkonen says she sometimes uses English in her work, but if there is no common language, assisting a customer may be challenging.

“That’s when you need a bit more creativity and gestures, but we have always been able to take care of things,” Laakkonen rejoices.

Help from the customer service offices

The best way to reach Heka’s customer service department is using the resident portal, using the chat, calling or booking an appointment at the offices. The customer service offices are also open for walk-ins on Tuesdays at 9.00–12.00 noon.

“However, you should book an appointment whenever it’s possible. That way, there are no long queues and the customer service agent is able to look into your needs in advance. Ideally, the customer service agent has already found the necessary documents, and the appointment itself is resolved very quickly,” says Riitta Pulkka, Heka’s Director of Customer Relations.

In practice, almost all matters can be dealt with online. Even though the customer service offices can be contacted in many ways, it is not necessary to contact them on multiple channels about the same issue.

“If you contact us via the chat, the phone and the Resident Portal at the same time, our services may become busier and your matter may not be resolved any quicker,” Pulkka points out.

Usually, the easiest way of taking care of things is via the resident portal: the messages sent via the portal are logged directly into the Heka customer service system and forwarded to the right person.