Future proofing your student accommodation product

Ensure the long term viability of your buildings is not only good business but an absolute necessity, says ASRA's Niamh Banks

With competition increasing in the market and bed stock expanding in both the public and private sphere on an annual basis, it is not just your buildings and facilities that need future-proofing. You still have to sell your beds and collect the rent. So, what can accommodation managers do to ensure that they not only future-proof their buildings, but their product also? It’s really about future-proofing your product and ensuring the best of service for your students. 

Know your product

You may think you know your product inside and out, but would you be able to put yourself on the reception front line for an afternoon and answer a stream of questions from parents and students? 

How well do you think you would handle every call that came in and do you think you could answer every one of them fully and with confidence? If you are not certain about it, then you don’t know your product well enough. This will be evident to anyone on the other end of the phone/email and nothing will frustrate a student more than getting an indifferent or incorrect answer when they ask a question. 

Manage expectations

Everyone feels the pressure to sell and with that the temptation is to embellish the details. Promising the world you can’t or won’t be able to deliver will only set you up to fail. Being realistic about the product you are selling can be a positive experience for both you and your customer. If everyone has realistic expectations, no one should end up feeling disappointed or caught out. Whether you kit out your halls with king-sized beds or you ask that the resident moving in bring all the bells and whistles with them, making sure that they know what is involved before they arrive is key to managing their expectations.

We talk about what the students want, and what we think the students want and we design our service based on this 

Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes

We talk about what the students want, and what we think the students want, and design our service based on this. When was the last time you sat and went through your own application process to see how it flows or how easy it is to complete? Have you ever looked at your website with truly critical eyes to see how information comes across? Have you looked at your check-in process/complaints process/communications process from the point of view of a resident with a problem or a parent looking for an answer? Never forget that something which seems small to you could be a much bigger issue to your customer. If you don’t regularly review what you do, you could be missing out on providing the best service you can give. 

Make sure your staff are engaged

It goes without saying that the staff who engage with your students can make or break your product.  Personal service still counts for a lot, even in the digital 21st century. Students today are still trying to find out who they are and what they want to do just as much as they did 30 years ago. What is important is ensuring that staff are committed to providing the best service possible and realise the impact they can have on the student journey. 

Never forget how far a bad review can travel

For every person who is happy with your service, there is always one who is not. With many institutions having favourite recruiting grounds, good word of mouth is vital to your reputation. By keeping our services relevant and realistic, we can help keep our residents and future residents happy and help to future-proof the services we provide and work that we do. 

Niamh Banks is ASRA Communications and IT Officer and Residences Supervisor at Maynooth University, Ireland.

For further information about the Association for Student Residential Accommodation (ASRA) please visit: www.asra.ac.uk