Student accommodation has come on leaps and bounds since I was studying. It wasn’t so long ago that a box room and shared bathroom facilities were the norm for students across the board. If you were lucky you might even have a sink in your room in case you were in desperate need of water after a heavy evening! The student accommodation sector now is a completely different landscape.
As the power of the consumer has risen over the last couple of decades, so have expectations for quality, service and tailored offerings, which is exactly why we at the Student Housing Company put such an emphasis on feedback from students themselves. They’re the ones we serve, so their input is absolutely invaluable to us if we’re to continue driving up the standards of student accommodation across the sector.
Aside from offering excellent properties in unrivalled locations with fantastic around the clock support, we pride ourselves on the fact that we’re constantly listening to students to ensure that we provide them with the best possible experience. It is company policy that all senior management stay in the accommodation whenever possible and get involved in “Back to the Floor” days which get company directors doing all manner of tasks, from sweeping leaves, to changing light bulbs, helping students check in and out of their accommodation, and spending time on reception. The days are embraced by the senior management team, which unanimously agrees that they provide a deep understanding of student requirements.
Additionally, we actively seek out students to get involved and work at the company, meaning that our offering is actually shaped by students themselves. As a result of this constant dialogue between directors and students, and feedback given via focus groups, an array of new features are being introduced across our portfolio to improve facilities, including 100Mb internet as standard, sockets under mirrors for hairdryers and straighteners and USB sockets in headboards for mobile phones, plus huge pin boards to allow students to personalise their space.
Feedback has also taught us that our accommodation should focus heavily on communal areas which encourage interaction between residents. Event calendars at each site are designed not only to ensure that students enjoy their accommodation, but also to prevent any students from feeling homesick or isolated – two problems commonly associated with students that are away from home for the first time.
A personal, conscientious approach that closely monitors what students actually desire and require, combined with a high attention to detail helped to ensure that in 2014 we achieved a 100% occupancy rate across its entire portfolio for the third consecutive year. In the National Student Housing Survey 2014 (the UK’s largest survey of students), we were voted “Best Private Halls Provider” and were the only private accommodation provider shortlisted in the “Best Customer Service” category. In addition, we received the International Accommodation Quality Mark, an award given to those that receive more than a 90% satisfaction rating from international students.
By bringing together high-quality accommodation with outstanding levels of service focused on student priorities we have formed rapidly growing business, satisfying investors and students alike. Student feedback is central to our ethos and our success – I personally read all feedback emails we get – and it’s fair to say that we won’t be changing this approach any time soon.