The rise of Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) in the UK has seen a notable change in how students want to live.
PBSA is housing built by developers specifically and exclusively for students. A PBSA will usually consist of ‘cluster flats’ of a few living and study areas, with shared cooking and leisure spaces. Many PBSAs around the country come with additional amenities such as gyms, recreational areas, and libraries.
In 2019, roughly 30% of all first-year students lived in PBSA, a rise from 22% five years prior, and this momentum doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
The isolation during the height of the pandemic has seen bookings for PBSA rise once again for the upcoming academic year, and shown the resilience of the sector.
But in a post-pandemic world where peoples’ wants and needs have changed, are there ways the PBSA industry can improve? And is there anything it can learn from the hospitality industry? After all, once you strip them down to core concepts, both share clear similarities. We list some of our key takeaways below:
At their hearts, the PBSA and hospitality sectors share similar goals. Both are purpose built to provide comfortable living, and an intimate slice of home for people who are away from theirs for a period of time.
Students are, in essence, long term guests who will have the same wants and needs as anybody visiting a hotel; from spaces for social interaction, to high speed internet and having maintenance workers on hand to fix minor inconveniences.
So coming up with better ways of finding out the needs of PBSA residents would improve communication and transparency, as well as create an opportunity to increase positive online reviews and testimonials.
An important way for a venue in the hospitality sector to make a name for itself is to regularly ask guests for feedback. Hotels routinely ask for feedback from every guest, whether they stayed for one night or much longer. This allows them to better understand where they need to improve.
Students in PBSA will have experienced the amenities and lifestyle of the property for close to a year. Making a point of getting feedback from each of them would represent an opportunity for an operator to improve their accommodation year on year, by finding out the aspects of the business they are doing well, and which need work.
Range of Facilities
PBSA represents a breath of fresh air to the student accommodation sector. However, we can’t completely ignore the relatively high cost. On average PBSA residents pay a premium ranging from 5% extra in Plymouth and areas of London, and up to 115% in Bath compared to peers residing in HMOs.
On the whole the constantly rising popularity of the PBSA sector shows that students are happy to pay that premium, as long as they feel that they are getting a premium living experience, with all of the luxuries and facilities that go with it. So what answers could lie in the hospitality industry?
The hospitality sector lives and breathes guest satisfaction. This is the reason they do everything in their power to provide their guests with anything they could possibly want and need. Want a backrub? The spa is just down the hall. Need a quick workout? No problem, head up to the third floor for the complementary gym. Quick drink? The on-site bar has 28 varieties of gin and award winning mixologists.
Additionally, while hotel entertainment may bring up images of sad karaoke nights or an even sadder Take That cover band, the Las Vegas hotel and casino empires were built on providing guests with anything they could ever need, without having to leave the premises, including live music.
Finding ways to keep guests happy and to cater to their needs is a surefire way for the PBSA sector to learn to better create the right setting for students, while at the same time increasing yearly income and boosting reputations in the area for future generations.
Don’t underestimate how huge a role the staff can have in the experience of a guest. Excellent customer service is vitally important for all businesses, not least those in hospitality. It’s the first chance you get to create a lasting impression of your business.
Average customer service comes down to delivering on a promise. Excellent customer service is all about exceeding expectations and going above and beyond. This high level of service acts as a way of developing a relationship with your residents beyond just as a transaction.
To really leave a mark on a resident, your staff need to offer unmatched customer service and a first-class experience. Don’t forget that many students are leaving home for the first time, it can be a potentially stressful time in their lives, and a kind face and a friendly chat could be all they need to turn a bad day or week on its head.
Help these young adults who are likely taking their first step out into the world by offering your staff a comprehensive training program to better their customer service skills, and improve their ability to support anybody who might need it.
Incentives such as employee of the month, pay rises for those who go out of their way to improve their skills, benefits for those who work the busiest periods etc. would help employees to get on board with the new initiative and in turn benefit you and your residents.
Adapt and Evolve
The PBSA sector is a booming business, one that doesn’t appear to have slowed down post pandemic to the extent of many others. But student sensibilities and interests are changing. Residents of PBSA after a period of studying from home have gotten used to a more personal living experience and may not accept anything less if their accommodation fees come at a premium.
If the PBSA sector wants to continue growing its share of the industry then it needs to set the bar on what an operator can offer its students. Raise standards across the board; from amenities, to home comforts and entertainment. Residents always appreciate those personal touches. Unique furnishing touches in a room, or staff who treat them like family can make a big difference.
Whatever interior services you need to keep your student residents happy and to help maximise appeal for the future, we can help. From designing the perfect living space to furnishing a stunning entertainment area. LOFT is here to bring that touch of home comfort to any room. Get in touch if you need any help.
Student Amenity Space Survey
Are you a PBSA developer or operator? A student landlord or letting agent? If so, please take part in our survey.