Adversary or Customer – Two Views of Student Housing Management

Not only is student housing undergoing a paradigm shift in product design, but this shift is also being reflected in management.  The old paradigm is one of “punitive” management. Punitive management acts on some (sometimes all) of the following assumptions:

  • Students are the adversary, not the customer.
  • Start with the upper hand with a list of items not to be tolerated
  • Students cannot take care of anything nice, so don’t give them anything nice. Anything provided by the landlord (fixtures, finishings, window coverings, etc.) should be of minimal quality.
  • Students are going to trash the place anyway, so give them unattractive product that optimizes the eventual cleanup, including minimal low-grade carpet and plenty of linoleum.

The new management paradigm revolves around treating students as customers, and has evolved as private developers have brought better, upscale product to the student market. Some of the assumptions of the new paradigm are as follows:

  • Students are the customers, and pleasing and serving them is a critical function of management, and will enhance the bottom line.
  • Many students work at least one job in addition to their studies in order to afford their schooling (and housing). Providing them with value and time-saving services is critical to enhancing their experience in your community.
  • Communicating with students via social media such as Twitter and Facebook is critical for three reasons.
    1. It enhances the students’ experience by providing information regarding activities and policies.
    2. It allows you to get your message to students directly in real time, as well as offering students a way to pass your messages on directly to their friends.
    3. The ubiquity of social media allows students with a bad experience to spread their stories and negative anecdotes very quickly. Maintaining good communications with students via social media allows you to put out potential firestorms of bad publicity before they do significant damage to your reputation.
  • Providing students with a quality home and displaying care and concern about the quality of their experience by promptly attending to maintenance complaints will increase customer satisfaction as well as the likelihood that students will stay out their lease terms and recommend the community to other students.
  • Providing a safe and secure environment for all students by maintaining adequate security as well as enforcing rules provides an atmosphere where students can excel in their studies, thus enhancing the likelihood that the students will be back as customers the next school year.
  • Making students a part of the process increases their stake in the community’s success. Such involvement might include
    • A Board of Residents that provides feedback from residents to management
    • Providing job training and skills enhancement by hiring students to serve as leasing agents or security staff (with proper supervision).
    • Social committees featuring resident participation to plan and implement social activities to enhance resident life.

Students know when they are not being treated well. When they have options, they will choose places where they are valued, and, more importantly, will often gladly pay more to receive more. Even if your student housing product is outdated, changing your management style can help increase your bottom line.

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