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Don’t Be Over-Reliant on Technology

Connect with Students

While technology is an important tool in communicating with residents, personal touch is still important. Here are some ways to reach your residents, even if they are buried in their phones.

In the hospital business, the patient journey has become important. So vital, that hospitals now employ doctors solely to talk patients through the care they will be receiving.

It’s a model student housing companies should be following, Alex Jackiw, COO for Hayes Gibson Property Services, told attendees at CampusConnex in Orlando.

“The patient journey that hospitals put together for patients is similar to the student journey,” Jackiw says.

While the student housing industry has embraced technology, Jackiw reminded attendees that this current crop of college students still needs human interface. “Technology is a means, not an end,” she says. “You have to have nice people [working for you].” 

Companies should not just rely on technology to service the customer. “Start with the customer experience and work back to the technology,” she says.

To prove the importance of real-life interactions, Jackiw pointed to online reviews. Jackiw said that 47 percent of students looked at reviews before deciding about where to live.

“What are the other 53 percent thinking about [when they made a decision about where to live],” she asked. “More than likely, they are thinking about the interactions that they had. That is the high-touch piece that we need to be thinking about.”

To reinforce the importance of high-touch, student housing operators may need to turn to training. “In our training, we need to pay attention to the communication skills of our teams,” Jackiw says.

Even though this generation of college students lives on their phones, Jackiw provided examples of how student operators can still reach them on a personal level. She highlighted how events, such as a Week of Random Kindness and Free Food Fridays, can create a connection with students. Fun services, such as a staff member dressing up as an elf to deliver packages over the holidays, can also work.

Still need ways to connect with students? Add a pet, such as Brownie, to the mix. “What is the easiest way to reduce anxiety?” Jackiw asked. “Introduce pets into the equation.”

Other gestures can also win over students and parents, such as when one community delivered chicken noodle soup to a sick resident. “The students appreciated it and the parents took to social media,” Jackiw says.

Anything to impress parents is a win. “Parents worry about their kids,” Jackiw says. “They want peace of mind.”

Part of creating a great customer experience is also knowing when there are too many touchpoints. Student housing operators survey residents at many times throughout their tenure at a community, including after move in, after maintenance requests, and many other times. “All of the surveys are important,” Jackiw says. “But we can also get survey fatigue. We need to pay attention to that as we think about where high tech stops and high touch begins.”