Customer Driven Transformation: Download the first two chapters

Unite Students

From landlord to life-style brand

The challenge

Unite Students saw an opportunity to compete against other student residences and local private landlords. The goal was to create and market superior service and to enhance the student living experience.

The outcomes

The Engine Service Design Team worked with the team at Unite Students to define an ambitious student-centred vision for their experience to be designed , developed and delivered over a three-year programme. Together we created and modified twenty eight new service experiences, spanning people, technology and campus design. Engine also created a ‘Service Style’ training programme, which has now seen over 1000 staff trained.

Client: Unite Students Duration: 18 months

The UK’s leading operator of purpose-built student accommodation, provides homes for 46,000 students in 133 properties, across 28 university cities. To compete with other providers, including private landlords, Unite Students has to provide more than a roof and room, it has to provide a uniquely memorable experience of student life, that develops advocacy.

Training materials

Envision a future to secure investment from the board

The team at Unite Students had completed a brand positioning exercise; next they needed to understand how to translate the refreshed brand into a value proposition and service strategy. The Engine Service Design Team worked with them to define a vision for service and singular view of the target customer journey (student journey), around which they could plan and mobile colleagues and partners. Critically, we were able to create a compelling case to secure board level buy-in and commitment for implementation.

Developing a unique service style for the front-line

Those employed in Unite’s properties are there to look after the building, but more importantly the students, with many living away from home for the first time or having travelled from overseas.

Delivering a consistently excellent service, with evolving roles and across a diverse range of properties, required the elevation of staff from building caretakers to student advocates; this needed a clear framework, communications, training and on-going support and coaching from leaders. The Engine Service Design Team developed ‘Service Style’ and comprehensive training for campus staff, which included a clear description of how to deliver a game changing Unite Student experience and, importantly, how to spot students who may be in need of support.

Student Ambassadors and virtual tours

In order to help young people looking for student accommodation get a sense of what Unite Students accommodation has to offer, we created the new role of Student Ambassador; recognising that that best salespeople are the students themselves. Engine developed the role, created and delivered the training to a pilot group of Ambassadors at the Bristol campus before being rolled out. To make the experience accessible to students overseas thinking of studying in the UK, we also piloted several new digital products, including a Virtual Tour platform, allowing prospective student tenants to ask questions and book video tours with Ambassadors around the facilities.

‘Through the three years, Engine helped us engage with senior stakeholders and build momentum to deliver the experience and helped us build our own internal service design capacity, which eventually took over their role.’

‘Engine were engaged for the long-term, working with Unite Students to execute a three-year roadmap of new product and service offers, while growing our client’s internal customer experience capabilities’.


'I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Engine to any business wishing to make a difference to their customers' experiences.'

'The Engine team are great. Smart, responsive, energetic and highly flexible; focusing on getting the job done and making a difference.'

Have a similar challenge? Get in touch with the Engine Team

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Here’s how we do it

Insight to vision

Identify the difference between what you do today and what your future customers don’t yet know they need. Reimagine the future.

Insight to vision

Design to pilot

Unlock new value by imagining, designing and piloting services and experiences your colleagues are inspired to deliver and your customers will love.

Design to pilot

Plan to mobilise

Mobilise your organisation with a plan to change, build or buy what’s needed to deliver new services and experiences.

Plan to mobilise

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