Unite Students Experience Vision

Using service design to drive the shift from property landlord to lifestyle proposition

Unite Students Experience Vision Image

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 met it’s objective to create a uniquely memorable experience of student life for its campuses’ residents.

The Challenge

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

The Outcome

The Engine Service Design team worked with Unite Students to define an ambitious vision for a student-centred proposition and experience to be designed, developed and delivered through 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.

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Service design to envision a future to secure investment from the board

The Unite Students team 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 a 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 to implementation.

Student Ambassadors and virtual tours for a unique customer experience

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 the 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.’


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 require support.



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


3 year roadmap

Signed off and commercial case agreed

28 service solutions

For enhancing the student experience implementation or in pan

All front-line staff trained

In the Unite Service Style developed by Engine

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