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Cultural awareness at Unite Students

23 May 2019

Our International Sales and Partnership Manager, Bernadette Cochonat, has been delivering some insightful cultural awareness training to colleagues in teams across Unite Students. Here she talks about the value of understanding where our customers are coming from ‘culturally’, as well as geographically and the importance this has on improving their experience.

“More than 7,000 Chinese students currently live with us. They represent 15% of the total number of students who call our properties, their home. We expect this number to grow, which means more than ever, it’s important we understand these students’ expectations and needs. Over the past six months, I have been delivering “China cultural awareness” training sessions to our city teams to ensure we provide the best service to our Chinese customers. These sessions were attended by our customer facing teams, by operations and sales managers and directors.

Topics covered in these sessions include an overview of China’s recent history to explain how China became the powerful country it is today and a wide range of insights on education, superstitions, digital marketing, what good customer service looks like, communication style and expectations.

This complements the work performed by our Beijing-based team, who focus on agent relationship building, marketing activities in China and providing the latest market trends.

We understand that improving our understanding of Chinese culture will help us as a business on many levels and most importantly, will help us to provide the highest quality of service, where students can feel at home and reach their full potential. We have already implemented some changes in our cities, based on what our teams have learnt during these sessions, and we can already see the positive impact it has had.

On the 16th May, I was invited to speak at the ASRA conference in Glasgow to explain the work that Unite has been doing around Chinese culture, and I presented an overview of our “China cultural awareness” programme. Representatives from Robert Gordon University and from the University of Glasgow provided very positive feedback, so did other PBSA representatives who also attended this event. It is important to us that our university partners feel the benefit of this work and understand how much we care about improving the student experience for all those studying in the UK.

That’s why I have been sharing the learnings as far and wide as possible. Over the past few months I have been enjoying delivering this workshop to institutions like the University of Aberdeen’s accommodation team, and I even visited the Royal Drawing School in London to discuss Chinese culture and how to engage with Chinese students with their recruitment team.

Next Month, on the 6th June, I will be talking at a conference in London “Marketing to China” to share Unite Students’ journey to the Chinese market.

Sharing our knowledge and insights with higher education institutions and with the wider industry demonstrates Unite’s expertise in a market that everyone is interested in engaging and exploring. I feel proud to work for an organisation that values this important work. If you are attending the “Marketing to China” conference, please do come and say hello to me!”