Reducing Stale Listings

Accommodation providers sometimes neglect to close their listings once they've been rented out. This can lead to wasted time for students who enquire about listings that aren't available.

One way to avoid this is to remind providers to close their listings with a Listing Availability Check. A reminder email can be sent out part-way through the listing to ask providers if the listing is still available and prompt them to close it otherwise.

We try to make this as painless as possible, with a button in the email that lets the provider close their listing quickly without needing to login.

Configuring the Listing Availability Check

To enable the Listing Availability Check, go to Admin > Settings > Listings and tick the box to "Check availability via email".

You can configure when the email will be sent based on how long the listing is active. We recommend checking availability about half way through the listing.

Click "Save" to save these changes.

Once the availability check is enabled, you can adjust the email that will be sent out. You can find the email template under Admin > Settings > Email templates > Listings > Check availability.

All the variables in [brackets] will be automatically replaced with the relevant information when these emails are sent.

The emails are sent with the subject "Is your listing still available?", and you will be able to see what was sent when viewing the "Sent emails" for a provider.

Map search

We're pleased to announce that we've redesigned the search page to feature a new interactive map alongside search results.

Students can now see where properties are in relation to your institution and the surrounding area. We hope this will be helpful for students who might be moving to a new city to study.

Students can also see and do much more on the search page, in way that is easy and pleasant to use (we hope).

This update reflects our commitment to ensure you, our customers, have the best technology to support the amazing and valuable service you provide for students.

There have been many subtle improvements in this update, but I've outlined some of the biggest highlights below.

An interactive map
Students can see where listings are on the map without leaving the search page. Listing markers will highlight as you roll over the listing details, and students can click a map marker to bring up the listing details in place. Students can also pan and zoom the map and then redo the search in the new area.

More photo thumbnails
Students can quickly browse through every photo for each listing from the search page, without needing to open the listing. Photos are loaded dynamically — clicking to the next photo loads it just in time. This is especially beneficial for students using mobile data because we don't load photos they won't see, and it means the pages load more quickly, even on a desktop.

Quicker page loads
One of the more subtle improvements is that going to the next search page, or adjusting the search filters, or searching in a new map search location all happen quickly without reloading the entire page.

Matches your branding
We've taken the time to make sure the map search page includes colours and styling to match your institution's branding.


I hope you and your students enjoy using the new map search. Happy Easter!

Messaging improvements

Today we released two significant improvements to Messages.

If you're not familiar with Messages, it's a secure and private way for students and providers to communicate through StudyStays. It's an important tool for deterring and detecting scams, giving you greater ability to protect and assist students. You can read more about Messages here.

The improvements are

  1. Support for email attachments
  2. Admin alerts when messages contains words or phrases that may indicate a scam

Support for email attachments

Attachments sent via email are now collected by StudyStays and securely forwarded to the intended recipient. We had noticed sometimes students and landlords would exchange their real email addresses in order to send documents like lease agreements. That's still allowed, but it was an annoyance for users and it makes it harder for admins to investigate if issues arise later.

Admin alerts on message contents

StudyStays can now watch for problematic phrases used in messages and alert you when they occur. This can give you early warning of scams or abuse, without needing to look at every message that goes through the system.

You can configure the phrases through Admin > Settings > Messages (if you have Super Admin permissions).

When a phrase is detected, an alert will be added to the Admin overview page. You can review these alerts to see if any further investigation is needed, and dismiss the alert once the issue has been resolved.

In late 2018, StudyStays began running automatic scam detection on all messages, looking for common scam phrases and unusual activity. So even if you don't use this feature there is still a base layer of protection. You can however, get more control and insight by configuring custom alert phrases for your own StudyStays database.

Tracking Outcomes

Over the last month we've been working hard on tracking and measuring outcomes for students and listings. We're pleased to announce a new collection of tools that proactively seek feedback from students and providers about their outcomes from using StudyStays.

Student outcomes

Because students don't directly book accommodation through StudyStays (at least not yet), it's been hard to tell what kind of outcomes they've had using the website. To know whether a student had found accommodation, was still looking for a place, or had given up was not information that was readily available. So we decided to improve this situation.

One approach to collecting this information up until now has been to send out a follow-up email some time after the student has registered asking for feedback. Another approach is to have a survey form on the website to solicit feedback that way. And some universities were using a combination of these techniques.

The problem with sending a follow-up email a set duration after registration is that we don't really know when to send it. Send it too soon and the student may still be looking for accommodation, and send it too late and they might have lost interest.

The problem with posting a link to a feedback form on the website is that many students might not see it.

Both approaches suffer from the problem that the feedback forms weren't really integrated into the website, and so their experience didn't adapt depending on their answers. They just fill out the form and that's it.

The new approach is to wait until the student has stopped using the website for a while (they've "disengaged") and then send them a very quick email survey which can be filled out without even needing to log in.

If students have found accommodation or have given up, we won't ask them again. If they haven't found a place yet, we'll wait a while until they haven't actively used the website for a couple of weeks (yes there's a setting for that), and then prompt them again.This will continue until they either find a place, give up, or unsubscribe from these emails. There's an unsubscribe link on each follow-up email to make it easy to opt-out.

And for students that tell us they've given up, if they do log in again later, we'll treat them as having re-engaged in their search for accommodation and begin following up with them when it looks like they have disengaged again.

This allows us to track things like:

  • Approximately how long it takes students to find accommodation
  • What kind of accommodation they choose (shared, rental or commercial student accommodation)
  • Where they end up (address, suburb and postcode)
  • Price, move in date and length of stay
  • If they found accommodation through your StudyStays site, which is the listing that best matches

As an administrator, you can see details about student outcomes directly on a student's record (when they have responded). You can also view a history of all student outcome responses by clicking Student outcomes on the right hand side of the "Students" tab in Admin.

The Student Outcomes page in admin lets you filter outcomes, and export the raw data as a spreadsheet if you need to do further analysis, send emails to certain segments etc.

You can edit the email template for the follow-up email that gets sent to student by going to Admin > Settings > Email templates and looking under "Students" for "Outcome follow-up".

You can adjust when the follow-up is sent (or disable it altogether) under Admin > Settings > Students: "Email students to ask about their accommodation outcomes".

Listing outcomes

For quite some time we've been asking accommodation providers if they've found a tenant as a result of their listing. But up until now we only asked when the provider actively closed their listing in advance.

Now, we'll include a link to the listing outcome survey in every email that gets sent when a listing ends.

We'll also display a prominent message on providers' dashboards prompting to them respond (if they haven't already).
This should result in much more information collected about listing outcomes.

The survey for providers is even shorter, just one question: "Did you find a tenant through our website?"

You can find information about the listing outcome when viewing the listing though admin, and in aggregate by running the "Listing Outcomes" report from the Reports tab.

Summary

These improvements are an important step in collecting metrics about how effectively your Off-Campus website is serving students. We've opened up more possibilities for analysing and reporting, as well as more opportunities to gather information about how your website is performing. There's even the potential to include custom feedback questions on these forms. We'd love to hear from you if you have ideas about how to extend this even further.

Better formatting for emails

Email templates for StudyStays now support more formatting options, like bold, italic, links, lists and buttons.

These templates now use the same editor used for content pages, which you may already be familiar with.

There's a new option to use an email signature, which can (optionally) be applied to all outgoing emails. This saves you having to edit all your templates when your signature changes, just update it once and it will be applied automatically.

Emails will now contain an additional footer in fine print, explaining clearly where the email originated and why.


What do I need to do?

Nothing! All your emails have been converted for you, and any customisations you have already made will be retained. We may have replaced some default links with action buttons in places (as in the screenshot above).

You might like to check your templates (Admin > Settings > Email templates) to add some formatting flair (if you fancy).

And as always, if you run into any problems please get in touch at support@studystays.com.au.


One last thing

Here's a tip: when you're editing email templates, pressing Enter or Return will add a new paragraph with a blank line in between. If you don't want that extra blank line, you can hold Shift-Enter to end the line and keep typing on the next line.