Re-engaging accommodation providers

With increased numbers of university students looking for accommodation, you might be interested in re-engaging accommodation providers who haven't been active for a while and inviting them to list again.

There are two new methods to do this. 

With mailouts

The first method is by sending an email campaign (if you have the Mailouts feature enabled on your plan) to providers who have been inactive for a certain amount of time. You can do this by choosing one of the "Inactive" filters when selecting the provider segment to send the email to.

This method allows you to contact a large cohort of inactive providers all at once, on demand.

You can learn more about how Mailouts work here.

With automated emails

The second method is to automatically email providers when they have been inactive for a certain duration. This lets you send a steady trickle of emails to re-engage providers as they reach a threshold of inactivity that you chose, such as six months.

This kind of email has to be enabled explicitly, and you can do this from Admin > Settings > Providers.

You can choose the duration to wait before trying to re-engage providers and the subject line to use when emailing them.

Once you have enabled this email, you will probably want to customise the email template as well. You can find this email template at Admin > Settings > Email templates under Providers > Re-engagement.

If you don't see this template, you will need to enable this email first (see above).

New option to require lodgement of rental bonds

Until now, listing categories have commonly been used to indicate whether providers will lodge their bond with their state authority such as NSW Fair Trading or the Residential Tenancies Authority in Queensland.

We now have a more streamlined way to do this, with a new option under Admin > Settings > Listings to require bond lodgement for all listings where a bond is required.

This setting allows for customising the name of the authority (e.g. "The RTBA" for Victorian universities).

When this option is enabled, providers won't be able to enter a bond unless they commit to lodging it with the authority.

Trying to submit a listing for a vacant property without ticking this box will result in an error, e.g:

For rooms in shared houses, a similar validation error is used if any of the rooms listed require a bond.

Accommodation Reviews

Students can now leave accommodation reviews with a rating and comment.

To enable this feature, you will need to go to Admin > Settings > Listings and tick the "Enable reviews" box.

How it works

Listings will show an average rating at the top of each listing and a link to the reviews section.

Students who have registered and signed in will be able to leave reviews with a rating out of five and comment. There's a character counter on the review form to help with the length requirements (between 50 and 5000 characters).

Newly submitted reviews will need to be approved by an administrator before they become publicly visible and contribute to a property's overall rating. The student will however be able to see their review while it is awaiting approval.

The administration process for new reviews

As an administrator, you can check for new reviews on the Overview tab in admin.

Note: You can also choose to be notified by email when new reviews are submitted by editing your administrator account (under Admin > Settings > Administrators) and ticking the box to "Notify when new listings, reviews or registrations need approval".

Click on a review, and you will be able to read the full review and "Approve" or "Reject" it.

If you need to edit the review for publication, there's a button on the right for that.

Once a review has been approved it will become visible to everyone, and the review's rating will contribute to the average rating for the accommodation.

If you do decide to reject a review for whatever reason, it will still be retained for internal use.

A note on privacy

In order to protect the privacy of students, reviews will be shown publicly along with only the student's status (Current or Future) and their campus (if known). No information about the student's name will be revealed. Only administrators will be able to see which student actually submitted the review.

What happens to reviews when a property is re-listed?

Reviews are attached to the property rather than the individual accommodation listing. So if a property is re-listed, the new listing will display any reviews from previous listings. Expired listings (i.e. those listed before a review was submitted) will also display reviews from any newer listings when viewed through admin, so you won't need to go hunting down the newest listing to see if it has been reviewed.

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!