Sodexo launches concierge service to support university students

Sodexo has launched its concierge service, Circles, at two university campuses as part of its Residential Living programme. Designed to give students a helping hand, the launch is timely following a new survey from Sodexo which reveals that students are finding it hard to adjust to life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This research, conducted in partnership with Youth Sight, polled 566 students both before (March) and during (June) the pandemic.

The key highlights from the report include:
• Whilst 75% of university students felt satisfied with their lives before the pandemic, this dropped to 52% during the pandemic.
• Students are concerned about their ability to make new friends at university with social distancing measures in place. Initiatives to facilitate safe socialising are deemed the second most important service they require, after good IT and study facilities.
• Students have struggled with the transition to online/distance learning, with 39% unhappy with the experience.
• Over 3 in 4 were happy with contact time pre-Covid-19 but this dropped to a third during Covid-19. Similarly, whilst around half of students felt their university was value for money pre-Covid, now just under a quarter feel that way.
• Fears about employability topped the list of concerns, with 50% worried about their ability to get a job.

From this month students at two Sodexo-managed university accommodation facilities at Northumbria University and Bath Court at Birmingham University will be able to access personal assistance services such as arranging travel bookings, downtime suggestions and shopping through a dedicated portal or over the phone 24/7. The service is free to students, with no commission or booking fees; members only pay for what they purchase.

Circles will support students returning to university, enhancing their experience by helping them to settle into university life by taking away the burden of everyday life admin tasks. The service will also provide an extra helping hand when their study workload increases or during stressful exam periods.

Andrew Wilkinson, CEO schools & universities, said, “Going to university can be a daunting experience and the introduction of social distancing measures will make it harder for new students to settle into university life. We have worked in close partnership with universities to introduce appropriate measures to protect the physical health of students, but protecting their mental health is also crucial.

“The introduction of Circles is another step in making sure that students living in accommodation we are managing have the support they need when they need it. Our latest research suggests that now more than ever, students require innovative tools to help them settle into their new surroundings and thrive academically.”

The new service will be particularly important to international students, as it will help them arrange flights and transport bookings and arrange bedding packs ready for their arrival in the UK.

Jon Oxley, Assistant Director Estates and Facilities Services, Northumbria University, said, “We are delighted to introduce Sodexo’s concierge offer at Northumbria University.

'Giving our students the opportunity to use this offer on such services such as travel arrangements, grocery shopping, arranging gifts for friends and family and additional cleaning services as and when they require, takes the Northumbria residential experience to a different level.

'In addition, having the concierge offer for students takes away stress and anxiety pressures and gives back crucial time to study and meet new friends.”

Sodexo is committed to supporting the wellbeing of students and the launch of Circles follows the introduction of the Thrive: Mental Wellbeing app in March.

Developed in the UK by specialists with many years of clinical experience, Thrive helps monitor moods and teaches clinically proven relaxation techniques to help people cope better with stressful situations. It also has a 'thought trainer' programme based on cognitive behavioural therapy to help people manage negative thoughts.

On 8 October Sodexo is hosting a webinar looking at how educational establishments are adapting to the new normal and the implications it will have on student experience and the new expectations of students, staff and other stakeholders.

Speakers will share their expert knowledge and thoughts on the areas of:
• New Megatrends: what pupils and students of the future will expect
• Space Design: what is the new excellence for educators
• Digitalisation: how digital drives service excellence and can improve commercial returns over the short and long-term

Speakers will include: Andrew Wilkinson, CEO, Schools & Universities, Sodexo UK & Ireland; Ruti Amal, Group Vice-President Marketing Insights, Sodexo; Jon Preciado, Director of Market Research, Sodexo Education; So Young Hyun, Workplace Experience Lead, Sodexo and Mark Hill, Strategy and Marketing Director, Sodexo Japan.

The webinar is open to anyone interested in this area, to register visit: https://go.sodexo.com/FutureProofYourCampus