How universities could grow student sport participation by improving the sporting and customer experience

Universities are increasingly becoming focused on providing great student experiences and sport and physical activity can and should play a pivotal role in that process. Interestingly, it is also our experience that an increased focus on providing great student experience then also has a positive impact on how other users of university sports facilities, such as staff and the wider community, view their experience. Universities must improve their understanding of the barriers to participation their students are facing and develop and deliver innovative and efficient programmes which will enhance the experience many of their students have while they are university. Many students rate the customer experience higher than the sporting experience

Obviously, different types of students have different attitudes towards participating in university sport.

A recent survey undertaken at University of Bradford rated the four key criteria why students at that university would join a university sports club in order of importance:

  • For the social side
  • Improve fitness
  • For the competitiveness
  • It is a new experience

You’ll notice the importance that the social side and the experience play.

The Sport England funded Active Universities programme is designed to help universities increase the number of students who are physically active, regardless of their skill level and aspiration to participate in the BUCS leagues. This adds another dimension to university sport, away from just competing in the BUCS leagues towards a more embracing and welcoming approach.

At some universities this will require a change of culture from sports facility staff and also from the student volunteers in charge of running the university sports clubs. Sports Marketing Network are offering two programmes for universities keen improve the way they deliver customer and sporting experiences:

How to provide excellent customer service in your university sports facility is aimed at staff.

This programme will provide everybody who works in a university sports facility with the inspiration, support and tools to develop a customer service oriented culture, improve their customer service skills, resolve customer service problems and increase the satisfaction and retention of your customers.

Grow your university sports club – how to make it vibrant, visible and viable is aimed at students responsible for running the clubs.

This programme will help the clubs to develop into a place where everybody are enjoying themselves and want to come back and recommend them to their friends. It will also help the clubs better understand how they can engage with partners within and outside the university.

These two strands can be delivered as one-off workshops but also as more comprehensive programmes, depending on your scope and budget.

SMN has already delivered a customer service workshop for staff at University of York and here is some feedback:

“I really enjoyed the presentation and it certainly highlighted to me the importance of looking at the students as customers who all come from different backgrounds and have different needs”. Chris Carlin, Health and Fitness Manage, Sports & Recreation Service, University of York,

“I did find your presentation very interesting, informative and thought provoking. I’m sure as we move towards the new Sports Village, many of the issues and suggestions covered will assist us to understand the ‘customer experience’ and develop service standards and ultimately excellence in all areas of the operation. Thanks again“. Sue Walker, Sports Centre Co-ordinator Sports and Recreation Service, University of York

Sheffield Hallam University have just booked at comprehensive training and support programme for the Sport Hallam staff.

University of Bradford will be running a very comprehensive programme with SMN for their staff and clubs, commencing at the end of May.

SMN’s programme for the clubs at University of London’s (3 workshops and support) commences early May.

This entry was posted in Customer, Innovation, Sport, Sustainable, Volunteers, Welcoming. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to How universities could grow student sport participation by improving the sporting and customer experience

  1. Hi,
    I’m a keen the latest sports news fan myself and am really glad i can get this information on
    Thank you for your time to write this,

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