The Case for Increased Customer Service Throughout the Student Lifecycle
Which unit or group at your school is responsible for providing prospective students with help (re: customer service)? If only one or two groups come to mind, you may be failing or unintentionally driving away your prospective students.
At MindMax we work with a broad range of institutions and have observed some interesting realities around “customer service” – providing assistance and guidance to student’s as they consider enrolling in a program. When working with adult students, many institutions make the mistake of expecting only the admissions team to assist students – while marketing, for example, stays purely focused on increasing leads.
While those boundaries may make sense internally, it can negatively impact the prospective students who are navigating your processes. Some of the unfriendly realities we’ve most commonly observed at schools include a disorganized front desk staff, complicated application process, confusing website, lack of contact information available (live chat is great for this), and lack of student testimonials.
If help isn’t readily available at every stage of a prospective student’s buying journey – from awareness to consideration to decision – they may find your school too challenging to work with and abandon the process for a competitor school.
When thinking about increasing enrollments, it is important that you look at the entire student lifecycle process and ensure your school is easy to work with and helpful. A prospective student should be able to easily find out who you, the features of your programs, and what program may be the right fit for them.
While improving the top of the enrollment funnel (e.g., increasing traffic to your website) will help to drive additional enrollment opportunities, it’s just as important that your enrollment funnel process is customer service friendly ensuring you keep the students who are already interested in your programs.
With that in mind, here are a few areas to focus on throughout the student lifecycle:
Analyze and facilitate the entire lifecycle of an inquiry
If you have an administrative staff that is your first line for inquiries, make sure they are not only are trained to answer questions but are also friendly and able to get the prospective student to the right person – quickly. There’s no excuse for a poor response time – it’s only giving that prospective student time to research and contact other potential options. Don’t underestimate the power of a prospective student’s experience and how important friendly and helpful staff can be to a decision or purchase – especially a large intangible decision like education.
Make your application process clear and easy to follow
Don’t lose potential good students out of frustration or confusion with your complicated application process. Having simple directions, uncomplicated website forms, and clear application requirements are important. For adult students, continuing education is a serious financial and time investment, and prospective students are already second-guessing their decision to go back to school – don’t give them another reason NOT to continue their education. Implement a follow-up process that ensures incomplete applications are followed-up on by a friendly staff member who can assist with confusion or help remove obstacles. Sometimes just one phone will help to provide the confidence and clarity needed for a prospective student continue their education and make the decision to enroll in your program.
Make sure your entire team can answer: “Why should a prospective student choose your university over another school for your program?”
People have plenty of choices in adult continuing education – various delivery methods, locations, prices, and content are all readily available. It is not only about affordability, but it is also about making the prospective student feel comfortable and supported from the beginning of their inquiry through to completion. Interactions could be with someone at a front desk, registration staff, financial aid, or just bumping into a staff member in the hallway if they come to visit your campus.
Make sure that your staff can articulate the reasons that a prospective student should choose your programs, either in their product knowledge or their outstanding customer service – or your competitor will!
It is important that all staff members know the importance of their role in customer service for prospective students. One suggestion is to elevate your front desk staff to make sure they feel connected to the campus and its mission – and can provide help and program knowledge to prospective students.
Importance of student testimonials – capturing good stories will go far
When researching and making decisions about continuing education, one of the first places prospective students will go is social media and review websites. While your staff’s enthusiasm for your programming is important, the credibility that other students and graduates have is critically important. To ensure your student and social community is positive, authentic and strong check in with your students through surveys, ask for testimonials and encourage your students to review your program. Your next best students are often referrals from your former best students – so encourage and promote students to be your best advocates.
My case for increased customer service throughout the student lifecycle starts with evaluating and removing current barriers to the process. Start with good customer service at the front desk, simplify those complicated application processes, train your employees to know your school’s key benefits, and capture those positive student stories to promote your programs from your most important audience – your students.
How I lived, saw or experienced one of MindMax’s values this month
Get Results – Learn Always – Align to Mission – Build Meaningful Relationships – Ask for Help.
“Build Meaningful Relationships” is a value that we take seriously as employees of MindMax. As I begin each new partnership with a school, I try to get to know the members of the staff – what motivates them, what frustrates them, and what areas I can assist with in helping to move the organization forward. Taking the time to appreciate the staff that is assisting in the partnership with MindMax, and understanding each person’s role is important in our everyday role. It is not just a work project that requires allotted hours each week, but it becomes a close relationship that requires listening and coaching as if we were fellow team members. It is through this relationship I feel we can make solid recommendations and informed decisions that have the universities best interests at heart.