Published on 2013/08/05

The Value of Customer Relationship Management in Non-Traditional Higher Education (Part 2)

The Value of Customer Relationship Management in Non-Traditional Higher Education (Part 2)
A strong customer relationship management system can help institutions gain an unexpected, but important, advantage in a highly competitive higher education marketplace.

This is the conclusion of Kevin Mokhtarian’s two-part series discussing the importance of customer relationship management (CRM) in higher education. In the first article, Mokhtarian shared his thoughts on how the marketplace has evolved and why institutions must now look to CRM systems as a mechanism to improve retention and institutional success. In this piece, Mokhtarian outlines some CRM features that can be operationalized to help institutions succeed.

A good CRM system must include a feedback loop. This mechanism captures student issues or questions and manages contact points for additional service, enhancing the relationship with each interaction.

Incorporating CRM drives faster service. Various communication elements can be automated to speed up response time. It can shorten the overall length of the enrollment process, reducing “recruit attrition.” It opens the door to e-document submission and manipulation. It assists in spotting trends which become feedback for marketing, program administrators or other departments included in the process. And CRM provides real numbers to use in making decisions. You can track each aspect of the lifecycle. For example, where in the process do you lose prospective students? Bottlenecks that impede progress are identified.

Careful consideration must be given to ensure a successful rollout of CRM. There should be buy-in from each department. One break in the delivery chain can doom the entire process, from a student’s perspective. Each step of the process must be defined, documented and monitored. When IT support is needed, it will have to be provided quickly.

Implementing CRM will be costly. Payback will come in the form of increased enrollments as students respond to superior service; efficiencies gained in the process, thus eliminating overlapping tasks; better opportunity to recruit for the “next program;” and greater conversion of student to alumni with a corresponding potential for donations.

The most important aspect, of course, is the “R.” Implementing CRM is about developing and maintaining relationships. To summarize, the adult student is approaching a return to school from a consumer perspective. Their expectations are high; students typically assess potential institutions for value as much as types of programs offered. Furthermore, great service and strong relationships can help the consumer recover from an error they encounter at any step of the cycle, or disappointment in an outcome (especially given the nature of the business in higher education, where students pay but must earn a degree; they cannot simply “buy” it).

The entire process can be improved via CRM software that helps institutions “listen” to their clients and manage data. A strong CRM system can help institutions recognize necessary changes to meet demand, and these changes can be made quickly. Further, these changes can be balanced with accreditation, financial and institutional considerations. A strong CRM system can also integrate components such as career services and counseling into the student experience.

Ultimately, all of these factors combine to provide students with a sense of greater value. As students perceive this great value in their institution, it gains a competitive advantage in the education marketplace.

To see the first installment of Kevin Mokhtarian’s two-part series, please click here.

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Readers Comments

Rebecca Cruser 2013/08/05 at 4:13 pm

Access to good, detailed data is incredibly important for long-term strategic planning. For example, Mokhtarian describes being able to pinpoint the exact part of the process where an institution loses students. Knowing that could help institutions to design targeted initiatives to address their shortcomings.

Lynn Pittelli 2013/08/05 at 4:55 pm

I understand how CRM leads to better experiences for current students, but how exactly does that translate into new enrollments? One thing missing from both of Mokhtarian’s pieces was hard evidence of the link between CRM and increased enrollments.

    Brad Hodson 2013/08/07 at 11:13 pm

    While I don’t have hard data for you, the assumption is quite valid in business that: if you provide better customer service, you will achieve higher sales rates. In a controlled environment, if a potential customer asks the same question of two different companies who provide the same answer, the company that answers first will probably get the sale.

    Such, with potential student inquiries, if you are faster on the draw than other competing choices, you are more likely to be on someone’s mind when making that final decision. And promptness isn’t everything. The quality of your answer makes a huge difference and a student will be able to see by how they are treated if this is a place they want to be.

    So, it’s not empirical, but it certainly holds true in the vast majority of cases. The right CRM when used properly increases sales, productivity, efficiency, communication, revenue, and much much more.

Kelly Tibbit 2013/08/06 at 10:39 am

Access to good, detailed data is incredibly important for long-term strategic planning. For example, Mokhtarian describes being able to pinpoint the exact part of the process where an institution loses students. Knowing that could help institutions to design targeted initiatives to address their shortcomings.

Joe Beckmann 2013/08/06 at 1:06 pm

For far too many institutions with a predominantly online presence, CRM is scam. That’s why graduation rates suck, completion rates a disaster, and student loan failures so incredibly regressive.

The best, and probably only, way to address these failures is to end the exclusion of college loans from bankruptcy. If colleges had to earn the money they charge, they’d keep their students through graduation and after. Otherwise it’s just a shallow scam.

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