Why Your Non-Traditional Division Needs to Prioritize Its System
How Offering Self-Service Tools Can Take Non-Credit Divisions From Good to Great
Most higher education institutions and divisions today have a number of specialized systems operating behind the scenes to support the management of their institutions, including a Student Information System (SIS), a Learning Management System (LMS), some kind of financial management system, and perhaps a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.
These different tools all support crucial aspects of institutional management. Unfortunately, for most colleges and universities, these investments do not necessarily create value that students can see.
Students See, and Aren’t Satisfied With, the Status Quo
A recent survey of students conducted by DJS Research found the following:
These statistics hardly paint a picture of a happy student body. They do, however, prove one critical point: Back-end technology has an important and noticeable impact on the day-to-day lives of students.
Students want a seamless customer experience from their college or university, one that more closely mirrors what they see from companies like Amazon and Uber. They want it to be easy to interact with their institution.
So how can institutions make the most of their investments in various management systems? How can they ensure they’re still managing these critical parts of their institutions and divisions while delivering the kind of engagement that actually improves the student experience?
Leveraging CLM to Leave the Status Quo Behind
A Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM) system could provide the answer. Though two thirds of the acronym is the same, a CLM and a CRM are very different animals. A CLM is not a tool that can provide the marketing automation that something like Salesforce can provide. Instead, it digs below the surface and provides the rich intelligence, data and student centricity that buttresses and informs the entire back-end infrastructure (including your CRM). A CLM system is like an SIS on steroids—it is designed to handle everything a traditional administrative system would manage, while putting the learners’ experience at the forefront and designing all processes around it.
A CLM helps bring the institutional culture of student-centricity into every workflow that goes into managing it, while providing massive gains in efficiency and automation that significantly improve the staff experience as well.
For today’s colleges and universities, CLM systems are just what the doctor ordered. In fact, EDUCAUSE’s 2016 Top-10 IT Issues list, Foundations for Student Success, highlighted “Next Gen Enterprise IT” with the following explanation:
“Developing and implementing enterprise IT applications, architectures and sourcing strategies to achieve agility, scalability, cost-effectiveness and effective analytics.”
A CLM system hits these marks with laser precision. Let’s go through them in order:
Agility is a top priority for higher education institutions today. Being able to move quickly—whether it’s responding to a student concern, adapting to new market conditions or ensuring website information is up-to-date—is central to a college or university’s capacity to succeed.
Nowhere is the benefit of agility more keenly felt than in the launching of new offerings, and this space provides a great example of one way a CLM system can help schools move faster.
Taking new programs to market can be an arduous process—not because of a lack of ideas. The bottleneck often occurs as a result of the approvals process, where applications can get lost, deadlines can get missed and ultimately a market-responsive program can take years to finally get to students. By that time, you might have competition that wasn’t there at the start of the process, or the landscape may have shifted—rendering a once-relevant program obsolete.
Automated workflows are one of the ways a CLM is different from a more traditional system. Workflows make these approval bottlenecks a thing of the past. By streamlining the approval process and ensuring that new or modified offerings are automatically routed to the right people at the right time, a CLM creates opportunities for the right people to review and approve offerings while ensuring nothing slips through the cracks.
Growth is a high priority for every college or university outside the elite top strata. Institutions need to be able to deliver a better experience than they’re currently offering to a greater number of students than they’re currently serving. This may sound impossible, but through process automation and leveraging students’ tendency to live online, it’s a realistic and achievable goal.
For many schools, registration and enrollment processes are manual and paper-based. Even more schools simply moved their inefficient paper-and-pencil processes to the web—posting a PDF online, for example—rather than reimagining how the online enrollment process should work. And even today, across North America, schools are still processing payments manually on-site or over the phone.
This is ineffective in the modern environment. Students are seasoned customers and expect a sophisticated online shopping experience from everyone, colleges and universities included. This means providing students with an online shopping cart and self-service portal that allows them to browse offerings and manage their own course and financial information.
I could pontificate about the impact process automation has on the ability for an institution to scale for days, but it would be easier to simply share an anecdote. This is from an interview that one of our clients, Carolyn Young from Western University, conducted with The EvoLLLution shortly after her university implemented its CLM system:
“Every year we launch our new courses and programs in June. This year there was a function in our system that was very effective at reaching out to students who had expressed an interest in specific courses. On the first day we went live with all of our registrations, close to 300 emails were sent out to people who had visited our website in the past and wanted to be the first to know the courses were open for registration. Out of that 300, 150 visited the website right away within 24 hours and there were at least 50 percent of those people who signed up for courses. That went right to the bottom line and what was so exciting about that process was that no one on our team had to do any work around that; it was actually just a function in the system that sent out those emails automatically.”
A CLM bridges the gaps in the institutional infrastructure, taking the burden of repeatable (and automatable) tasks off staff. This allows the institution to serve greater numbers of students while also freeing up staff time so they can help students who have genuine issues that need solving.
By adopting a CLM, a college or university is able to deliver a better experience to greater numbers of students.
A CLM system ties disparate systems together into a centralized infrastructure that maximizes the ROI that institutions get from existing IT investments (as mentioned above) while helping to generate additional revenue.
At its simplest, by improving the conversion process that takes a student from interested to registered, a CLM can help improve an institution’s enrollment numbers right off the bat. But by leveraging its massive intelligence-gathering capacity alongside its eCommerce best practices, a CLM system can do so much more.
A CLM system collects an incredibly rich and diverse amount of data that helps to paint a detailed portrait of every student who comes through the door. That data can be leveraged by staff who would otherwise have to consult numerous different systems to create a full picture, and would still likely miss out on key information (like a student’s goals, employer, institutional touchpoints, financial information and more). With this rich data at their fingertips, staff can immediately provide a high level of personalized service that students expect.
This data can be leveraged to help generate additional business for the institution as well. For example, if a student has enrolled in multiple courses that lead towards a certificate, the CLM system can automatically encourage that student to enroll in the last few courses they need to earn that credential. Those are enrollments that, without a CLM system, would have only come about as a result of manual data analysis.
What’s more, a CLM system brings business world best practices like abandoned shopping cart recovery to the table. This means if a prospective student begins to add courses to their shopping cart but then leaves the page before processing the transaction, the system will automatically reach out to them and allow that student to re-access the shopping cart they had already started building. Our internal figures show that this simple, automated process leads to a high rate of return for our client schools.
By bringing rich student intelligence and business world best practices to the forefront, the CLM system can not only help institutions make the most of existing IT investments; it can help drive revenues as well.
Finally, we get to effective analytics. After all, we’re in an era where decisions based on guesswork have serious consequences. In a resource-constrained environment, postsecondary leaders must ensure that their resources—human, capital and IT—are being leveraged to their maximum potential to serve students in the best way possible.
Through robust reporting capabilities and an ability to visually represent data, a CLM system brings analytics to the table by making data understandable and actionable at every level of the institution. Leveraging dashboards and other visualizations that help to turn a spreadsheet into easily understandable trends and shifts helps administrators ensure they are responsive to student demands. For example, historic enrollment trends may show that a certain percentage of students will register for a course days before the cut-off, rather than weeks. As a result, leaders can know not to panic at low early enrollment numbers and maintain—or even increase—the number of sections they’re making available to ensure students’ needs are met.
This kind of information also improves institutional and divisional transparency, allowing leaders to defend sometimes-tough decisions—like cutting marketing campaigns to only invest in the ones that generate the most return (as they did at Stanford SCPD)—by being able to back themselves up with hard data rather than “a feeling.”
When a division is being run effectively at every level—when resources are being properly allocated, when staff are fully informed, when the division is adapted to meet the tendencies of students rather than forcing students to adapt to the institution—it stands out from the crowd. Data is at the core of delivering an exceptional student experience in today’s higher education environment.
Exceeding Students’ Expectations with Next-Generation Enterprise IT
Higher education institutions are incredibly complex organizations. Massive numbers of staff, students, digital and physical infrastructure, external stakeholders and goals all must be balanced against each other and served properly. While many institutions have invested heavily in various tech tools and systems to help guide the ship, the gaps between these systems still force administration to be institution-centered rather than student-centered. This means, traditionally, students have had to lower their expectations to fit the limitations of the institution, rather than the institution raising its level of service to meet students’ expectations.
The time for student-centricity, however, is now. And a CLM system that helps to raise the IT infrastructure of the institution up to the level that students expect is critical to making a modern-day institution truly student-centric.
CLMs help institutions get away from the status quo that led to all the dissatisfaction discussed earlier and bring their back-end systems into the limelight.
To download a primer diving deeper into CLM’s capacity to improve institutional student centricity, please click here.
How Offering Self-Service Tools Can Take Non-Credit Divisions From Good to Great
Author Perspective: Business