The challenging enrollment environment continues to put pressure on higher ed admissions teams at both non-profit and proprietary institutions. In 2014 schools made significant investments in third party inquiry generation and other technology-based recruitment tools to gain a competitive edge. Approximately one-third invested more than $5 million in inquiry generation according to the LeadsCouncil Education Benchmarking Report. And schools will continue to invest in 2015, while striving to make better use of these inquiries, according to the report.
But even with increased focus on tech based tools to support enrollment, there are still major mistakes being made with online inquiries. New data shows that some of the most prevalent enrollment tactics might be hurting, not helping with enrollment yield. These missteps also have the potential to negatively impact a school’s reputation.
Here are three of the most troubling mistakes made by admission professionals uncovered by Velocify and Enrollment Resources’ secret shopper study:[i]
1.) Over calling student prospects
Many of the non-profit and for-profit schools surveyed over called their prospects. In fact, 30% of non-profit and 42% of for-profit schools were excessively persistent, with more than 12 calls to a prospect over 22 days. Velocify research has determined that six call attempts is the optimal number to maximize contact rates without over-investing time and resources into unresponsive prospects.
2.) Not showing an active interest in the prospective student
Non-profit schools frequently failed to ask for the calling prospect’s basic contact information when answering inbound phone inquiries. Despite the benefits of establishing a quick connection with a prospective student, 63% of non-profits (vs. only 13% of for-profits) didn't even ask for the caller's name.
3.) Failing to ask open, engaging questions and initiate a meaningful conversation
Only about half (53%) of non-profit schools asked engaging questions and only 24% asked the prospect to schedule a school tour. If admissions advisors do not even invite prospective students to begin the career planning process, they are doing the student and their school a disservice. Moreover, it is a significant missed opportunity to generate excitement for the school.
The best way to assess whether the goals of a potential student are a good fit for a school is to delve into the life goals of the caller with open-ended questions that might include:
What makes you interested in this program?
How long have you been thinking about going back to school?
What research have you done so far into schools, programs, and the job market?
Additional research underscores the importance of taking a personal interest in a student. Excitement about attending is a more powerful driver of college selection than cost or perceived quality of the institution, according to a recent Longmire and Associates study. ‘If the student does not feel that the college has taken a personal interest in them their level of excitement diminishes,’ the report says.
What You Can Do Today
Most schools have strategic recruitment communication plans in place, but re-evaluate their efforts too infrequently for a student pool that is increasingly making their school selection online. Fortunately, there are some immediate, ‘no-cost’ steps you can take today that don’t require a reassessment of your entire communications effort.
1.) Use available metrics to benchmark your own contact performance against other schools.
Compare your school’s performance to schools in the study and contact strategy best practices in the four KPIs for optimal performance:
- Number of call attempts
- Number of emails sent
2.) Review and update scripts and processes for handling inbound calls from prospective students.
With the best practice tips above, this should be very easy to do and costs nothing. Make sure your receptionists and admissions advisors consistently ask for the calling prospect’s contact information. The list of open ended questions above is also a good starting point for exploring a student’s future and building excitement for your school.
3.) Don’t outsource your reputation without vetting your marketing partner.
Before outsourcing your admissions process to a call center partner, make sure you have a solid understanding of how you are incentivizing them to produce results. For example, if a call center partner is rewarded simply for the number of qualified inquiries produced, they might overcall prospects and inadvertently damage your reputation among prospects in the process.
It’s encouraging to know that the largest U.S. universities see digital channels as the competitive edge in attracting top talent in the crowded admissions space. We applaud that commitment and hope these performance benchmarks will be useful tools to help you better reach and engage your prospective students. Download your free copy of the study, “Comparing Inquiry Response Strategies at Non-Profit and For-Profit Higher Education Institutions.”
[i] 10 non-profit and 10 for-profit schools were surveyed. Because students interested in campus- based programs are often recruited differently than those interested in online programs, all schools were contacted about a program offered online for consistency. Further, the inquiry was focused on an online MBA program where it was available. By attempting to standardize on similar online programs, we hoped to compare schools that should be competing nationally (and, often, internationally) against one another for the same students.