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The problem with student recruitment experiences

It's about time the student experience took priority over internal politics, says Stephen Morgan

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | June 03, 2016 | Students

Stephen Morgan, Co-founder of digital transformation business, Squiz, thinks it’s about time the student experience took priority over internal politics, legacy systems and siloed process.

The student/university relationship has changed significantly in recent years. The rise in fees has positioned a university education as an expensive 3+ year investment that’s likely to saddle students with a debt that will be carried for decades. With that knowledge, students are expecting more – even when they’re looking for a place.

Unable to rely purely on reputation alone, universities now have the job of convincing debt-conscious students and parents to invest their time and money in their proposed student experience.

This change in dynamics isn’t necessarily new, but universities are yet to offer student experiences that are comparable (and now expected) with that of the wider business world and the continuing customer experience revolution that’s going on outside is bringing a whole new set of challenges (and opportunities) for universities.

The vast majority of today’s students are tech-savvy, digital natives who have never known a time without the Internet. What this means is that their expectations of a student experience is now extremely high, and it’s only going to get higher.

First Impressions Count

During the prospecting process, the student will have multiple interactions with a university, some digital, some analogue. To stand out, it’s important that the experience you provide them with is seamless and personalised – showing them that they’re not just a number and that you understand what it is that they want from you.

For example, a 17-18 year old who spends a large portion of their time online, the first touch-point in their university experience is likely to be the university’s website. They’ll want to be able to easily find the information that they’re looking for and, if they like what they see, they might sign-up for a prospectus or ‘Open Day’.

In that moment, the university can capture all the information necessary about the prospective student to be able to (automatically) tailor further comms and experiences, both online and offline if put in to a CRM (or similar) system for all to use. 

This could prevent you from sending out inaccurate comms about the wrong subjects, making clumsy follow-up calls, or contacting them in a mass, generic outreach programme after they’ve already begun a relationship with you – it’s these, potentially small errors, that makes the student think of the university as inconsistent and inconvenient, and it’s this opinion that will stick.

A Disconnected Experience

Spreading the student experience amongst multiple, unconnected departments will cause problems with different processes and technologies. IT looking after the website, Marketing sending out comms, Recruitment looking after open-days etc. – different departments looking after different touch-points.

Whilst internal politics and legacy processes often dictate who should be making the decisions in their fiefdoms, it’s the student who is left to receive sub-par, impersonal experiences that don’t compare with those that are being experienced elsewhere. To stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive, a university cannot take a siloed approach to the student-experience. 

To find out some top tips about how you can deliver excellent student experiences that will drive student recruitment and make brand advocates of the ones you already have, we’ve a free resource called ‘Building a Transformative Digital’ which you can download here: https://www.squiz.net/resources/digital-first-strategies-for-higher-education. 

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