By Daryl Pile, Director, Public Sector, Gamma
A record number of students have found their university places through clearing since last week’s A-level results day, according to UCAS. The admission service estimates clearing was the ‘the busiest ever’ with 33,000 students seeking a university place through the process – up 13% from last year. This year, lines opened two hours earlier in an attempt to ease the strain from the removal of the cap that limited the number of places universities in England could offer. Despite the millennials love of social media and texting, never before has the telephone played such a pivotal role for them. Students were required to pick up a phone, dial their preferred university and speak to staff about their options. And, while students have the pressure of making hard decisions about their future, universities also face increasing amounts of pressure during the clearing process every year.
Efforts are always made to bring in extra resources to man the phones for clearing day, but one angle that is rarely considered is the potential strain to the telecom systems of the universities themselves. With such a mass of disheartened students calling up the universities, networks easily become overstretched each year, and are left the tackle the huge peak in call traffic. Having poor infrastructure in place will only add to the student’s anxiety and can also decrease the efficiency and engagement of university response teams – which can in some cases can be the students’ first impression of the university.
This is where SIP Trunking can help.
While its benefits are relevant throughout the year, the ISDN replacement has a number of features that can help organisations during periods of mass traffic such as clearing – the ability to scale voice capacity up, and down, when necessary. SIP also allows flexibility which is both cost efficient and logistically viable and effective call management which can ensure that calls can be queued and routed to the right teams as efficiently as possible.
Whilst enlisting the help of tutors and students can keep admission teams flexible, traditional telephony still has its limitations. With such a call volume, scaling to meet demand is the only viable option to stay on top of the traffic. Scaling up to meet demand often comes with a significant cost for hardware and the delivery of ISDN lines, often under long term contracts which obviously become redundant once the high traffic period finishes. SIP trunking affords universities the scalability to accommodate the increased strain. Lines can be easily added with a simple software configuration, and removed once the Clearing process is over.
As well as better traffic management, SIP trunking allows universities to provide a better call service for the day. A separate contact number can be set up in order to route Clearing calls to the correct faculty with no impact on normal network traffic and can aid reporting on key metrics that can help improve the process in future years. This technology also allows for an effective call queuing service – pre-recorded messages can update students on their progress, reducing call abandonment. The call queuing service also reduces students’ anxiety and aims to provide the best possible service considering the circumstances.
Unlike traditional telephony options, which require the regular maintenance of circuit boxes and a dedicated on-site IT support team, SIP trunking is IP-based. This reduces the strain on IT, allows universities to better monitor their traffic and offers resiliency in the network – ensuring business continuity in the event of any downtime. While universities expect a mass of calls during the clearing process, other peaks can occur out of the blue or build up over time. Better monitoring and management can allow for better planning – a key point for many institutions looking to future-proof their communications infrastructure.
The university environment has become a buyer’s market. Universities wishing to fill their places need to ensure every interaction between potential students and the institution is as positive and productive as possible. Considering the amount of students entering the Clearing process is increasing year to year, ensuring university telephony systems are in place to support the Clearing day peak is more important than ever.