Have you ever lost a prospective student to a competitor but never knew why? Was it the range of courses you offer? Your localization? Or the customer experience you delivered? Let’s think about it…
Back in 2012, 53 percent of students considered their course represented good value for money. No matter how bad or good their customer experience was, unsatisfactory elements at this time represented minor or no costs to students. Since then, economic and political factors have hit students quite strongly. Universities fees tripled to £9,000 a year in 2013, which lead to a worrying 16 per cent decline in students’ satisfaction for four consecutive years.
In response to this strong financial shift it has become more and more prominent that students see themselves as customers and yet, on the other hand, universities do not necessarily see themselves as businesses. With the recent sharp decline of 9% in the number applications from international students, it is now a critical time for UK universities to harness customer experience and elevate service as a critical enabler to grow student enrollment.
Become a seamless university
To deliver student enrollment growth through superior service, UK universities need to develop a new mindset to better engage with students on their favorite communication channels. With a new generation of students embracing mobile and social technologies, it’s now a critical moment for universities to lead that change and become businesses empowered with omnichannel forces. Being anywhere, anytime and on any channel to ensure conversations with students never stops.
For instance, let’s take an international student from China interested in a course and considering which university they should enroll with. After considering multiple options and looking at various university websites, they finally decide to engage with your university. How frustrating would it be to this student if they can’t find the information and answers they are looking for and indeed expect? And also frustrating to you when you ultimately lose this prospective student because you have failed to deliver a service that meets their expectations and gained their trust?
To become a seamless university, students should always feel recognized: from the first tweet or email inquiry sent; to a physical conversation with your ambassadors; students should never have to repeat who they are, where they are from, what course they are interested in, the scholarship or accommodation they are looking for. By taking prospective students from start to finish across all channels in one smooth line, students will remember your university for all the right reasons.
Know your students
Customer experience is a strategic decision and to deliver a “wow” effect UK universities need to ask themselves:
What does the customer journey for our prospective students look like?
Which stage of the journey are prospective students dropping out at?
What’s missing in our strategy to make them choose our university?
Most importantly, what can our university deliver to create a stronger customer experience than our competitors and ultimately enroll more prospective students?
Mapping and understanding the customer journey of your prospective students and setting goals accordingly is the right step to take. For each persona, universities must map the most common customer journey; detailing channels and type of interactions through those channels. There’s little value in a prospective student having a highly personalized experience with your university over one channel, when they connect over another channel your university treats them as a complete stranger.
Create a customer experience with real people
Delivering a seamless customer experience does not happen overnight. Whichever internal changes your university decides to implement, each new process needs to be designed with one idea in mind: to put students at the centre of your customer experience. Let’s not forget that in the aforementioned example, it’s a human that will respond to tweets, answer emails, pick up the phone and meet students at your opening day. Prospective students have the opportunity to feel how great it is to be at your university and meet the people who care about their student experience. However, if they feel they are being processed like a robot, it’s likely that they will feel undervalued and that you do not care about them. To avoid this, universities need staff who understand what your university is, what it stands for, and its value.
Delivering superior customer experience is not something that universities should delay. Stiff competition and consistent increase in students’ unsatisfactory experience are signs that universities can no longer wait. To do so, universities needs to change their mentality and stop thinking that the same number of students will automatically enroll as in the past. Like any business, changes to customer expectations must be met, and universities are no exception to this rule.