Universities personalize their communications to compete
To convert interested students into candidates in an increasingly competitive market, colleges and universities are using technology to transform traditional large mailings and floods of informational emails into streamlined, personalized communication.
Tom Green, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said the admissions process has historically adjusted recruiting communications to accommodate new technologies. Now, colleges and universities are investing in advanced analytics to learn more about students who drop out of the application process. But Green said if the information gleaned from the data is not used in institutions’ communication strategies, it may not bear fruit.
“We can now have these abilities to understand the habits of people online, which means that when they visit our website, we can really see where they are going, how much time they are spending, what things might interest them. , “he said.” But if we don’t understand how to communicate about these things, it’s just more data. “
“We didn’t know what to do next”
Higher education institutions are increasingly turning to customer relationship management systems, which can help admissions offices explore data from the registration process and segment student groups for communications. personalized. Recent industry reports have found planned investments in CRMs. A recent survey from Salesforce and The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that 45% expect CRM investments at their institution.
Western Connecticut State University invested in Liason’s CRM software, called TargetX, in 2013. Since 2014, Danbury University claims to have seen a 38% increase in its freshman application pool. Western Connecticut State University associate vice president for enrollment services Jay Murray told EdScoop that the CRM creates dashboards for data points such as requests by major or cash deposits by geographical area.
But driven by continued regional competition with other universities over a shrinking pool of potential students and forced by the coronavirus pandemic to focus on digital recruiting, Western Connecticut integrates an enrollment management tool – developed by Othot, a software company Pennylvania – to power predictive analytics. It matches years of historical data to inform admissions about steps they can take to prevent students from dropping out of the admissions process. It can also assign an enrollment probability score to students based on information such as region and SAT score, and adjusts this score based on different actions the institution might take, such as offering more financial aid. .
“When you don’t hear anything [from an admitted student] – and that’s the case we’ve seen this year, more than ever – we didn’t know what to do next, ”said Murray. “Was that the package?” Was it a call from a faculty member? Was it a call from an admissions counselor? Was it a tailor-made communication from a club or a sports organization? These were all things we didn’t know because we didn’t have the feedback needed to make those changes through these different points of the funnel.
An “intelligent” system
Green, the director of the admissions association, said taking an informed approach to understanding how to communicate with students and what strategies would increase the likelihood of enrollment is an ongoing process for universities, including how contact is too important.
“The information we’ve seen on this is pretty consistent, whether it’s paper communications, chat messages, text messages, or emails – if I’m interested in your institution at this point. , you almost can’t send me too many. Green said.
In the Salesforce survey, nearly half of the more than 1,000 students internationally said they wanted more personalized communications in their college experience. Ahmed El-Haggan, chief information officer at Coppin State University in Baltimore, told EdScoop that personalized communications can begin as soon as a student starts searching for information.
“[What] I am considering again to understand more and more the different phases and life cycles of students and the different parts of what they need, ”El-Haggan said.
After seeing low student satisfaction rates, Coppin State administrators began working with Microsoft and edtech company Anthology in 2019 to develop a new digital strategy. Part of this was personalizing communications, El-Haggan said, designing content to suit major subjects or students’ interests.
The university has designed a system that sends a series of messages from its financial aid, administration and admissions offices. El-Haggan used the example of the content for a student interested in accounting: Previously, the admissions office would send an email directing a student to the university’s general website. Now, a student can receive an email from the president or dean of the university that links directly to the accounting program’s website.
“The system is so smart that it can predict that this student will still read the email at 11 a.m., while this student will read the email at 10 p.m. and then send the messages at the times when this student is very likely to read, ”he said.
El-Haggan said the university is focusing on these types of communication throughout the student’s stay at the university to improve student retention and success after enrollment, which means examining the points of decision in all systems where students interact with the university – and improve them.