Outbound Telemarketing Missing Opportunities As Part of College Student Recruitment
Jan 14, 2016
More and more colleges are relying on email as their primary, if not sole communication channel with potential new students in their student recruitment process. But some are still requiring enrollment counselors to ‘smile and dial’ their assigned potential students. And some are missing a great opportunity to capture key data that will help them improve student recruitment campaign performance.
As part of our Student Recruitment Process Analysis and on-going research, we’ve listened in on a lot of phone calls made by a lot of enrollment specialists – and the good news is that some are using the opportunity to speak with potential students to its fullest potential. The less than good news is that some have a lot of opportunity for improvement.
First, we feel it’s important to understand that every interaction is an opportunity for you to share relevant information with the potential student AND gather additional information about the student so you can more effectively qualify and prioritize them.
Yet many colleges are missing the boat.
Here’s how a common call from an enrollment counselor to a potential student goes:
POTENTIAL STUDENT: Hello.
ENROLLMENT SPECIALIST: Hello, Bob? My name is John Smith and I am an enrollment specialist at ABC University calling to thank you for your interest in the online MBA program at ABC and to see if you have any questions I can help answer for you.
BOB: No, not at this time.
JOHN: Great. Well while I have you on the phone, I did want to let you know that….
At this point, John, the enrollment specialist, will push out a little prepared speech about any of a wide array of topics ranging from an upcoming open house to facts and figures about the college and/or the program of interest that Bob submitted on a web form.
This isn’t driven by any special insight into Bob’s interests – it’s typically driven by whatever the John, the enrollment specialist, decides to share.
Then, usually about 3 to 4 minutes later, John eventually ends his monologue and asks…
JOHN: So, Bob…any questions?
And when Bob once again passes on the opportunity to ask questions, John will quickly thank Bob for his time and interest before ending with the classic…
JOHN: Well, remember, I am here to help you so if you need any help, reach out to me.
And so ends a rather uneventful phone conversation.
What we strongly suggest is that you use this opportunity to speak with someone willing to invest their future in your institution to gather some key data that can help both the potential student and your own institution.
For example, most web forms tied to lead generation campaigns are going to ask for the following:
- First and Last Name
- Email Address
- Telephone Number
- Program of Interest
- Desired Start Date
That’ great to get things started but you really can’t qualify anyone with just that information – unless of course they ask for a program you don’t offer!
One of the more critical pieces of information you could attempt to gather as early in the relationship as possible is tied to their education background.
Do they meet your requirements for admission into the college and the program?
Now this might require a few questions be asked and answered but it does determine if you should invest any more of your limited resources. For example, let’s say the potential student is interested in your online MBA program which requires a student to have earned a minimum score on the GRE or GMAT – and that student hasn’t taken that test yet.
Boom! They aren’t qualified for your program – and since they cannot enroll in the program without that minimum score, you can step back and focus on other students that are qualified.
What if you aren’t using outbound telemarketing?
Why not create an online survey and share the link to that survey in your emails? Set it up so that you can track their click of the link and submission of their answers, then set up some business rules so the data gets uploaded to their file in your CRM. Then use that information to requalify and reprioritize the individual.
Why not wait to capture that information from their application form?
Well, there are a couple of reasons you might want to get this insight sooner rather than later.
First, if you have a large number of new leads that are not qualified for a variety of reasons, you might have a targeting/lead generation problem that needs fixing. And the earlier you can fix that, the sooner you will enjoy higher quality inquiries and leads.
Second, you are going to invest a lot of time, effort and energy nurturing an inquiry from that first moment through the submission of the application – and your performance will improve if you’re able to eliminate all that effort as soon as possible so that your staff can focus on those better qualified.
What Questions Should You Ask – What Data Do You Need?
Here are some examples of some questions that colleges felt were important.
Do they have the education requirements to gain admittance into your college? Their stated program of interest?
If standardized tests are required, have they taken the test(s) and earned the necessary score(s)?
Are you a US citizen? If yes, In-state or Out of State resident? If no, what country?
Member of US Military?
If yes, Active Duty, Retired, Branch?
How are they financing their education?
Self-finance? Employer Reimbursement? Financial Aid? Other?
If employer reimbursement, name of employer in order to determine if that employer has a relationship with the institution that impacts tuition, billing, other?
If self-finance, are they the sole decision maker or do they need approval from another person(s)? Do they have contingency plans in case this changes? What are they?
If financial aid, have they submitted paperwork? If so, status?
But Wait – There’s More!
These next questions get into traits of current and previously success students which allow you to identify any potential challenges the individual might face as a student – which, in turn, helps you identify and discuss support services offered by your institution, if available.
Did your parents or guardians graduate from college? Siblings? Spouse?
Do you describe yourself as well organized? Having strong time management skills? As an avid reader? As a strong writer? As an effective public speaker?
Are you currently employed? Length of employment with current employer? Years in current position?
What type of technology do you own? What type of technology do you prefer to use? How well do you know Microsoft Office? How much time do you spend on the Internet doing the following things?
What are they looking for in the college you enroll in? Program of study? What information do you need in order to say “This is the institution and program I must enroll in”?
What is motivating you to enroll in college -career advancement? Switching careers? Re-entering the workforce? Personal satisfaction/growth? Prove to family/friends/colleagues that you can do it? Other?
Have you discussed your plans to enroll in college and pursue a degree with family? Friends? Employers? Do you have the support from these key people so that when [ex] education and family/work might conflict?
Every contact is an opportunity to ask questions and gather critical information that will help you improve your student recruitment performance. But that takes a little planning in order to identify what questions you have and what information you need to gather in order to answer those questions.
Let us know what you think about this post – did we cover something you hadn’t thought of before? Did we miss anything you found to be valuable?
And, of course, if you want to talk about your own circumstances, feel free to contact us.
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.