2 Secrets to Achieving Adult Enrollment Goals
Jul 04, 2017
In order to identify opportunities and weaknesses in your efforts to recruit, retain and graduate adult students, you need to understand [a] if your actions are being properly executed on a consistent basis and [b] if your prospective and current students see any value in your execution of those actions.
For “A”, you need Mystery Shopper research because that is designed to measure how consistently you execute certain tasks during a process. For example, was the phone answered in fewer than 3 rings? Did the employee greet you with a smile? Did the employee welcome you to the business? Did the assistant explain that the ABC option includes XYZ? As you left the business, did a member of our staff thank you, by name, for visiting our location?
And for “B”, you need Customer Satisfaction research because that is designed to get the student’s perspective of your efforts. For example, how would you rate the staff on friendliness?
A few years back, we were working with a major university and the Provost, who was overseeing the enrollment/adviser teams, became fixated on average speed to answer a call and average handle time – and he would proudly announce performance in these two areas every week. Unfortunately, students hated the fact that those people that answered in the phone in less than 3 rings were unable to answer rather basic questions which led to a short phone call without the student getting a correct answer.
When we perform our basic Mystery Shopper service, we are reviewing specific factors and, based on our experience, offering you a grade based on our score card. But we strongly recommend that we develop a customized option so we gather more relevant information that will help you improve effectiveness and efficiently. You do have the option of having your own score card created based on your specific situation – and we strongly recommend it.
How to create an effective, efficient, affordable Mystery Shopper & Customer Satisfaction Process
First, work with someone that knows how to develop a list of tasks in your student-facing processes and use that to define what you consider to be “excellent” to “unacceptable” levels of performance. Make sure that you focus on objective factors rather than subjective – remember, this is about doing what they are supposed to be doing not how the shopper feels about the effort/experience.
Second, agree on the types/channels you will be shopping – in person, telephone, on-line (desktop and mobile).
Third, work with someone that knows how to develop a schedule so that you are going to have mystery shopper research performed at “peak” and “off peak” times because you want to understand how demand impacts performance.
Fourth, develop a sampling plan so that you are more confident that you are experiencing a typical experience. Obviously this is driven by budget and the level of statistical reliability you feel is required. The key point here is that this is not a “one and done” effort.
Lastly, we recommend hiring students to perform the shop for a variety of reasons. Train them and then test their efforts. Identify weaknesses or gaps in your approach, fix them, then re-train the students you hired to perform the shops.
Next, work with someone that understands how to develop a student/customer satisfaction survey so you are gathering the right data concerning your students’ perception of their experience.
Set up your sampling plan so that you get input from a microcosm of your larger audience and avoid over sampling certain groups/segments that may lead to biased results. Beyond the sample size, you may want to address sex, on-campus/commuter/on-line, program of study, age or other factors.
Develop a process for inviting people to participate and for following up in order to ensure the participate.
Then test everything, evaluate and modify as needed. Then either test again or rollout.
On-going or One and Done?
We recommend that both the Mystery Shopper and Student/Customer Satisfaction research be on-going so you can quickly identify changes in wants, needs, expectations, perceptions and performance as well as develop and implement appropriate modifications before small issues become larger problems.
Now, if you’re like most, you just rolled your eyes and thought “…no way we can get the budget for that type of initiative…” and I want you to imagine that I am standing next to you, patting you on the shoulder and saying “Yes, you can and here’s how…”
Let’s do a little back of the envelope math. Let’s say your typical adult student, enrolled in a graduate program, is worth about $25,000 in tuition. And let’s say that 25% of that tuition is profit – about $6,000 to keep the math easy.
How many incremental new students and/or retained students will you need to cover the cost of this research? And do you believe that this research will lead to that many incremental new and/or retained students within the year?
For most of our clients, the break-even point has been about 10 incremental new/retained students – a number that was easily attained by improving performance and student satisfaction based on the research.
If you have questions, please contact us at 651-666-0934 or email
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.