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CRM: Is Advising Technology the answer?

A recent EdSurge blog entitled “Students Show Mixed Feelings Toward Advising,” addressed student advising and the use of technology. According to the blog, new research indicates that students are not altogether sold on using the CRM advising technology in place of the traditional human advisor.

They like using technology for simple tasks, but prefer face-to-face meetings with advisors to work through complex decisions, such as planning educational and career paths.

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When Technology Falls Short

This finding is vital for a student service strategy and the subsequent technology investments. We have all used automated customer service from banks to technology companies. A simple transaction usually proves successful, but anything out of the ordinary can, and oftentimes does, end in talking to a representative or personal frustration. It brings to mind a current television commercial where a man is yelling “REPRESENTATIVE!” into a phone after being prompted by an automated system.

As my colleague Paul Setze recently wrote in his blog about CRM challenges, “Student success does not start and end with a CRM system; however, CRM is often the starting and end point to the discussion. This emphasis on CRM is a symptom of the attraction to bright shiny objects.”

Matching the Service to the System

As the EdSurge blog points out, CRM solutions are very helpful in gathering information and providing advice. The question I would ask is: What service are you trying to provide the student and what is the best way to deliver the service? From my experience, the answers will be different based on the service the student is requesting. In Higher Ed, self-service systems for registration, viewing bills or making payments have been in place for a number of years. These are transactional activities. Activities that involve “planning” result in a decision. The technology is able to provide a lot of information to assist with the decisions, but in the end the student needs to decide. Some students will be comfortable with the information, but not all. This is especially important if the student service is a part of the institution’s brand.

There are a number of vendors that will provide solutions to reduce the burden on an institution’s staff. It is good technology, but does it fit for some or all of the students? Regardless if the goal is to provide the best information to the student or to reduce staff activities, always look from the eyes of the student and understand the institution’s students’ needs. You do not want your student yelling “REPRESENTATIVE” into the phone or at the computer screen.

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