In previous blogs, I have emphasized the need to consider CRM from a student-centric perspective, rather than merely an institutional one (Keeping Pace With Today’s Student). This is because, while many CRM systems are good at identifying students who may need assistance or follow-up based on risk factors, they can fall short on student engagement. Identifying at-risk students and generating targeted communication is only half the battle. Making sure those students respond and interact is the other–-often neglected–-half.
This is where a student-centric approach comes in. A good CRM system makes it easy for students to respond as well as request services, whether that means accessing tutoring or financial aid programs or simply confirming enrollment. If students do not feel compelled to respond or that responding is too complicated, they simply will not respond. What’s more, they may either look for other solutions or develop their own for receiving help.
Enter the Student-Based Solution
One recent example is a tutoring app called Sesh Mobile App. Developed by two students, this peer-to-peer, iOS app “allows students to request a tutoring session, or ‘sesh,’ instantly, any time of the day or night.” The app is currently in use at Stanford and Vanderbilt, and is expanding to five other universities.
Such student-based solutions present both a problem and an opportunity for CRM vendors and users. The problem is that data from these “off-the-grid” apps is not captured by the CRM system, which can lead to duplication of work and hamper accurate forecasting. For instance, a university might communicate about tutoring opportunities to a student who is already receiving tutoring elsewhere. On the positive side, apps that are developed for—and by—students offer a blueprint for engaging students. Incorporating such strategies into a university’s student experience by focusing on the service the student will use becomes a benefit for both the student and the school. For example, the service might be the delivery of a framework to connect students and tutors. Putting control into the students’ hands may be uncomfortable, but by providing the framework, it is possible to capture the activities in the CRM and update the student’s risk assessment.
Encouraging Student Use
CRM is not a “plug-and-play” solution. It is not something just for “those IT guys.” The success of a university’s CRM depends on the buy-in of everyone concerned. As with any tool, it only works if people use it. That includes both employees who enter data and, of course, the students. Instead of designing systems merely from an institutional perspective, institutions need to consider the needs and desires of today’s students. For instance, does the system make use of social media sites, where students spend much of their time? Are online tools clear, simple, inviting and easily accessible? Are students able to identify their communication preference?
Remember, the ultimate goal is the success of the students; not simply informing them of school resources, but getting students to use those resources to help be successful in school and beyond. Up until now, CRM vendors seem to be focused on the institutional needs for outbound communications and, in my opinion, not enough on the impacts of the student experience. The next step is to better understand how to engage students by understanding the services they like.