Differentiate Your Enrollment Management Team by Engaging Prospective Students with A Human-focused Student Experience
When it comes to the student journey, marketing campaigns and extensive course offerings won’t cut it. Providing a seamless, engaging, and supportive experience from the enrollment process right through to graduation day is essential. Think back to Microsoft Zune. In 2011, Microsoft discontinued Zune. Microsoft’s answer to the iPod was a flash in the pan, discontinued after just five years.
Although Zune had many features that are now standard on mobile devices, it could have provided a better user experience. There were fewer options for customization than the iPod; its software was buggy and slow, bulky, and lacked developer support.
An institution’s Enrollment Management Team works tirelessly to ensure students have a smooth and seamless journey. They play an integral role in positioning your brand for success.
To help them in their mission, consider this five-step approach to enroll and retain new students and keep them engaged until they become proud graduates.
Step 1: Identify Key Market Opportunities and Build Your Strategy to Engage and Serve Those Opportunities
The goal is to identify the opportunities that will provide the most value. Microsoft did this with the Zune Pass, a paid music subscription service that allowed users to access a music library for a monthly fee.
it’s crucial to tailor your programs to both the strengths of your institution and the needs of your local demographic. Enhance the appeal of your program by identifying and capitalizing on what makes your institution unique. It’s beneficial to engage in discussions with your team and self-reflect on questions such as, “Who do we best serve and how can we best serve them?”
This could mean focusing on specific workforce verticals and building an engagement strategy that speaks to interested students all the way from the enrollment process to program offerings, partnership discounts and other differentiators. Developing these connections will help strengthen your institution’s brand awareness and grow stronger relationships that have depth, meaning and intention to serve. This will ultimately help the institution increase enrollments because the key strategy revolves around effectively supporting those we know we can serve, rather than attempting to cater to everyone’s needs.
Step 2: Give Students a Way to Connect and Engage with Your Information
The student journey is built on solid infrastructure and established processes in higher education. This includes everything from your website and social media channels to your admissions process and student support services. The primary aim is to provide students with a stable, comprehensive, and efficient learning environment.
As we dive deeper into this journey, we encounter numerous points of contact between the student and the enrollment team. These could be a phone call, an email, a meeting, or a website visit. In the digital era, the use of SEO and UX/Conversion Rate Optimization plays a crucial component. These strategies enhance your brand’s visibility and improve user experience. They ensure that your environments are not only easy to navigate but also intuitive and engaging, contributing significantly to an impactful student support system.
Consider these key factors when developing your engagement strategy with prospective students:
Their Path to Inquire:
- Make it easy and accessible to gain information about your programs
- Make it relevant to their demands.
- Lay out a path that would aid in making the subsequent decisions regarding enrollment
Clarity and Visibility:
- Create clear calls to action that are relevant to where they are in the Student Journey
Responsiveness and Engagement:
- Define the New Inquiry Outreach Process across multiple departments to create a consistent unit
- Generate personalized responses when you have prospective student profiles
- Tailor your messaging
Ask yourself, if YOU were a student engaging with your current content, processes and systems, would you engage with your people, and if so, to what level?
Step 3: Create Successful Infrastructure and Processes to Support the Student Journey
The student journey is the sum of all student interactions with an institution, from the moment they first learn about the school to the day they graduate. Institutions that create a personalized and seamless student journey are more likely to attract and retain students.
One way to create a successful student journey is to have well-defined infrastructure and processes in place. Your infrastructure should support the student from inquiry to enrollment. While the inquiry-to-enrollment process can be complex with many layers and stages, it can be made stronger and more effective by focusing on language, strategies and systems that put the student at the center of the process and experience.
Here are some tips that institutions can create a journey that is user-friendly, efficient, and enjoyable:
- Empathize with students by understanding their perspectives
- Experience the student journey from the lived experience of the student through exercises like Mystery Shopping to get a feel for the actual service and support students receive.
- Identify areas for improvement through Mystery Shopping exercises and compare the actual experience with the experience you are expecting students to have, in addition to asking students how they feel about the process and where they think it could be improved
- Diagnose gaps in the student experience by identifying the structures, processes, workflows, or systems causing problems as identified through Mystery Shopping, data and feedback from both students and employees.
Step 4: Enhance Engagement with Students After Enrollment
The importance of continued support after enrollment cannot be overstated. Students need to feel supported throughout their academic journey, from the first day of class to the day they graduate. This support can take many forms, such as a post-enrollment engagement strategy to ensure your enrollment management team retains the new students you enroll, Academic Advising for post-enrollment, supportive technology, student success services and a strong sense of community.
Institutions can and should help students stay engaged and motivated throughout their academic journey. The focus on care and support to ensure students are successful and have the tools they need, help the student feel like they can reach out in moments of struggle, fear and anxiety, which is when they need support the most. Institutions that understand how to anticipate and meet students’ emotional and academic needs create a more student and human-focused environment which ultimately leads to higher retention rates.
Here are some strategies for maintaining student engagement and satisfaction from enrollment through graduation:
- Connect students to resources with a meaningful and personalized experience. This means understanding the individual needs of each student and providing them with the resources most relevant to them in the areas they have identified they need the most support.
- Develop a strategy for new and existing learners based on archetypes and student persona (degree, transfer credit, level and prior experience). Some new learners may need more support with time management and navigating the campus, while existing learners may need more help with transfer credit and career planning.
- Offer free workshops during the enrollment process to drive and increase engagement. These workshops can provide students with information about the institution, the academic programs, and the available resources. They can also help students to connect with other students and faculty members.
- Give students access to courses before class start dates – at least 2-3 weeks. This will give students time to get familiar with the course content and the learning management system. It will also give them a chance to ask questions and get help from the instructor before the class starts.
- Pre-evaluate credits within 48 hours of receiving student transcripts for review. This will help students to know what credits they have already earned and what credits they still need to complete their degree.
By supporting students, institutions can reap the long-term benefits of higher graduation rates, improved student satisfaction, increased institutional reputation, and reduced costs.
Step 5: Leverage Data to Measure the Effectiveness of Your Enrollment Management Team
Data is a powerful tool that can be used to improve enrollment processes, systems and overall strategies. By collecting and analyzing data, institutions can gain insight into the factors that influence student enrollment, identify areas for improvement, and measure the effectiveness of their enrollment management team.
Many different data types can be collected and analyzed for enrollment management purposes. Effective enrollment management teams use a coaching toolbox to diagnose and validate development opportunities. These coaching tools include:
- Enrollment Data and Conversions
- Phone Reports
- Student Notes
- Tasks and Activities
- SWOT Analysis, 1:1’s, Role Plays
- Call Recordings
The data collected from prospective students, applications, and enrollments can be a goldmine of information if understood correctly. Analyzing this data can reveal trends and patterns that can help you know what is working and what isn’t working in your enrollment process and approach.
The story behind the data will help you to pinpoint specific opportunities to focus your coaching and development to improve skills in your conversation that will significantly impact the student experience and ultimately your enrollment conversions.
Build a Strong Pipeline for Future Enrollment
Designing and delivering the student experience is key to an institution’s success. By being innovative and providing an intentional and memorable student experience, institutions can find, enroll and retain students to build a strong enrollment pipeline for the future. When students feel valued and supported, they are more likely to stay enrolled and graduate. Book a consultation with The U School to learn how to position your team with the skills, strategies and support to create long-term sustainability and success.