Love to Shop? Start Shopping Your Own Team For Better Results.


By: Eric McGee Jul 23, 2020

Love to Shop? Start Shopping Your Own Team For Better Results.

Optimize your enrollment advising processes

You’ve created an enrollment funnel, written scripts and talking points, and trained your enrollment team. Now, how can you tell whether the expectations you’ve set and the tools you created are being effectively leveraged? Enrollment managers that secret shop their enrollment management teams identify areas for improvement and are more equipped to coach their team. The information you gather while secret shopping can be used to improve training, boost staff confidence, and grow capabilities to meet enrollment goals.

Why secret shop enrollment staff

The student journey typically begins with an inquiry. This marks the beginning of the enrollment funnel. Your team’s response to an inquiry can create a strong beginning that makes a prospective student feel supported, resulting in a much greater likelihood that you will be able to keep them engaged and help them through the funnel to complete their application, enroll, and ultimately graduate. Secret shopping helps you to find the gaps and identify the opportunities to strengthen the journey from the inquiry stage through the application stage to enrollment.

Secret shopping enrollment staff can help you gather valuable information, both about your own enrollment processes and how you compare to teams at other institutions. Response time, follow-ups, and student experience can all impact whether inquiries become enrolled students. Secret shopping helps you test these elements in real-time.

While secret shopping, ask yourself:

  • How do we engage with prospective students?
  • What consumer experience are we creating?
  • What is our response time?
  • What is the tone of our response?
  • How do we advocate for and guide potential students?

If during the call, you uncover answers to these questions that don’t fully align with your goals for the program, you’ve gained valuable information. These may be areas where more training or clearer guidance can help enrollment counselors improve their service to prospective students.

Adopt a student mindset

Adopt the mindset of a potential student while secret shopping. You want to think like a consumer, in this case that means thinking about what a student wants and needs. Consider these questions:

  • Why are you reaching out to this institution?
  • What are your expectations?
  • What kind of experience are you looking for?
  • What kinds of things would really wow you?

Help yourself achieve this student mindset by creating a backstory for your student persona. We recommend writing down the name, email address, program of interest, and life circumstances of the student you’ll be portraying during the call. If the enrollment team is following the plan, they should be asking you for all of this information. Answer their questions as though you really are that student.

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What to look for when secret shopping enrollment teams

One of the most important metrics is time to follow up. Ideally, calls should be returned within an hour or less. Pay attention to how quickly and how often your team follows up. Quick response time can prevent a student from moving their interest to another institution that might be more responsive.

From the first inquiry through starting your application, keep track of the following elements:

  • Type of response (phone, email, text, chat). At minimum, you should receive an email and a phone call.
  • How long does it take? The email should be automated so you receive it immediately. Ideally, phone calls should come within an hour, but certainly within one business day.
  • Number of attempts to reach you. You should receive multiple phone calls, emails, and other attempts to contact.
  • Notes on tone and experience. When someone reaches you, their tone should be helpful, informative, and inquisitive. It should align with your expectations for the institution.

The first person you speak to should be well-informed and able to answer relevant questions about the institution and the program. If they don’t have all the answers you need, they should be able to access the information and provide it to you in a reasonable amount of time.

The call should follow a basic structure that moves you from the introduction to an understanding of the next steps. Listen for the following:

  • Introductions. The advisor introduces herself and confirms or gathers your basic information.
  • Transitional questions help her learn more about you (in your “fake student” role).
  • Help to decide whether the program is right for you based on your answers to their questions.
  • A customized plan based on your conversation
  • Next steps. By the end of the call, you should know what will happen next.

When to secret shop enrollment staff

For teams that are already well established, we suggest secret shopping once every six months to identify ways to further enhance and develop their skills. If you’re actively growing your team or working on improvements to your enrollment strategy, you might want to secret shop as often as once a week. This intense coaching strategy is a great way to make quick course corrections and see improvement in real-time.

It is entirely your call on whether or not you let your team know about the secret shopping efforts. If you decide to give your team a heads-up that you will be secret shopping, make it clear the secret shopping is to be used as a learning tool to help them maximize their strengths and improve in the areas that will offer the most impact to the student conversation. Overall, mystery shopping is a way to better serve your students.

Don’t stop at secret shopping your own staff. We recommend using the same approach to find out how you stack up against other institutions. Choose between four and six institutions with programs similar to yours and see how they compare. We recommend secret shopping competitors once a year to find out how your team stacks up.

We can help you engage prospective students

Ready to take your enrollment advising to the next level? Our Contact Center Services help colleges and universities engage, enroll, and retain prospective students, at scale. Our highly trained team of higher ed professionals are armed with best-in-class technology and supported with a deep understanding of your programs. We’ll provide lightning-fast response times to your inquiries and help put prospective students on the path to enrollment in your programs. Contact our team of professionals to learn how we can help you secret shop your staff with a comprehensive secret shopping assessment.