Campus-wide CRM tools have become the technology foundation for aiding colleges and universities in their focus on engaging students as individuals, respecting their preferences and unique characteristics–a transformation focused on individual outcomes, redefining success not only in terms of persistence and completion rates but also ultimately on gainful employment.

The tactics to execution have also evolved with each generational shift. Consider these data points from the Beloit College Mindset for the class of 2020:

  • If you want to reach them, you’d better send a text—emails are often ignored
  • Books have always been read to you on audible.com
  • There has always been a digital swap meet called eBay
  • Robots have always been surgical partners in the O.R.
  • Airline tickets have always been purchased online

The common thread is that technology-based content today is more than expected – it is assumed. Whether there is “an app for that” versus a website, providing that content is irrelevant to today’s students. Young adult learners assume that they can find what they need through their mobile devices. Consequently, institutions must embrace these expectations. This is why the term “CRM” gets tossed around as much as “ISIR” and “FERPA” in the halls of academia nowadays.

Fully Utilizing CRM

As advertised, CRM is supposed to help institutions deliver the right content to the right student – and to the right device at the right time. But it’s more than technology. It takes a change in the way that we engage with students.

Consider the transformation that a college applicant undergoes before becoming a student. We evaluate many factors in the admissions cycle. We “woo” applicants, treat them as individuals, listen to their goals and read their essays. We give them a clear “checklist” of requirements to complete their applications.

At the point of acceptance, we believe that we have chosen the right classes or, in some cases, believe that we have the right programs in place to foster success. The next challenge comes in the first-year experience. How do we keep the enthusiasm of bright-eyed, first-year students? How do we ensure that we have captured student intentions from the very beginning? For example, if they come in expecting to transfer, can we change their minds, or do we let them go? By knowing who our students are – beyond academic information, by knowing their intentions – we take a huge step toward completion success.

Beyond the first year (again when many institutions have programs in place that are focused on individuals), how do we maintain the right focus? Do we assume that “they got it” and stop focusing on an action plan? Retention and attrition data show that drop-outs continue beyond the first year. We can’t afford to take our eye off of the ball as a result.

(Next page: Harnessing mobile for CRM and engagement)


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