CRM software helps improve student recruitment, retention

Arizona State and the University of Alabama are among the schools that have improved their student recruitment and retention numbers since implementing CRM software.

It’s no secret that colleges and universities have struggled to recruit and retain students since the 2008 recession, but using customer relationship management (CRM) software from companies such as Jenzabar, Ellucian, and Campus Management has proven effective in elevating many schools’ marketing techniques and improving enrollment.

Campus Management’s Talisma CRM software increases efficiency across many processes and enables schools to focus their efforts more wisely. Its Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) solution is designed to follow students after graduation and help build stronger alumni relations as well.

Talisma CRM helps automate communications with students, prospects, and alumni via eMail, chat, telephone, SMS text messaging, and print formats. The program is capable of measuring the effectiveness of its marketing efforts through analytics, allowing for more targeted and effective campaigns. Designed to work as a stand-alone program or in conjunction with a school’s existing student information system, Talisma CRM is customizable to fit schools’ unique needs.

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(Next page: How Arizona State and the University of Alabama have benefited from using CRM software)

Jason Soffer, who handles product strategy, marketing, and development for Campus Management, said that when Arizona State University (ASU) first implemented Talisma CRM two years ago, it hoped to improve its recruiting efforts without having to overstretch its budget.

ASU had its eye on the international student market but was unsure how to reach these students effectively and efficiently. The university also wanted to increase its applicant pool by 40 percent but could not afford to expand its physical recruiter group by that much.

Features within the software enable officials to observe and measure the effectiveness of recruiters’ efforts. For instance, the program reveals the number and length of calls a recruiter has made, among other analytics. Users can customize these analytics to meet their specific points of interest.

“[ASU is] becoming a very data-driven organization,” said Soffer, who added: “We realize that not responding to a tweet for support in a timely manner today can have devastating effects. We need to provide a tech solution that will enable that … focus, so we can ensure that [students’ and prospects’] diverse needs are being met in a timely manner.”

Like ASU, the University of Alabama (UA) began using Talisma CRM to improve its student recruitment efforts.

“UA’s recruitment has become very streamlined and strategic with the usage of Talisma,” said Mary K. Spiegel, associate provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions at UA. “Prior to using Talisma, UA did not have a strategic process of tracking what was mailed to a prospective student, via direct mail or eMail. And, interactions between a recruiter and a prospective student were only accessible to that specific recruiter.”

The tracking features within Talisma CRM have been hugely beneficial to UA, which saw its undergraduate applications increase by 22.9 percent and ultimately lead to a 42.4-percent increase in freshmen enrollment in 2009. New transfers also increased by 16.2 percent, and numbers have continued to soar since then.

As a result of its success with Talisma CRM, UA reduced its 10-year growth initiative to a seven-year timeline.

“Talisma has provided the capability to identify when and what was mailed or emailed to prospective students,” said Spiegel. “And, based on the students’ responses to these contacts, it can be determined if changes are needed for the next recruitment cycle. With the ability of all recruiters to view the interaction history of a prospective student, any recruiter can now assist that student. Planning and recruitment events can be based on matriculation data pulled from Talisma.”

Ellucian Recruiter

Last August, Ellucian earned the 2012 Microsoft Dynamics Public Sector Partner Excellence Award in recognition of its higher-education CRM software, Recruiter.

(Next page: How Recruiter helps schools find and attract students)

Similar to Talisma CRM, Recruiter supports administrators and students throughout the recruiting and admissions process. Personalized web experiences are crucial in attracting students, Ellucian representatives say.

“Easy-to-use admissions forms, as well as intuitive ways to update contact information, make it easy for prospects to submit inquiries and applications, register for events, update key information, and submit supplemental items,” an Ellucian white paper reads. “Institutions can tailor the way they connect with prospects—and present a consistent public face—while prospects get the information and tools they need to progress through the enrollment funnel.”

Ellucian stresses that campus administrators must understand the profile of a successful student before they can elicit an effective recruiting campaign. Many colleges buy broad lists of student names to widen their search net—an instinct the company believes is often counterproductive.

“It’s almost like you can do more harm than good if you’re not focused,” said Dana Hamerschlag, vice president of product management at Ellucian. “I think while 10 years ago there was a pretty staid formula for recruiting in higher ed, all those rules are thrown out the window now—and recruiting is a much more competitive and multi-channel process.”

Recruiter includes a “marketing communications consultant” feature that creates electronic mail templates that colleges can manage in one place. If a student begins to fill out an online application and fails to finish it, Recruiter gets an alert and subsequently sends an automated eMail to that student.

Hamerschlag said the status of a student is changing all the time, and Recruiter helps keep individual prospects’ activities organized. He asserted that the better 360-degree view a college has of a student, the higher retention rates will soar. Reporting and analytics are two other important features that colleges can use to their advantage.

“To make real improvements, you generally have to look backwards at what’s working well and what’s not,” he said.

Recruiter is currently used in about 150 higher-education institutions, including Oklahoma Christian University (OCU).

“The great thing about Recruiter is that it lets us hit all our enrollment targets—undergraduate domestic, undergraduate international, and graduate—with one system,” said Risa Forrester, vice president for enrollment management at OCU.

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Jenzabar Recruitment Manager

Jenzabar Recruitment Manager (JRM) is “designed to help you get more done in less time, from managing lists and producing and sending personal communications to monitoring progress, capturing and updating information, and creating and managing events,” the Jenzabar website explains. “It’s the must-have recruitment tool that keeps you focused on students—and on track with enrollment goals.”

Similar to Talisma CRM and Ellucian Recruiter, JRM is flexible and can be used as either a stand-alone solution, or integrated with the company’s other ERP programs.

Peter Dupre, vice president of enrollment solutions at Jenzabar, said JRM aims to address the two most pressing issues with student recruitment: efficiency and effectiveness. He said many admissions offices spend excessive amounts of time on data management.

(Next page: A key selling point for Jenzabar’s software)

JRM automates much of the data management processes, and frees up staff time. It exists in the cloud and produces detailed reports on any given schedule.

The program allows colleges to respond to the specific behaviors of students, making the recruitment and admissions processes more personalized. Students are tracked based on their prospective majors, genders, or home states, among other factors. College inquiries are similarly tracked, and users can send out automated responses.

“We may assign that inquiry to a business-oriented eMail and then create a task for the counselor to follow up within 48 hours, all automated,” said Dupre. “JRM is saying, here’s the next appropriate step based on what data we’ve collected—and these are [the student’s] circumstances.”

Dupre said that for too long, admissions departments have failed to connect with their prospective students. He believes JRM allows for communication to be not only more streamlined, but more effective. Because there is nothing linear about the admissions process, the students should not be treated linearly, either.

“The right information at the right time can save [colleges] a ton of money,” he said, adding: “Retention starts with matching the right students.”

Dupre said the estimated 75 colleges using JRM today do so in part because it is built on the platform, a tested, trusted, and widely used CRM software program.

“The [Salesforce] platform has been around for many years, adopted by many universities and colleges,” said Dupre. “JRM is a version of Salesforce, built on Salesforce.”

Follow Assistant Editor Sarah Langmead on Twitter at @eCN_Sarah.

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