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CRM should be considered as an enterprise strategy aimed at maximizing the degree of satisfaction customers have with the provided service.
This strategy can take shape in an internal and external process and in the selection and deployment of a set of support tools. In recent years, CRM has been successfully adopted in the business environment, mainly in the bank and telecommunication sectors. Moreover, nowadays it is present in practically all business sectors.
Recently, it has found a place in education too, becoming an essential tool for those education centers/providers that are working on the Web as virtual or distance universities. Many eLearning tools providers offer, in their systems, specific CRM functionality such as in WebCT or IBM Learning Space, as well as more general solution providers like Oracle, Peoplesoft or Siebel.
In most cases, CRM concepts and techniques have been directly translated to education considering it as a business but without taking care of the specific pedagogical requirements.
In this scenario, it is common to find universities where ensuring individual responsiveness to the students becomes a priority, where universities have their own Call Centers or even where all their communication channels are integrated in a Data Centre or where advanced data-processing techniques are applied for identifying and classifying groups within the student population.
The application of CRM methods and techniques in an education centre requires wide changes in both the organization’s internal and external processes and even in its strategy. To ensure the success of the change management from the traditional model to a new one directed by CRM, the following conditions have to be fulfilled:
1. The education centre, within its short and mid-term strategy, has to be able to define concrete and measurable objectives that should be expressed by indicators. Improving or maximizing students’ satisfaction with the education they receive has to always be the final aim. However, it is required to extrapolate this general objective from a set of more concrete indicators that commonly will be controlled through a Balanced Scorecard (BSC).
2. The organization has to be able to clearly define all its internal and external processes, creating adequate mechanisms for ensuring their correct operation. Process integration is here a key issue, as well as the integration of the information systems that support them.
In large education centers it is common that administration and management processes are completely isolated from the learning processes that are controlled by the teaching staff. In this way, the marketing department is in charge of enrolment, the management department deals with registration while several departments and teaching staff define the learning methodology and manage the courses, rarely with strong relationships between these various groups.
This situation can cause the loss of important information, limiting management’s awareness of the real state of the organization.
3. The education centre should be able to offer a unique access point to its students in which all communication channels will be centralized. This Student Services Centre has to completely be integrated with the management and learning processes and has to be able to attend to the different communication channels that new technologies provide.
These include those related with the management of the centre and the course (Corporate Portals, secretary, Virtual Campus, eLearning systems, FAQs, etc.), email, telephone and fax, SMS, MMS, mobile devices (especially 3G mobiles -UMTS- and Personal Data Assistants -PDA-) without discarding new media such as the Digital Terrestrial Television (TDT), videoconference or, going further, virtual immersion.
Fortunately, the integration of all networks under the IP protocol will facilitate the creation of these centralized communication channels management systems.
Currently, it is just possible to use IP telephony (VoIP) and connect it with the telephone network, SIP protocol, or even to use videoconference systems over IP under the H.323 protocol.
4. The education centre has to be able to gain a deep knowledge about its students using available information, even if it is incomplete or partial. This information will be included in a global Knowledge Management System (KMS), essential when we are talking about education.
The final aim is to use it for offering students the best individual treatment possible. This is especially important when we consider distance education where direct contact with students is not always possible or, at least, not frequent.
To get this knowledge about alumna, it is necessary to capture all information generated in the internal and external processes (administrative data, learning process activity, performance, use of communication channels, etc.) and process it to construct student profiles including behaviour, in the organization. Again, new technologies from the Artificial Intelligence and data-mining fields, potentially provides such tools.
5. Finally, the education centre, within a general process of change management, has to offer to the teaching and support staff continuing professional development in such tools and their application.
In summary, the ability of educational institutions to fix mid and long term strategy; establish specific objectives whose progress should be monitored using identified and agreed indicators; the definition of internal processes and their integration in a common model; the integration of information systems; the exploitation of all available information; integrated management of communication channels; the ability for creating student profiles, are just some of the key competencies that must be acquired to successfully exploit a CRM model in its organization.
Higher education is in much the same position with CRM as it was in with ERP—just far enough behind the commercial sector to gain from the lessons learned and the maturation of the technology. Departments and offices work as separate entities in many colleges and universities today.
Faced with divisional boundaries, it is often very difficult for these different institutional functions to focus on their customers in a coordinated fashion.
By providing a common platform for customer communication and interaction, CRM solutions aim to eliminate the organizational stovepipes that hamper proactive customer interaction. CRM applications are also designed to increase the effectiveness of staff members who interact with customers or prospects. The use of CRM applications can lead to improved customer responsiveness and a more comprehensive view of the entire “cradle-to-grave” customer life cycle.
CRM solutions that tie directly into ERP systems are particularly powerful because institutions can take customers through a closed-looped set of well defined steps and processes to satisfy their needs.
Whereas CRM applications provide the framework for embodying, promoting, and executing best practices in customer-facing activities, ERP provides the backbone, resources, and operational applications to make organizations more efficient in achieving these goals. Most exciting of all is CRM’s ability to promote and enable e-business, which is the seamless, Web-based collaboration between an institution and its customers, suppliers, and partners.
CRM applications track and manage interactions and transactions with various customers across multiple channels, including the Web. For institutions with a high degree of personal interaction, such as admissions recruiters or development officers, CRM can extend these channels to the Web by providing a framework for managing the interactions and transactions.
CRM can also enable purchase of products or services on-line, and provide Web-based services and support, all personalized for the individual customer.
By understanding the critical business needs of higher education institutions, Saber Consulting has created solutions to streamline operations and reduce costs by leveraging existing applications and technology to achieve rapid, quality results in the following areas:
à Growing competition for student enrollment
à Knowing your customers and their needs
à Reducing manual tasks and redundancy by improving workflow
à Integrating legacy and disparate technology systems
Higher education’s customers consist of students, staff, faculty, alumni and the surrounding community. Dramatically improving data collection and data mining to not only see what customers are doing and buying currently, but to be able to understand their needs prior to and after enrollment, enable an institution to offer customized customer centered interactions and services at a lower cost. Through data integration and custom queries and reporting, Saber provides a ‘single view’ of customers across the organization, resulting in the ability to project future campus community needs.
Self-service reduces the demand on administrative staff performing redundant or manual tasks, and increases accuracy, efficiency and access to information. This is accomplished by providing customers 24/7 access to services. Going beyond a ‘static’ web site, with limited interactive functions, Saber providing customers with single sign-on, real time access to student information, faculty information, financial functions, human resource functions, online advising, e-procurement, residential and cafeteria systems, just to name a few. The possibilities are extensive.
Legacy System Integration
Integration is the primary challenge facing IT departments today. As institutions adopt new technologies, many new systems acquired at the department level do not ‘talk’ to other systems already in place. Coupled with the fact that Legacy systems are typically heavily customized (often without adequate documentation), the result is ‘silos’ of information that cannot be shared across the organization. This leads to work flow redundancy, inefficiency and unnecessary expense.
“Evaluate Today, Plan For The Future”. Reacting to the needs of the current term is not enough for the success of an institution. In addition, leveraging information to forecast trends, student demographics, measuring the performance of programs, effectiveness of programs in student placement, tracking grant applications, grant allocation and effectiveness of the grant programs, can determine future success and profit.
An Example of CRM in Higher Education
Emerging CRM processes and technologies will drive the growth of new types of resources and services. The following example highlights the opportunity to implement a CRM business strategy to support the student during the admissions and recruitment process.
Marketing and campaign management processes and applications can support both targeted admission recruitment and fundraising. For example, the institution may have an enrollment goal to recruit out-of-state students and minorities and to increase the number of students pursuing health careers.
An institution would target specific groups, using data analysis to determine which prospects are most likely to apply and why. A personalized mailing campaign would then be launched using both e-mail and traditional mail.
Within each mailing, prospects would be given a personal identification code for access to the university. All prospects not responding by any channel (Web, e-mail, phone, fax, or other) would be sent follow-up e-mails.
A prospect receives the e-mail three days before the receipt of the paper letter. The prospect then activates the hyperlink and is linked to the university’s recruitment Web page. The prospect is requested to enter his or her personal identification code and then is linked to a personalized home page and portal.
The Web page is customized, based on interests known from the search data. For example, if the prospect is interested in sports or band, links to the university’s athletic department or music club Web pages are provided.
Or if the prospect listed health as an occupational choice, there are links to health departments’ Web pages. Finally, there are standard links provided to all prospective students, such as admissions application procedures and forms, financial aid information, and scholarship search programs.
The prospect navigates through the site, completes an electronic inquiry card, and requests information on physical therapy programs and financial aid. The university then monitors the prospect’s responses and initiates follow-up communications, as appropriate.
Emerging CRM processes and technologies will drive the growth of new types of resources and services. Within the higher education enterprise, much of this new functionality will be focused in the student area. This exciting new level of student-related functionality and performance will have an impact on students as well as on the administrative staff and management, the faculty, and the institution as a whole. A look at each of the areas affected follows.
Today’s systems have little to offer students, particularly the new breed of technology-savvy students who want to be more in control of their learning environment. Today’s students demand a higher level of access to information about their options, their performance, and their future.
They also demand that technology resources be an integral part of their learning experience. The standard for access to faculty and student services will change as students come to expect virtual access to faculty and student services resources.
The old ways of interacting with students will become untenable—like expecting them to line up for hours when instead they can choose an institution that can meet their needs on their own terms, on their schedule, with virtual support systems.
A CRM business strategy for a college’s or university’s administrative system would also introduce a true self-service system that empowers the administrative team to rethink the investment of administrative resources in institutional services.
By shifting responsibility for information maintenance to students and faculty members, and empowering them to complete relevant processes and securely access vital information, the administrative staff can focus on more productive, rewarding, and satisfying activities—such as making personal connections with students and helping them plan for the future.
Today’s systems provide little value for faculty members. In many institutions, there is a complete disconnect between student services and instructional programs.
This disconnect is often mirrored in the rift between administrative and academic computing. In the new learning environment, faculty and student services are closely linked, dynamically sharing resources and strategies to enable student learning.
Envision a time when faculty members can securely access student learning profiles assembled in the admissions process to prepare custom learning options for students who are having difficulty. Imagine a process whereby a faculty member can make immediate student referrals to key support programs on campus—even when working at home.
Finally, with a system that is dynamically linked with students, faculty curriculum planners can develop an accurate picture of which technology resources truly make a difference in student learning.
Fundraising is increasingly important in higher education. The objective is to “sell” the organization’s mission to donors. Success is measured by how often gift-giving solicitation results in “taking an order.”
Solicitation is often done by volunteers who view fundraising as sales. In the CRM approach, individualized techniques are applied to prospective donors whose connections to the institution have been established through some other relationship, such as that of an athletic supporter or music lover.
The CRM approach identifies, selects, and generates lists of targeted customers with current information to build constituencies that continue gift giving long after they or their sons or daughters have graduated.
These donors consider their gifts to be investments in values that are important to them. Furthermore, other people value these donors’ views, making them articulate advocates of the institution. Using CRM, the entire institution, not just a small group of volunteer telephone solicitors, is involved and organized around fundraising.
Using technology to know that a donor’s last contribution was used to purchase football helmets is of great value when soliciting donations the next time. The ultimate goal is to entice donors to contribute in the future without direct solicitation.
CRM delivers a new conceptual and structural framework for directing institutional activities to attract and retain its various customers. Following are ways in which all customers of the institution can benefit from increased access to information and services.
à Students, alumni, faculty members, and staff member scan access and update information from any Web enabled device, anywhere in the world.
à The evolution from point-to-point integration between applications to a single institution-wide database with integrated business rules and a workflow process library will blur the distinction between student, finance, alumni, and human resource systems.
à The needs of the customer base become the focus rather than the rigid process structure that is the focus of today’s systems.
à Administrative systems are seamlessly integrated with instructional computing and communications systems. Most important is the ability of a truly robust set of institutional processes and tools to bring the entire institution together around its people. The work of higher education should be focused on the people it serves, not on its administrative systems.
The benefits of implementing a CRM business strategy are far reaching. Because CRM activities and technologies are fairly new to higher education, the best benchmarks come from the commercial sector. They include
à Up to 42 percent increase in revenue
à Up to 35 percent decrease in cost of sales
à Up to 80 percent decrease in order errors
à Up to 25 percent reduction in the length of sales cycle
à Up to 2 percent increase in margins
à Up to 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction ratings
For colleges and universities, these could translate into
à Increased revenue through improved recruitment and retention
à Reduced recruitment costs
à Improved customer service
à Quicker yield conversions
à Improved customer satisfaction
Many colleges and universities entered into ERP implementations with the goal of improving customer service. To some degree, service improvements were realized, but not because of improved support of customer interaction.
These gains were realized through improved processing speed and better data. The investment in CRM enables an institution to better capitalize on its ERP investment. The CRM business strategy and associated technologies target facilitating the direct customer interaction.
These processes and technologies can aid the institution in gaining a total view of its customers and can help implement activities to capitalize on this knowledge.
For a college or university to actualize the potential for these processes and technologies, it should first determine its vision for customer service and the relationships it wants to foster, and then it should break the implementation of the vision into small manageable projects.
For example, an institution should implement marketing and campaign management first in the admissions office and then expand its use into advancement, human resources, and payroll. Contact center applications may first be implemented in IT and then rolled out to student services, admissions, and other areas.
Faced with widespread economic, technological, and cultural change, academic institutions are looking to enhance the value and effectiveness of their existing customer relationships, while attracting new and loyal customers. As institutions begin embracing ebusiness and e-learning, the driving forces behind CRM will become even stronger. The notion of effective customer information management as a productivity issue is being replaced by the need for effective customer management as a competitive advantage.
Tomorrow’s systems will go far beyond productivity-related features (such as Web-based student registration) to the development of customer information as a strategic advantage. The concept of students, alumni, faculty members, and staff members as “customers” will become a competitive imperative with profound impact on how colleges and universities attract, retain, and serve customers of all types.
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