Monday, July 02, 2007

Figuring the ROI of Retention and Customer Service - CSF1

Following a presentation on customer service and retention at a major conference, I was asked by one of the attendees if I would supply the way I figure ROI from retention and customer service. In my presentations I always review the students’ seeking of their personal “ROIs” as well as the fiscal ROI the school should be looking at. His interest was to use the information in his marketing to show his company would provide a good return on investment.

I was inclined to help this person since his company is one I feel most schools could benefit by using. They supply counseling to students that helps keep them enrolled. But since I receive no remuneration from companies I recommend (income-wise it would be wise to take it but ethics-wise, it would not be wise except from Leadwise™ (personalized on-line view books, catalogs and web sites which I helped create….wise) I thought it best to share the formulas with everyone who can use them.

They help schools figure out how much revenue they are losing, or could and would gain if they focused on improving service to students. Keep in mind that 72% of all attrition is due to poor, weak, even average customer service at a college or university. The formulas come from years of research I and very smart assistants conducted during college service audits, workshops, presentations, retreats and other services we provide as well as just pure research. . We have been studying aspects of retention it seems before retention was an issue. Just think back just eight years ago when I started AcademicMAPS. Who talked about retention as an important aspect of a college.? It was, , admissions, admissions and again admissions and still is at too many places. I recall quite well the statement of the CEO of a large career college group who said “there isn’t a problem that exists that can’t be fixed by enrolling more students.”

Keeping them? Not so much.

How many did we admit and did commit to the next freshman class? When we lose students, “okay. It’s planned for in the budget as long as we don’t lose too many more than we budgeted…..” Dumb business model. Planning to lose all those customers and all the costs associated with acquiring them is a confident way of making sure the institution is always running a tight budget.

Over the years, when I asked some administrators how much admitting a student cost, the general answer was to add together the marketing budget with the admission director’s and recruiters’ salaries divided by the number of new freshman and that was the cost. Not even close. Even for-profit schools use the same basic approach. That explains why some run deficits.

(Can a school that loses money claim to be for-profit? Don’t you have to make a profit? By the way, what is the difference between a good for-profit and a good not-for-profit? Accounting terms. In a for-profit, it is called profit. In a not-for-profit, it is called “fund balance” or “surplus” and most every college president is called upon to develop one – profit or surplus that is.)

So here is the first part of what will be a three or four part series on figuring retention and customer service ROI, the CSFactors™, at your school or business. By the way, if you use the formulas and publish results for any reason from marketing to self-flagellation, please be kind enough to provide attribution to us. It will be appreciated.

CSFactor 1 The Value of Retention (or the Losses from Attrition)

CSF1 helps a college figure out how much revenue/money it is losing from its actual attrition.

CSF1 = [(P X A= SL) X T]

In the formula, P represents the total school population; not just the starting fall freshman number. Most schools use the fall incoming freshmen numbers and that is an error. The assumption is that attrition occurs most in the first six weeks of the freshman year. That may be close to correct but the reality is that students are leaving colleges and universities in any one of their six plus years of a four year degree and in the four plus years of a two-year degree. Students leave your school throughout their experience at the school. In fact, some schools are beginning to realize this and worry about the Sophomore Bubble. But the really need to worry about the super soph sluff, the rising junior jilt, the junior jump, super junior split, the fourth year flee and so on. Colleges need to be concerned with every student every day of their attendance for it could be his last.

So we look at the total population.

A equals attrition. Again not just from freshman but an annualized attrition rate. And this rate is to include ALL students who leave for any reason. It does not matter if the student says he or she will be back. They are not back in the population and bringing in revenue until they actually do return. If they pay a “place holding fee”, that does not count them as an student until they are actually back in classes.

Fudge with the numbers if you are overly deluded or insecure, or unethical enough to keep the PR machine going or the Board feeling better but when you use our formulas, be fully honest. It will help you understand why the budget is not working or may suddenly implode. Remember, no one likes surprises, especially ones that have parentheses around them in the budget and lead to freezes, cuts and the like.

By the way, if your school is like most everyone I work with or call for help, you likely do not have a clear fix on an annualized attrition rate. Many schools have never figured it. Go figure and use an annualized attrition rate.

SL stands for students lost annually from total population and revenue production. And T equals tuition at the school.

So here is what showed up when we analyzed CSF1 for a particular college which for our purposes we will call Mammon University. You may know it. Its motto is Omnes Por Pecunia. Anything for a Buck. More on Mammon U later.

Its total population was 500 students.

Annualized attrition was at 39.6%

So SL (students lost annually) was 198.

Times an average tuition of $13,000.

The school uses a differentiated tuition scale per program.

So, the formula becomes:

[(500 x 39.6% = 198) x $13,000] =

a revenue loss of (sound of a trumpet flourish but on a kazoo since Mammon U cannot afford a real trumpet since it has lost) ($2,574,000)!!!!

To carry this forward a bit, we can plug in other numbers and see how an increase in retention could add to the bottom line and thus the ability to pay for full time faculty, staff, their benefits, increases for adjuncts, instructional equipment, tutors, research release, new curricula and programs, maintenance, …. All those pesky costs that make a college or university better.

If attrition dropped by 5% for this school and we substitute 5% increased retention for attrition percentage in the formula.

CSF1 = [(500 x 5% = 25) x 13,000] =

$325,000 more revenue.

Any school, college or university that doesn't want at least another $325,000 in the budget?

Plug your school’s numbers in and see how increasing retention affects your budget and instructional strength.

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