Thursday, June 19, 2008

Increasing Enrollment by Stitches

A quick apology for not posting recently. It has been a very hectic and busy time. I completed the rewrite of new book The Power of Retention which will be out in July through The Administrators Bookshelf. I have also been traveling all over the US and Canada giving workshops, training and presentations on customer service for colleges, universities, career colleges and educationally-related corporations. But the postings are back and here is one now.

Career Education Corporation may not have always done everything perfectly well but it did create a brilliant process that successfully stitches students into the fabric of each college. Their process of getting a student from the initial application to the show, actually coming to school, is one worth emulating for every college or university, for-profit or not.

Think of an enrollment as a quilt with many pieces that all have to be put in place properly to make it attractive and strong and you have some idea of what the stitch-in process does.

The “stitch-in process” begins with the smile at the reception desk through the fully executed orientation for all students at all schools. If done correctly, students are never allowed to believe that they are not the most important aspect of the college once they apply for entry. The admissions reps must call the students and follow-up on any aspect of the enrollment process that may still need to be completed as well as to just say “hello. How are you doing? Any information I can give today?”

When students accept enrollment, a real person will contact them personally. That person, the stitch-in director, becomes their constant reference point from that moment and after they show up for classes. The initial contact must be made within 24 hours of acceptance. Time is not allowed to elapse between the initial interest and the call. The contact is a person who not only must love students but be absolutely proficient and a true believer in customer service. There is no issue too small or big for him or her to immediately tackle. There is no such thing as an impossible task. Every call must be completed. Every concern answered and removed. The contact person assumes the role of the collegiate mother for the student and will fight for every one of them as the student was his or her own child.

The contact at the college not only learns the student’s name, the student learns the stitch-in director’s name as well. This generates a unique bond between student and college. It provides something most colleges do not provide; a personal contact, a real human being of flesh and blood with a name. That is the most important primary part of the link actually.

In Cheers, Sam did not have to know everyone else’s name because they all knew his. They could call him by his first name and that always created a very special bond. They could walk in the bar and call out “hi Sam” and even if he did not know their name, a wave back or a “Oh yuh, hi” could make it seems as if her did know and the bonding to the bar was felt. Of course, Sam did know most people by name and that is certainly key. In the same way, most enrollment managers at CEC schools do remember most every student’s name and their profile. If they didn’t the student had a precious thing, the first name of someone who will be there in the large impersonal college just for them. That name Get a name Give a name exchange and first person contacts stitch students in like nothing else.

Every time a positive contact is made, each issue solved, every anxiety removed, another stitch is put into the quilt that is the college-student relationship. And these stitches are what will strongly help keep students in the college.

Quick pitch: We are quickly filling up our dates for school pre-opening convocations and workshops as well as customer service week (Oct6-10). We would like to be able to help you too so please contact us ASAP for a date.

AcademicMAPS has been providing customer service, retention and research training and solutions to colleges, universities and career colleges in the US, Canada, and Europe as well as to businesses that seek to work with them since 1999. Clients range from small rural schools to major urban universities and corporations. Its services range from campus customer service audits, workshops, training, presentations, institutional studies and surveys to research on customer service and retention. AcademicMAPS prides itself on its record of success for its clients and students who are aided through the firm’s 413.219.6939


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