Friday, August 03, 2012

Increase Enrollment by 12% by Attending to Points of Contact

Colleges lose at least 12% of potential students as soon as they make actually contact with the school. These are potential students who were interested enough and motivated enough to contact you for information or even come to the campus to learn more. But because of poor or weak initial customer service and hospitality as well as the college’s POCmarks, 12% additional enrollment was lost.


Yes. That’s right. POCmarks. Like when you had chicken pox and Mom said don’t scratch them because they would leave permanent scars. Like the acne you worried about when you were in school. Afraid that people would judge you by your appearances. That’s them. POCmarks. Things that can scare students away from looking at your school and attending. And your school or business very likely has some and they are turning new students and customers away. 12% of them in fact. 12% do not choose your college because of your POCmarks and their first encounter with academic customer service at the college itself.

POCmarks. That’s what we call them in our POCmarking analysis of a school we call campus service audits. These are the POC’s – Points of Contact. The front line initial contacts that potential students, parents and others make with your school. They include your

These are all of the things and people who create the first impression for a potential student, her family, his friends and the community. These are the first impression point of contact factors that either build interest or turn potential students away. BTW, not all POCmarks may seem to be equal. Wouldn’t an actual interaction with someone be a stronger imprinting factor than an objective correlative aspect on campus? It seems logical that a rude receptionist would turn off students stronger than say than dead shrubs? But if the dead shrubs, scruffy grass, poorly designed or maintained signs, isolated parking lot, litter or fading paint create the first impressions, the potential student may never make it to the rude receptionist.

A poorly designed, difficult to navigate or DIY website can block the call for an appointment to discuss coming to the college. A catalog…well, most every catalog generates a huge POCmark if the school is not using a personalization program such as Leadwise.

So it is equally important, sometimes even more important to investigate any potential POCmarks that ARE hurting your ability to succeed and perhaps even surpass your enrollment and population goals. So, let’s discuss some POCmarks and what you can do about them.

Let’s start with a quick discussion of one of the more common potential POCmarks – the college website. We have just about completed our annual study of college websites with the assistance of COREacademics Group and are not pleased to be able to say that out of the fifty randomly chosen websites of two and four-year not-for profit and for-profit, public, private and career colleges, 84% look and perform as if they were created by the Hoover Group. Hoover? Well, you know what Hoover vacuums do? They suck up dirt – right? Well, take it from there.

These 42 sites had significant issues in design ranging from just plain boring which is a large POCmark for students to so poorly designed that a potential student would have real difficulty finding what she needs to be able to learn about the school because the site was not designed as a sales tool for potential student but to please an internal audience. Boring is a sin today. Your website homepage is in competition with not just other local schools but with the major commercial and social networking sites that students use to gauge all others. When a person uses a set of websites on a regular basis and they find some level of pleasure in them, they become imprinted as the standards against which to judge others. That means your website is in competition with Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, even Ebay and Google.

Tough competition you say. Not really if you just learn from them. There are definite success characteristics in all of them. First, they are designed for the customer; not the internal company users. They have been created based on what the customer wants and needs. They have studied their clients and then provided them ease of usage to help them execute quickly and easily from the homepage to where they want to go and what they want to do.

The homepages are clean, uncluttered and have no extraneous boxes, buttons, dropdowns, rolling information or videos, links, words, pictures or anything for employees. They provide just what is needed; no more, no less. So what do students look for and need? Students are after a job so they want to be able to get to information on the programs and degrees that lead top jobs. They have to pay so they want to know about costs and even more important, financial aid. They want to apply so they need application information. They want to be able to contact the school, administrators or offices for more information. They also want personalization. 

If they are not, the website becomes a major POCmark for the school. By be on the page I mean a clear link to the information. Not any specifics. Give them the way to the information. And when they get to the information. Keep it simple, non-technical, devoid of our insider jargon and with a student orientation.
If you are interested in having your website evaluated and then designed top be one that’ll help and not be a POCmark, we can arrange for a free website analysis through our partners. Just let me know and I will make arrangements.

As for the other items on the list above, they are all serious POCmarks that will keep you from hitting all your goals and that includes 12% of all potential students. If you’d like more information on how you know if you have POCmarks, contact me and we’ll talk. If you’d like to get rid of them, I recommend an application of information from my best selling book The Power of Retention as a strong starting point for a DIY study as well as the links I have identified in this article. 

If you wish greater expertise with an expert analysis plus solutions that will work, contact me. Be glad to help you gain that other 12% or at least a large chunk of it.

UMass Dartmouth invited Dr. Neal Raisman to campus to present on "Service Excellence in Higher Ed"  as a catalyst event used to kick off a service excellence program.  Dr. Neal Raisman presents a very powerful but simple message about the impact that customer service can have on retention and the overall success of the university.  Participants embraced his philosophy as was noted with heads nods and hallway conversations after the session.  Not only did he have data to back up what he was saying, but Dr. Raisman spoke of specific examples based on his own personal experience working at a college as  Dean and President.  Our Leadership Team welcomed the "8 Rules of Customer Service", showing their eagerness to go to the next step in rolling Raisman's message out.  We could not have been more pleased with his eye-opening presentation. Sheila Whitaker UMass-Dartmouth

The University of Toledo was able to really get its customer excellence focused after Dr. Raisman and his team performed a full campus service excellence audit of the University. Dr. Raisman’s team came on campus for a week and identified every area we could improve and where we are doing well. The extensive and detailed report will form a blueprint for greater customer service excellence at the University that will make us an even better place for students to attend, study and succeed. Thank you, Dr. Raisman, for doing a great job. We unreservedly recommend his customer service audits to any school looking to improve customer service, retention and graduation rates.    Iaon Duca, University of Toledo
The report generated from the full campus customer service audit that N.Raisman & Associates did for our college provided information from an external reviewer that raised awareness toward customer service and front end processes.  From this audit and report, Broward College has included in its strategic plan strategies that include process mapping.  Since financial aid was designed as the department with the most customer service challenges that department has undergone process mapping related to how these process serve or do not serve students optimally.  It has been transformational and has prompted a process remap of how aid is processed for new and continuing students.                            Angelia Millender, Broward College (FL)

If this piece had value for you, you will want to get a copy of The Power of Retention by clicking here NOW 


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