How to ensure your CRM system is geared for student success

In the business world, it has taken many years to shape CRM to what it is today. CRM, or customer relationship management, at its simplest allows businesses to manage customer relationships and the data and information associated with them. Its evolution has empowered companies to interact and build relationships with customers like never before.

BrainshareCompanies can now tap into a centralized system of transactional and interactional data to derive insights and take action at unprecedented speeds. What began as disparate information silos has evolved into a single, integrated, enterprise-wide system accessible by various stakeholders throughout every part of the organization. This important shift has enabled these organizations to be as information-rich and efficient as ever, understanding and delivering service to customers better than before.

What about institutions? Many colleges and universities have indeed deployed CRM and continue to do so, but many are doing so myopically. Traditionally, institutions have used CRM to boost enrollments, to communicate to students and to market to students via campaigns. While these efforts individually serve important purposes, institutions that operate on a one-off basis are not seeing the bigger picture. Institutions need to put into motion plans that extend beyond a collection of point solutions, to deploying a centralized, enterprise-wide system that supports the student and more importantly their entire lifecycle comprehensively.

The shift in the student landscape

As an institution, it is no longer just a matter of convincing students that your institution is right for them. Students are now asking their peers, joining web-based communities like threaded discussions on forums and sharing opinions throughout the blogosphere. The responsibility of the school is to be present in those conversations and to provide trust and credibility so that students will think about them when they make their ultimate decision. That is just one example.

Current market sensibilities are calling into question existing practices to support the empowered-student paradigm, and thus the systems that support those practices. This catalyst calls for institutions to focus on building lasting relationships beginning with admissions, but extending to work in unison with the entire student lifecycle. Institutions must build relationship management systems that support students on an individual basis and in much deeper ways.

A more connected, data-rich, and transparent system enables institutions to deliver exceptional service for a student throughout his/her lifecycle, from prospect to alumni. What institutions must realize is that the success of delivering such support depends on the strength of data an institution holds and the derived intelligence from that data. Institutions need to navigate these CRM changes successfully to see more engaged, loyal students and alumni.

CRM and the student lifecycle

To engage and build meaningful relationships with students means to unite all of their interactions as they progress through each stage of the student life cycle. A CRM system must provide tools that solve point problems and support these processes in a holistic context. The below graphic provides an example of the intersecting of the student lifecycle and school processes, and the CRM capabilities that can support them.

CRM Student Lifecycle

Change and a new CRM

The evolution of CRM in education can only evolve if all stakeholders work together to achieve this holistic view. Achieving an enterprise-wide system is particularly difficult for institutions because so many departments are dissimilar, but the pursuit of student success is a common goal that should serve as the backbone to change. Leading institutional change is essential and anticipating resistance to that change and planning for it from the outset of a project will avoid the likelihood of dealing with fires. The resistance to something new can come from a myriad of sources: a comfort level or fixation with the way things are, a fear of the unknown, or simply a misunderstanding about the need for change. Simply put, resistance to change is an unsurprising phenomenon that should be embraced.

It’s a journey

The best CRM system enables institutions to look holistically with every student interaction that takes place and to track each one with the intent of building a system of data that will persist over time. If the system is in place to capture all the data points of the student life cycle, institutions will have a detailed and powerful record of the student experience easily accessible by various departmental stakeholders. Only then can an institution deliver exceptional service to students from prospect to alumni.

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