The Student Experience Has Transformed: The One Stop Portal Higher Ed Needs to Stay Competitive

At Acorio, we realize that the mandate to drive digital transformation and offer “consumerized” student services has come to Higher Ed.

Think about it: The freshmen walking onto campus today have all grown up as consumers in an online community. From the application process through graduation, colleges are interacting with students who have different needs and demands than even a decade ago.

This evolution of the student consumer comes hand in hand with a host of transformative pressures shaping a new collegiate experience. As college costs skyrocket and enrollment numbers decrease, institutions face an audience with increasing expectations. Here are some statistics to consider:

  • 23% of students will leave a college or transfer to another institution due to the perception of poor service (according to Raisman, 2012).
  • $25B in products and services for education technology are going to separate systems across campus.
  • A recent Parthenon-EY Educationstudy found that over 800 campuses exhibit a range of risk factors putting them in jeopardy of closing, with risk factors including enrollments of under 1,000 students, discounts that reduce tuition by more than 35 percent, and high debt repayment schedules.

The more students expect, the more colleges have to deliver. Today, students and parents expect their interactions with colleges and universities to be easy, if not automatic. This requires a new paradigm shift for Higher Ed CIOs and administrators.

How Much is a Student Worth? (Hint: About $200,000)

How much is a student really worth to a university?  Between tuition, housing, and other fees, a 4-year student can easily reach $200,000. This doesn’t include graduate programs and doctoral candidates, who can reach that level or more on their own.

Universities have to shift to thinking of students and their parents/guardians as consumers. Unless you are lucky enough to have a massive “wait list” of talent, investing in recruiting and retaining these types of students (customers) is a competitive battle. In fact, even those institutions who have a wait list are not immune to competition for the same top-talent student customers.

If students and their parents are the new customer, then universities must think more like high-end customer service organizations to survive the sea change. Satisfaction and net promoter scores are the new harbingers of long-term competitive success.

How Am I Competing with Other Institutions?

The evolution of student expectations and institutional goals has led to a consolidation and improvement of student-facing services.  This normally manifests in one of three scenarios.  Sometimes, it’s all of them at the same time.

  • Building the Brand: For institutions that are already well-funded with a significant endowment and research dollars (think Harvard, Stanford, or Ohio State), goals run more toward brand building. Everything they do is in service of promoting the name and recognition of the institution. This brand building starts with their students and alumni and stretches into their larger community (like hospitals, programs, and athletics).

Critical on the path of driving a strong brand reputation is being perceived as top-notch in customer service and creating strong “brand ambassadors.” Tactically, that involves increasing overall student satisfaction metrics, such as customer (student) satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) for the institution. Net promotors are those who would “strongly recommend” your institution to family, friends, and colleagues.

  • Improving Student Insight and Retention: For some institutions, success is more about achieving and maintaining enrollments levels year after year. The competition can be intense and every interaction is important. These interactions become the basis for data around “students at risk.”  Recognizing and reacting to these metrics is key to student retention.
  • Modernizing and Coordinating Student Services: Walking into the student services office at many institutions today will uncover a host of disparate tools that they are working with. This process for “doing work” inhibits coordination between departments, provides minimal tractability/ accountability, and fails to focus on timely resolutions to issues or questions.

Students are demanding instant turnaround and modern methods of engagement, especially on mobile devices, and Higher Ed needs to comply with these needs.

The goal should be to eliminate un-traceable systems of work (like email and spreadsheets), reduce or automate manual processes, and improve interdepartmental communications. This grants the power to both transform the student experience and improve efficiency in your work environment.  Many institutions are already making this shift by physically relocating to one spot on campus. Now they need to consolidate systems into a unified system of work.

The [New] Student Lifecycle:

Managing the student lifecycle end-to-end is critical to the success of transforming the student experience. The phases may differ at some institutions, but the image below effectively captures the lifecycle that most students experience throughout their college career.

Acorio University Portal: Your Turn-Key Student One-Stop Portal 

Today, forward-thinking institutions are redefining the student experience on the ServiceNow Platform. They are better managing the new student lifecycle, driving consolidation of systems, and growing synergy across student-facing service groups.

Acorio’s Student One-Stop solution has the power to rapidly modernize and consolidate student work into one system while creating a more modern, mobile-enabled student experience.

Part of the Partner Catalyst Program, this designed approach is making it cheaper, faster, easier, and more intuitive for students to navigate university resources

Suffolk University: Curating the Student Experience and Increasing Satisfaction

Leading the charge in the transformation of the student experience is Suffolk University, a major university in Massachusetts

The Challenge

For 100 years, Suffolk University has committed to providing a positive student experience from initial interest to graduation. ​Suffolk falls into the “competitive” college landscape of building enrollment as the school grows and managing student retention through undergraduate and graduate programs.

With ~15,000 students, Suffolk University has adopted a Customer Service paradigm to improve student support services across 4 groups: Financial Aid, Registrar, Bursar, and a newly formed student services group call the Ram Desk. These groups moved into one physical location last year and started working more closely together. Now they are unifying their system of work in ServiceNow to enhance their student facing services.

The Solution

 Suffolk’s goal is to fully capture the workload, rebalance work between the front-line and the departments, and measure critical success factors from their student interactions.

These factors include:

  • Overall volume for each group and the trend pattern of tickets
  • % handled by Tier 1 (Ram Desk)
  • Time to respond and time to resolve by service levels
  • Customer satisfaction rating
  • % time knowledge is used to solve an issue

The Results

Suffolk has now unified the Registrar, Bursar, Financial Aid, and Ram Desk teams so that they all run through ServiceNow to work together on cases that are structured around student accounts. They are also using knowledge management and a call center integration to route and link calls to the correct sources.

In rolling out ServiceNow, Suffolk has improved their “customer” experience on multiple fronts:

  • Elevated customer (student) satisfaction
  • Improve front-line agent efficiency
  • Improved student insight and retention
  • Gained visibility and reporting on what drives traffic and resolutions
  • Modernized and coordinated student services
  • Integrated existing data, workflows, and legacy systems with ServiceNow

Nine Questions to Better Serve Your Student (and Parent) Consumers

Regardless of where you are on your student experience journey, here is a checklist of questions that can help define your goals for 2018 and beyond.

  1. Is my team already in the process of modernizing and coordinating student services?
  2. How effectively have I enabled student self-service?
  3. Do we have a modern mobile interface?
  4. Is reduce IT agent/support costs a priority?
  5. Do we need to improve student satisfaction and NPS to remain a competitive brand?
  6. Is improving student insight and retention a core priority for 2018?
  7. Do we need that “wow factor” to attract better student caliber (and impress their parents)?
  8. Do our students feel abandoned or lost in the cracks?
  9. Do we want to create and curate online, trackable communities of campus engagement?

Come away from the dark ages of spreadsheets and un-trackable requests, or get left behind the new student experience. Schedule a demo on your unique challenges today.

 Interested in seeing the One-Stop Portal in action? ServiceNow and Acorio are hosting a webinar on Thursday, November 30th. Click here to reserve your space today.