Higher education comes with a lot of questions: financial aid, admissions, enrollment, housing, and so on. If your institution is having trouble keeping up with the demand, finding a call center outsourcing partner can be a good solution.
That is, if the provider offers a true partnership for your university that benefits both you and your prospective students.
From financial aid questions to lead generation for prospective students, enrollment assistance to scheduling campus tours, there’s a lot that goes into an education call center. So how do you find the right partner who can sustain your institution’s customer service?
Here’s the services and benefits you should look for—and the differences that set some call centers apart from the crowd.
Must-Have Education Call Center Services
Of all the services call centers and contact centers may offer, which are the most important for education organizations? These five are crucial.
IVR (or Interactive Voice Response) is a now-common automated phone feature that prompts callers to answer basic questions or move through a pre-selected menu of options in order to be directed to the right department. More sophisticated IVR systems can also answer basic questions and complete basic tasks for the caller, such as checking account information or application statuses, looking up information, providing details about hours and so on.
Most importantly with higher education organizations, IVR systems help ensure students and other callers are directed to the right department the first time. With 68% of customers reporting frustration over being transferred between departments or having to repeat themselves again and again, getting customers to the right place the first time is essential.
However, IVR can also have some downsides. According to research from Vonage, more than half of customers report that irrelevant options, long IVR menus and difficulty reaching a real person are negative experiences compounded by IVR systems.
As a result, you’ll need to ensure your call center designs your IVR carefully and based on market and customer data. At ROI CX Solutions, we offer a variety of IVR solutions to match your audience needs, reduce customer frustration and make your service more efficient.
After-Hours Messaging and Calls
Your university or higher education staff can’t be available 24/7—but your call center can be. When looking for a call center, look for a call center that provides after-hours coverage and keeps relationships going when your team has to step away.
For students and families seeking assistance in their higher education journey, whether that’s with financial aid, admissions or something else, not being able to reach their university after-hours can cause frustration and anxiety—two things you never want to cause for your prospective or current students!
Look for an outsourcing provider that can offer after-hours or even round-the-clock answering services for callers. You may need to outsource to a nearshore provider to get more schedule flexibility—but the peace of mind you’ll provide for your students will be worth it.
One of the highest ticket-volume departments in educational customer service is enrollment and admissions. This makes sense of course—whether students are filling out application forms, checking anxiously on the status of their application, or enrolling in classes for the first or fifth time, these processes are often daunting for students and their families.
As such, you should look for call centers that specifically have experience with admissions and enrollment assistance. After all, enrollment and class registration are complicated puzzles that require expertise to be able to solve and manage for students. You only want to outsource to a provider that has experience managing these.
In addition, look for call centers who have:
- high privacy standards
- advanced privacy certifications
- experience with application processing
- experience with order taking
- expertise with higher education
All of these have direct correlation with admissions and enrollment processes at universities and are key indicators your potential call center will be a good fit for your needs.
Financial Aid Services
Of course, the other higher education department with the most ticket volume is Financial Aid. Again, complicated processes and detailed forms—this time involving money and high stakes.
Since 86% of students rely on financial aid to attend universities, you can expect that the vast majority of your student population will call your financial aid department at least once. Are you prepared to handle that level of call volume while providing excellent service to every student?
If not, your call center provider definitely should be. And they should have experience with financial aid services so that your students get accurate information, every time.
Finally, your call center provider should offer lead generation services, as well as experience running them for higher education clients. After all, lead generation in higher education looks different from running lead generation for a business or a bank.
Whether you’re an Ivy League university with massive name recognition or a small online program hoping to scale student education, every education institution needs a continual stream of prospective students. Your call center provider should be able to help with that (after all, we do).
Your call center provider can help with lead generation by:
- scheduling campus tours
- making reminder calls
- doing outbound marketing to prospective students
- discussing enrollment and application processes
- answering prospective student questions
- generating warm leads for admissions
- and more!
Additional Ways an Education Call Center can Benefit Colleges and Universities
Of course, while these are the most important services you should look for in a call center provider for higher education organizations, they’re not the only way education-focused call centers can benefit colleges and universities. Consider how these benefits could positively impact your organization and your students:
Scalability for Seasonal Surges
Any educational organization—whether it’s a textbook company, a university, or an adult online program—typically sees marked seasonal demand around the beginning (and sometimes end) of each semester. A call center outsourcing partner can provide the support and scalability needed to keep your operations running smoothly no matter the demand, while also matching your budget.
When customer service is managed in-house, scaling your call center operations as needed is nearly impossible. Either you’ll be unable to hire and onboard new employees quickly enough to keep up with seasonal demand, or you’ll have too many employees onboard during the slower seasons, making your budget less efficient.
A good call center can provide flexible and scalable support for you, so you can ramp up new employees quickly, expand your team when needed, and then go back to your base-level support during the slower seasons.
Customization and Personalization
Your call center shouldn’t be an afterthought—instead, each customer service representative should be a dedicated agent who is familiar with your organization and can personalize their information based on each caller’s background and information.
At ROI CX Solutions, our customer care team members are trained to effectively address student concerns while providing specific solutions unique to your educational institution and the individual caller. Because each educational journey and student is unique, we know that their customer experience needs to be as well.
Today’s students don’t always want to have to pick up the phone to connect with someone, especially for simple requests about application statuses, paperwork and so on. While you should always have dedicated call center agents for difficult questions in key departments such as enrollment and financial aid, you should also have other support channels available to students as well.
For example, did you know that only 24% of Gen Z prefers to use phone calls for customer service? Instead, 85% of this younger demographic said they used virtual or automated agents, or chatbots, to resolve customer service issues in the past year. Universities and higher education organizations in particular should carefully consider the channels that younger generations are most comfortable with and ensure they cater to them—whether that’s email, web chat, social media, chatbots, or other channels.
A good call center can help you determine the channels that will be most productive and effective for your audience and develop an omnichannel solution to create a seamless experience for your students, no matter which—or how many—channels they interact with you on.
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3 Ways Our Education Call Centers are Different
At ROI CX Solutions, we know you have lots of options for education call centers—which is why we don’t just offer cookie-cutter solutions. Instead, we carefully learn your organization, your students and your needs so that we can offer round-the-clock customer service throughout every step of your student’s journey, from prospective students to admissions, financial aid, enrolling in classes and more.
Curious how we could help your educational institution? Here are three specific benefits ROI CX Solutions offers for our education clients:
The ability to scale support staff up or down based on seasonality is a common need in education. However, it’s obviously difficult to achieve that level of scalability in-house.
At ROI, we’re able to offer extremely flexible scalability to our education clients by using opposing seasonality to balance employees for vendors. Proven agents who are already working with us can move accounts throughout the year to provide unparalleled scalability for your team. And because these agents are already onboarded with ROI, you know they’re high-quality, well-trained experts. They only need to be onboarded to your brand, so scaling up can happen even faster.
For example, we’ve worked with Chegg, an online learning and education-services portal, to provide stability and scalability for their busy seasons. With 60 full-time dedicated agents on their account, they also have the ability to scale up to 250 agents within a month’s time to meet demand as needed.
Does your provider offer this kind of flexibility and scalability for seasonality?
Managing Staffing Needs
As your company grows quickly, working with an outsourcing partner like ROI solutions can help alleviate growing pains. For our client Abeka, a homeschooling products and services provider, their client base grew rapidly during the pandemic. They quickly discovered that their current bilingual customer support team was insufficiently staffed to meet the demands of a growing Spanish-speaking customer base.
As a result, they partnered with ROI CX Solutions, and we were able to help them ramp up staffing immediately with fully trained bilingual agents. Within the first month, Abeka was able to reach a 90% service level with the help of ROI’s partnership—and they quickly increased their team size with ROI by 75% once they saw positive results.
Is your educational institution in a similar situation? When demand grows more quickly than you can keep up with, ROI can help you manage staffing needs quickly and effectively—and provide spectacular service along the way.
Finally: ROI offers our clients increased stability. We’ve worked with a number of clients who were coming from vendors that just weren’t able to provide the stability and flexibility the education sector needs.
In contrast, our team consistently provides CSAT rates of 85% and low average handle times (just 5.93 minutes for our client Chegg). We’ve also grown with our clients—offering long-term partnership and a flexible team that can grow with you. From a small beginning of just handling calls, we’ve grown to provide chats, emails and social interactions management for our education clients, so you can grow your team affordably while expanding to offer an omnichannel presence for your students.
How To Pick The Right Education Call Center Partner
Ultimately, picking the right education call center partner comes down to your unique needs and audience. However, there’s four key things any educational institution should look for in a call center partner:
- customization and flexibility
- experience and expertise
- personalization and a relationship-oriented provider
Your call center provider should not only offer flexibility for your needs, especially as they change seasonally or as your business grows, but also customization based on your unique goals and students. In addition, your call center provider should provide customized customer experiences, so that students get a true glimpse of your institution and brand in every interaction.
As mentioned above, you should also look for a provider that offers scalability. Being able to shift your team and staffing levels to meet seasonal demand, while working within your budget, is—or should be—a major perk of outsourcing your customer service.
Your provider should have education-specific experience and expertise. Education is a unique field that comes with many specific student questions. A call center provider with experience in education will not only know how to provide clarity for students, but will understand what students need at every step and how to create an exceptional journey for them.
Finally, look for a relationship-oriented provider that is customer-centered and human-powered. Students want to have a human touch in their experiences, whether they’re looking for reassurance about enrollment or information about financial aid. Having friendly, empathetic customer service agents connects students to your brand and deepens loyalty. Not to mention that personalized experiences for your students will ensure they feel like more than just a number—that’s the difference a good call center provider can provide.
If all of this sounds like a lot to look for, ROI CX Solutions can make your call center provider experience easy. Our background with educational clients and their students helps us provide a superior experience, every time, for every student.
Connect with an expert at ROI CX Solutions to see how we can help you strengthen your student experience from start to finish.