As part of NEO’s mission we've always believed empowering our clients in effectively managing their database is critical to their success. As anyone who has ever tried to use CRM software already knows, using it "off the shelf" is going to lead to a challenging time in adapting it to your own unique operation, and likely some colorful language in the staff room. In this article, we are starting at the beginning, by exploring one of NEO’s main services for educational institutions: CRM Customization and Implementation. In subsequent articles, we’ll be digging into much more detail, but to get things rolling, we will first look at the nuts and bolts of what this powerful technology offers and how to do it right.
What is CRM?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is really just as it sounds; a tool to help you manage relationships with "customers" or, in this case, students. A CRM system offers educational institutions more personalized interactions with alumni, current students and potential students, and is the perfect instrument for high schools, universities, language schools and agents for keeping track of all the preferences, contact details, conversations and behavioral data, saved and organized in one single place. Imagine how much information can be gleaned from all the interactions we have with our students and alumni, and how it can all be used to provide a much more personal, efficient and effective experience for everyone involved; if only it is working for you in an optimized way.
Why does an institution really need a CRM system?
Data management has become one of the biggest assets an institution can have, if well set up. Having a CRM can facilitate and automate a variety of actions, such as sending targetted emails to specific groups of alumni, while using predefined snippets to give a sense of personal touch. In addition, your CRM can be linked to your digital marketing actions, allowing you to manage them more easily and rapidly. Nowadays, offering an excellent degree program or language course just isn’t enough. Beyond the attributes of the product itself, It is essential to deliver a personalized experience that people will remember; which makes them feel they have been heard and that they belong. This increases not only the likelihood of the person continuing to engage with you but also recommending the institution, program or experience to others.
Why use a CRM platform sooner rather than later?
From a managerial perspective, the days are gone of having to wait for report X or meeting Y to get the information you need, and instead, we can see that whole range of real-time data right in front of us, like the CIA Secret Ops Centre in The Bourne Identity. This slight exaggeration aside, top CRM platforms such as HubSpot or Salesforce really do enable you to visualize so much tailored information, from which you can really extract learning, modeling, and rich data to make systemic changes and strategic decisions. Making decisions based on what you know always feels more secure, and a well-organized CRM platform helps you to know more about what's really going on.
For those in your staff team, when the number of interactions is increasing with students, from potential to alumni, it gets challenging to keep track of them with a one-dimensional database. We have all seen the smaller organization, which starts out with an Excel sheet of lead statuses and quickly becomes overwhelmed. Information is lost, staff turnover complicates the handover of important detail, work gets duplicated, and it is all visually unappealing to those who need the birds-eye view of where targets are being met, or where there are connections and insights between different streams of information. Excel tabs just aren't built for that.
Using CRM software requires a bit of adaptation time, but the efficiency and enhanced experience that comes with it means more stability for your institution and a system that is easy to follow as you expand. The later you leave switching over, the more challenging it can be.
From a student's perspective, the CRM system means not having to re-explain things in subsequent interactions with your institution, and speaking to someone who really knows the story so far. It is also about receiving information and offers that are actually relevant to you, and less likely to make you reach for the “unsubscribe” button; particularly in the case of busy alumni who don't want to be bombarded with scattergun content, or potential students who get put off by information overload.
Here’s a handy infographic of the many advantages of having a CRM system automated and implemented in an educational institution.
Ready to get CRM? There's something you should know first
Depending on where you are on the scale of your operation, switching to a CRM platform can mean an investment of time and effort. Importing the tool “off the shelf” might seem appealing. Compare the functionality, shop around for the best price, and click download. Easy, isn't it? Not quite.
The truth is, that what lies ahead can be a steep learning curve until you find the setup and settings that are best for you and your process workflows, not to mention the change management issues this can bring, from staff training to the integration with all the other departments that will want to make use of it. Your admissions or marketing team may be more familiar with CRM tools, but the academic team may want to use it to contact current students and record interactions. The careers office will want to use the CRM platform for alumni surveys, the marketing team to promote events, and any number of other uses that are part of the day to day running of your institution.
Having a tailor-made CRM really is the only answer, and NEO can help create organized efficiency right from the start. Whether it is on HubSpot or Salesforce, NEO works with you to craft an automated and bespoke CRM setup which adapts to your institution and your priorities. As a matter of fact, NEO is a HubSpot Certified Partner, in recognition of our expertise with the platform and its customization. All of this means you can get down to business, while we take care of the rest.
Life with a CRM means being able to easily keep track of activities, paid media campaigns, calls, emails, notes, and reminders, as well as develop tasks and schedule meetings. Thanks to the usage of a chatbot, the CRM can even create a workflow that filters the information provided by potential and current students, helping to streamline and automate tasks; reducing errors and increasing efficiency.
If the implementation is customized, there is a far greater buy-in from your team as well. Change can be challenging, but if your team can clearly see how much easier the CRM can make their working day, the onboarding phase will be much more positive for everyone. For those of us who dreamed of machines one day making our lives much easier, that reality is already here.
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