CRM Hits the Campus: Customer Relationship Management Technologies Are Helping Schools Recruit More Effectively, Integrate Students Services, and Keep Kids from Standing in Line

Article excerpt

Customer Relationship Management, popularly referred to as CRM, is not something most people imagine as being an important part of how colleges and universities do business.

But when you look at the populations higher education institutions serve, and their various levels of "customers"--students, faculty, alumni, and staff--it becomes clear that the relationship pyramid is no different than any other business. And because those relationships need to be managed, it's no wonder universities are jumping on the CRM bandwagon and employing CRM-oriented technology solutions (already in broad usage in the corporate sector). Such solutions will help them manage admissions, financial aid, recruitment, current student records/needs, alumni and donor interaction, and instructor communications-among other vital functions.

UNL: Integrating and Personalizing

When the old legacy recruiting and processing system at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln wasn't keeping up with changes in the way the school conducted recruiting and marketing activities, administrators made the decision to invest in a CRM system.

With 22,000 students, UNL recruits students from around the country and around the world. The Admissions office needed to more accurately communicate with potential students and their parents through brochures, fliers, e-mail, and other collateral material. Additionally, the university hosts a variety of recruitment activities, outreach programs, campus tours, events, and counseling sessions for potential students, so tracking those interactions was of growing importance to recruiting staff. Hence, the need for some sophisticated technology.

An Admissions Recruitment Software Selection Team sat down to draw up a list of minimal requirements. The team included various recruitment, computing, and processing directors from Admissions, IT representatives, the recruitment coordinator from the school's College of Arts and Sciences, a Career Services director, and a Committee of Vistors representative. Following the list of minimal requirements was a wish list of bells and whistles--things their dream solution would offer.

At the time, UNL's Office of Admissions was using a homegrown system that was proving fairly inflexible because it allowed only Information Systems department employees to program a recruitment campaign prior to the start of the recruitment cycle. Any student added to the system after that time did not receive materials in the same manner that others did. The office was also relying on its IS department to kick off mailing campaigns, which required months of lead time and was a fairly inflexible setup when it came to last-minute modifications. The system also lacked the technology to comprehensively manage recruitment efforts and track interactions.

With these shortcomings in mind, administrators decided that, at minimum, the school needed a system that could produce flexible marketing campaigns, track interactions with students, and make students feel they were receiving personal attention during the recruitment process. "Personalization was a large part of what was missing from our old system, and for us, that was a big factor," says Deanna Reynolds, Functional Services coordinator for UNL's Office of Admissions.

After an exhaustive search, the school selected Talisma 4.4a (www.talisma.com), a CRM system that allows personalized communication with tens of thousands of student prospects, as well as information tracking and sharing among academic departments. Talisma is a Web:driven customer service solution that integrates e-mail, chat, real-time collaboration, and telephony (phoning and dialing) applications with a multichannel interaction management platform (usable across "channels" such as telephone, e-mail, etc.), comprehensive analytics (to help identify and "segment" targeted markets and analyze trends, for instance), a fully integrated systemwide knowledgebase (to instantly find solutions and answers to user and "customer" queries, for instance), and a customer database. …