Published by Ingeborg Loon
The theme at last month’s Australian International Education Conference (AIEC) in Perth was Leading the Way. And for me one presentation stood out, showcasing how important it is to lead the way in student satisfaction from the very first point of contact.
UniSA’s Aleicia Shekhar and AECC Global’s Daryl Fong presented their Best Practice Speed Masterclass to a packed room, with an audience eager to hear just how the University managed to halve its offer letter turnaround time while also growing international student applications by 35% and acceptances by 37%.
Aleicia said it boils down to three key ingredients:
- Automation that allows you to scale
- Communication that creates transparency
- Customer service satisfaction that leads to trust.
Automating at scale
To handle up to 40% more GTE assessments and still meet your promise of offer letter turnaround time you need a robust system. Automating routine tasks in the process is the only way to grow. UniSA has been working with StudyLink to embed more automation since first deploying StudyLink Connect in 2016.
With the unprecedented amount of regulation institutions now have to comply with – also a big topic of conversation at AIEC – you also need a system that can do the heavy lifting for you when it comes to reporting. One example is being able to ask the right questions on application forms, which allows you to bring every aspect of compliance into the assessment process.
Building a positive partnership with agents
Daryl provided the agent’s valuable perspective, noting how vital communication is to maintaining a strong relationship. Agents represent your institution, and are pre-screening candidates while also providing advice on language and academic entry standards.
They need access to a system that gives them all the information they need to help students make the right decision. But they also need transparent access to the status of student applications. If they’ve passed on the promised turnaround time of two weeks, they need to be able to reassure anxious students – and their parents.
Improving customer satisfaction
Being responsive and clear in your communication with both students and agents is a short-cut to building trust. Students will often apply to multiple institutions, and they’re nervous about who will accept them. So are their families, who have pulled together the funds to invest in their child’s future. While they may not accept the first offer that comes through, it’s the one they’re most likely to be excited by. They’ll start to research what it will be like to study and live there, and may already be down the track of making a decision before offer letters two and three come through.
That’s why it’s so important to be fast – and where possible, first – with an offer letter. It’s also important to benchmark your own performance against other institutions. In general, about 60% of applications received will convert to an offer, and one in four applications convert into a student enrolment.
As Aleicia and Daryl discussed in their lightning presentation at AIEC, first impressions matter. If you can deliver on your promise to both agents and students, you can maximise your return on investment in marketing and comms. And, just as UniSA has done, transforming your recruitment and admissions system with a very simple ‘back to basics’ approach can also help save costs and streamline operations.
All it takes is implementing the right systems to automate, prioritising clear communication, and delivering on your promise – to students and to agents.