8,000 registrants – 48 hours – easy peasy
For Richard Harrison, it was a real nail biter. The Events and Enquiries Manager with the University of Warwick recalls a mini open day where the university had the capacity to accommodate 800 prospects “and we let the registration continue over the course of a weekend. When I came in on the Monday, our system had booked 1,200 people. So I had to desperately find new rooms, change times and email everybody.”
Though the university has been offering online registration for both the mini and full open day events for years, Harrison and his team managed this process manually. This meant that one person constantly monitored as many as 60 full open day sessions, continually refreshing the screen and closing each one off as it reached capacity. That’s no small feat when you consider that university averages 8,000 open day registrations in as little as 48 hours.
Since the sessions would not close automatically upon reaching capacity, Harrison says that he and his team tended to do it before going into a meeting or leaving at the end of the work day even if there were spaces still available. The rationale was simple: better to be 100 prospects shy than to go over the top and jump through hoops to manage student expectations. Even so, there was a growing realisation that the effort required to monitor the process was taking invaluable time away from organising these major events.
Wanting a better student experience
Meanwhile, the university’s online booking form was causing major headaches, not just for Harrison and his team, but also for prospects. For one, it did not allow for real-time reporting. If his team wanted to make any changes to the fields, it meant booking time with IT services. Depending on their workload, that meant waits of up to two weeks. Meanwhile, prospect feedback had made it clear that the form was not very user friendly.
“You had to enter all of your information in one go. If you were halfway through it and the session timed out, you had to start again. Also, the form was multi-screen, and it didn’t save information as you went from one section to the next. Users ended up at a timetable, which they assumed was the end, so consequently, they didn’t confirm, and that requirement wasn’t very obvious either. So, nothing was actually created in the system until the very end, which then led to the problem of people showing up thinking they’d registered and discovering that wasn’t the case.”
These complications were compounded by the fact that this form was one of many tools and systems the university had implemented to manage open day registrations and student enquiries, and few of them were connected in any way. The university was collecting invaluable data about prospects, but it couldn’t tie it all together to engage them and track their progress from enquiry to enrolment.
“We’d create a spreadsheet for an open day of the people who’d booked and then file that away somewhere. We’d send them a confirmation email, file it away and probably never look at it again. We didn’t know anything about our enquiries and couldn’t track them through to enrolment. And that’s what we wanted to do so we could proactively communicate with them. That’s why we wanted a CRM solution.”
On the hunt for a CRM provider
The initial push for a CRM system began through Warwick’s business school after a meeting with Azorus representatives at a CASE conference. The school lacked the capacity and funds to implement such a system, but the idea was picked up by the Director of Student Recruitment as a university-wide solution. A tender was issued and 40 expressions of interest were received, which were eventually narrowed down to two main contenders. It was Azorus that emerged victorious.
“The personality and ethos of the company impressed us. We didn’t feel like we were going to be a small fish in a massive pond, like we would be with another company. They offered bespoke tailoring, and we felt they would hold our hand through the initial stages.”
That added attention was an important consideration. There were so few universities that had taken the plunge that Warwick found itself developing the vision for what the CRM solution should look like and do virtually from scratch. It also had to come to grips with the fact that data would be housed not just offsite, but on a different continent. This made Warwick something of a pioneer, and had the effect of slowing progress somewhat, yet a CRM solution has emerged that has made processing 8,000 open day registrations in 48 hours relatively effortless. That is when you consider the time and effort Harrison and his team once spent monitoring and managing it.
From manual madness to sophistication
“It’s a small thing, but the fact that the system automatically closes off sessions when they reach a predefined limit has made a massive difference. That’s something we haven’t been able to do before. So now, there are no major panics. We can relax and let the system run and focus our energies on organising this massive event.”
Harrison adds that the CRM has also enabled the university to offer priority booking through its online student portal, YourWarwick – something it could not have done before. “It splits the demand so it isn’t all on one day, slowing the flow a bit. And because we are doing it through YourWarwick, it’s the engaged individuals that are signing up, which means the warmest prospects. So that’s been invaluable.”
As for prospect reactions, Harrison says confusion and complaints have decreased considerably. “For fall 2011, I don’t think we had any reports that people weren’t able to get on the website. The bookings literally came flooding in. It was very smooth and I think the team all sort of smiled at the end and said ‘Great. Move on. Next stage.’” He adds that there are now more than 80,000 people in Warwick’s student information system, and the number that opt out or ask them to stop sending information is very small. “If it is one a month, I’d be surprised. So that’s a positive comment in its own way.”
The goal now, according to Harrison, is to link that student information system with the CRM to deliver highly personalised information and content to each prospect using YourWarwick, including using video quite extensively.
“An example of the dream scenario for Student Recruitment is that a female in Brazil will be able to learn about specific Warwick courses from a current female student from Brazil. We want to give prospects the ability to find the information they want and feel like they are here on campus when they are not in a position to physically be here. So it’s really about giving them a virtual open day experience, and CRM will make that possible.”