More and varied higher education choice, compounded by global disruption and uncertainty, has increased the propensity for students to enquire to potential universities prior to applying.
Providing prospects with a positive enquiry experience is the first step in converting interest into enrolments. You certainly don’t want to scare students away with an underwhelming response or, worse, a negative interaction. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.
So, how do you make the most of that chance? What exactly needs to be done to deliver a great enquiry experience? As student engagement specialists, we understand what works. Drawing on student behaviour data and conversion insights from the over 1.2 million student journeys we’ve managed, it comes down to meeting student needs in 4 key areas.
4 areas to improve enquiry conversion
Students want the ability to choose their preferred enquiry channel. For some, that means picking up the phone for a direct conversation. The desire for phone conversations surged during lockdown, we saw a 5X increase in prospects making their first enquiry through this channel in 2020.
For many, the traditional approach of email and website enquiry form is preferred. This remains the most common enquiry method and accounts for more than 75% of all first enquiries from some markets such as the US.
For other students, live chat and mobile messaging platforms like WhatsApp and WeChat provide a more convenient way to engage. Peer-to-peer communication options are also increasing in popularity. These non-traditional channels can’t be dismissed as ‘nice to have’ and their usage has increased exponentially.
In 2020, live chat was the second most popular enquiry channel for prospective undergraduate home students. It was also the fastest growing enquiry channel for Indian students, with a 150% increase in prospects making their first enquiry through this channel.
To deliver a great enquiry experience, you must first consider the range of channels you’re offering to prospective students and ensure there is a match with student needs.
Students expect a quick reply. No matter the day, the topic or the channel, a prompt response is highly valued. Doing so keeps your university top of student minds and shows you know how to deliver good service.
We’re sure of this because 94% of students say they are satisfied when email replies are within 24 hours, phone hold time is less than 30 seconds and there is an immediate response to live chat. If you’re not offering this level of responsiveness, there’s every chance you’re losing out to competitors who do.
Students also want to receive responses that are personalised, relevant, easy to understand and optimised for mobile. So often universities send out generalised, templated communications and forget to check them in mobile view.
We know that students value communication that is tailored to their study level, study interests, fee status and nationality. Engagement rates soar when communication is personalised, something we have proven time and time again when looking at things like email subject line testing. In one of our recent tests, a university client was able to boost open rates by 25% by including the student’s name in their email subject.
Quality communications also take student mindsets, knowledge and English proficiency into consideration. Long winded, university-focused communications littered with jargon are a poor match with the interests and capabilities of the prospective student audience.
Student engagement can be maintained when there is proactive and timely follow-up from the university. The initial enquiry is the beginning of a relationship, and further communication builds trust and a deeper connection with the university.
Importantly, we know that when we continue to communicate with students via their preferred channel, it has a significant impact on conversion. So that means if a student enquired by phone, then the most effective approach is to continue communicating with students via phone. This reciprocal approach to student engagement is also key at the offer conversion stage, and has driven increases of 70%-100% increases in offer conversion rates for a range of university partners.
It’s not always easy to know how well your university responds to enquiries from prospective students. Are you meeting the standard students expect? Or, are you potentially losing out to competitors who offer a better ‘customer’ experience?
That’s why we’ve developed the Enquiry Experience Tracker. It’s a unique annual research programme that enables universities to understand their performance compared to both the sector and the UniQuest proven standard of engagement excellence, across key enquiry channels and student types.
See details about the research methodology and outputs.
Chat with our experts
Get in touch with our team to learn how we can help streamline and improve your student conversion. We look forward to speaking with you soon!