As prospective students dreamed of life after lockdown, enquiries to UniQuest partner universities rose 450% across the year leading up to the September 2020 intake. However, a huge surge in enquiries does not translate to increased enrolment without strategic effort to qualify and nurture interest. In a highly competitive global market, it’s essential for universities to develop an effective student conversion operation.
Here, we share an overview of what a good conversion plan looks like. In future blog posts, we’ll share our latest student engagement data and insights to support your communications with prospective students.
1. Prompt support
Build a great reputation by responding to enquiries across all channels, and all time zones, as quickly as prospective students expect. And their expectations are high: our student survey shows that 82% of prospective students expect a response to their enquiry within 24 hours.
To younger generations used to instant communications, real-time support is increasingly important. Between January and September 2020, UniQuest managed a 1,966% increase in enquiries via WhatsApp and live chat, with volumes highest in the weeks closest to the September intake.
The pandemic has led to unprecedented demands for student support, and universities need both the resources and the flexibility to respond swiftly and at scale. In September 2020, UWE Bristol sought to rapidly scale up student support, after data captured by UniQuest revealed that a high volume of its incoming students were anxious about self-isolating. Acting on behalf of the university, UniQuest Student Advisers called all 2,900 self-isolating students once a week for three weeks, helping to identify and resolve any issues quickly.
2. Proactive encouragement
Building relationships, by nurturing prospective students from first enquiry onwards, is critical in driving conversions. As one of UniQuest’s international prospective students commented:
‘After the conversation I had with you, I actually started considering this university more because of how cooperative and nice you are and I’m liking the options I see on the website.’
Universities need to be adept at communicating across multiple channels, including WhatsApp and live chat as well as phone, SMS and email. UniQuest data shows that using a mix of one-to-one communications (e.g. phone, text and WhatsApp) and personalised one-to-many communications (e.g. email and web chats) doubled the rate of conversion to enrolment, compared to only using one-to-many communications. Teams should also be aware of key times in the recruitment cycle when they need to double down, such as leading up to the UCAS deadlines and the weeks before the September and January intakes. Especially given ever-changing circumstances due to COVID-19, universities need an agile student conversion operation that can scale up quickly as needed.
Understanding different cultures’ motivations and communication preferences can improve engagement. For example, UniQuest’s Enrolment Advisers report that prospective students from China respond best to an initial introduction in English, but prefer switching to Mandarin for a longer conversation.
3. Personalised communication
Students value relevant content, so deliver personalised communication as early as possible.
‘I really thank you for the communication and constant calls to applicants like me. I really appreciate this a lot despite the pandemic.’
Ensure your Customer Relationship Management system is fit for purpose: able to report data in a digestible way, as well as integrate with all the tools used to contact students (live chat, event forms etc), so you can gain a whole picture of each student’s journey. Use individual student data to determine relevant content (dependent on country, course, study level etc.), language, channel, timing and frequency of communication. And continue to track data to build up rich student profiles that will inform future engagement activities.
In 2018, Teesside University used its existing relationship with UniQuest to maximise enrolment in the Indian market. Acting as an extension of the Teesside team, UniQuest managed all student conversion strategies and activities, tracking every communication to create detailed student profiles, ensuring students received highly personal communications via email, phone and live chat. The result was a 351% year-on-year increase in enrolments.
Since 2013, UniQuest has partnered with universities across the UK and US to engage 1.2 million students, manage 20 million student communications and support 65,000 enrolments. Contact our experts to learn how we can act as an extension to your team to deliver an exceptional student experience that maximises enrolments.