Skip to content

Top Call Center Problems for Higher Education Admissions Outreach

Are you considering outsourcing part of your admissions outreach to a call center? If so, you might have heard about potential issues. 

At Enrollment Builders, we believe in full transparency, including being honest about problems that colleges and universities can encounter when working with a call center. To provide you with as much information as possible, this article dives into the most common problems that may arise when hiring a call center and discusses strategies to avoid them.

The most common issues colleges and universities face when working with an outsourced admissions call center are:

  1. Lack of higher education industry knowledge
  2. Lack of brand knowledge and shared values
  3. Misalignment with your admissions team’s processes
  4. Focus on quantity over quality
  5. Your admissions team’s perception of why you’re outsourcing
  6. Privacy and compliance issues
  7. Limited performance transparency and control

After reading, you’ll feel more confident about choosing the right call center partner and know how to avoid problems other institutions have faced.

Problem 1: Lack of Higher Education Industry Knowledge

Most call centers are “multi-industry” broad service providers that offer customer service, technical support, and other communicative functions across several industries. That means higher education is just one segment of their business. 

This can result in call center agents not having a deep knowledge of higher education admissions processes and compliance requirements.

In addition, multi-industry call centers use a standardized approach to customer service that applies general best practices rather than developing effective outreach strategies tailored to the unique needs of a higher ed institution.

What's the Solution?

Seek out higher education contact centers that solely work with institutions to increase enrollment and address admissions challenges. These specialized outsourcing partners have staff intimately familiar with higher ed admissions processes and compliance.

They can also provide more tailored services, such as taking students through completing their application, and have flexible scaling options based on your seasonal lead volume.

Problem 2: Poor Understanding of Your Institution's Brand and Value Proposition

Outsourced agents aren’t your employees, so they won’t have the detailed brand knowledge of someone onboarded directly to your team. This can lead to conflicting or inconsistent messaging that dilutes your brand and confuses prospective students.

Additionally, call center partners often don’t have self-optimizing processes or systems built in the way you would expect an admissions employee to improve and grow.

What's the Solution?

In our experience, colleges and universities have the most success with outsourcing admissions work when they partner with a call center that focuses on understanding the brand inside and out and continuously optimizes their approach over time.

Avoid outsourcing your admissions work to any vendor that seems to have a “set it and forget it” mentality. Your institution is trying to grow, so you need a call center partner that is growth-oriented, too.

Problem 3: Misalignment with Your Admissions Team's Processes

Another common issue when outsourcing your admissions outreach is the risk of misalignment with your admissions team’s usual approach and communication style. 

Call center agents may be more “pushy” or hard-selling when speaking with prospective students. This can harm your institution’s reputation if it doesn’t align with your brand values and usual approach.

What's the Solution?

You deserve an admissions partner that treats every lead like a potential enrolled student at your institution. The call center agents should understand the delicate balance between sales and admissions.

Ask potential vendors if you can listen to call recordings and see message examples they use with other higher education institutions so you can confirm their techniques align with your expectations.

Problem 4: Performance Metrics Emphasize Quantity Over Quality

Most call centers prioritize the volume of interactions and have strict Average Handle Time (AHT) standards that encourage agents to get off the phone as quickly as possible. Sometimes, call center agents may only be approved to ask or answer a certain number of questions during a conversation.

This transactional approach can lead to students feeling like they are just a number in a queue, which can result in a negative perception and a lower likelihood of choosing your institution.

What's the Solution?

Find a call center with a dedicated staffing model. This type of model means you have a dedicated team within the call center that only works on your account. Your assigned specialists become a true extension of your institution to ensure students have a consistent experience and high-quality interactions.

A first-rate partner will use proven contact cadence strategies to engage each prospective student in a personalized way. The hand-off experience from the contact center to your team should be seamless for every prospect so they feel a consistent connection to your institution throughout the process.

When speaking with potential vendors, ensure the contact center's KPIs align with your admissions team’s KPIs. You don’t want your call center overly focused on making 150 calls per day when it’s more important for your institution to make 25 quality connections.

Problem 5: Your Admissions Team's Perception of Why You're Outsourcing

Bringing in an external vendor to help with your admissions work has the potential to create cultural problems within your team. Some common concerns admissions counselors have about working with a call center are:

  • Fear that outsourcing will diminish the importance of their roles
  • Perceived threat to their job security and worry of losing their job
  • Communication breakdowns between your internal team and the vendor

These concerns can create anxiety and resistance to change within your admissions team, resulting in difficulties with effectively outsourcing your lead qualification work.

What's the Solution?

It’s crucial to address all internal concerns before starting work with a call center partner. This begins with educating your team about the benefits of outsourcing and how it can complement their efforts. The right admissions partner will give them more time to focus on their most important work rather than sorting through every lead that inquires about your institution.

Additionally, you want to work with a call center that has established feedback loops and processes for collaboration between its staff and your admissions team. For example, at Enrollment Builders, we have real-time communication set up between our specialists and your admissions team, plus we hold bi-weekly meetings.

Once you choose a partner, set clear expectations for the roles and responsibilities of your admissions team and the call center to mitigate concerns and ensure alignment.

Problem 6: Privacy and Compliance Issues

Outsourcing your admissions outreach introduces potential risks to the security of sensitive student data, including personally identifiable information (PII), if not handled appropriately. 

This could lead to privacy breaches or compliance failures, diminishing trust between your institution and prospective students, alumni, and other stakeholders, ultimately hindering your efforts to increase enrollment.

What's the Solution?

When properly done, there won’t be any privacy or compliance issues. So how can you ensure you choose a partner who appropriately handles privacy and compliance?

Admissions leaders often find the potential risks of partnering with non-specialized call centers are too high. Because of this, it’s best to prioritize vendors who are well-versed in higher education regulations to avoid unnecessary complications.

In addition, ensure the partner doesn’t break incentive compensation ban rules. Something as simple as how the company pays their employees can cause millions of dollars in fines to an institution.

Lastly, confirm that any vendor you speak with has robust, compliant technology and processes for secure data management. Always ask for privacy policies and verify that the call center you’re considering is compliant with the following:

  • FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act): Ensures the protection of student education records.
  • GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation): Applicable if your institution deals with EU citizens, regulating data protection and privacy.
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act): Relevant if the call center handles any health-related information.
  • FTC Rules: Federal Trade Commission rules, including regulations on telemarketing and consumer privacy protections.
  • CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act): Important if you have students from California, ensuring the protection of personal data.
  • SOC2 and SOC3 Compliance: Verifies that the call center adheres to stringent security standards and practices for managing customer data.

Ensuring compliance with these regulations will help mitigate risks and demonstrate your commitment to protecting sensitive student information. This not only safeguards your institution's reputation but also builds trust with prospective students.

Problem 7: Limited Performance Transparency and Control

Limited visibility of outsourced activities can make it difficult to assess campaign effectiveness, resulting in missed opportunities and subpar outcomes.

Plus, without clear oversight, you risk call center partners deviating from your goals and priorities, leading to misalignment and conflicting strategies. This can lead to a strained relationship and the possibility of needing to find a different partner to outsource your admissions work to.

What's the Solution?

Choose a partner with robust reporting capabilities and dashboards you can review in real-time. This will ensure you have ongoing insights into campaign performance and can ask informed questions based on the data.

Along with reports and dashboards, work with a contact center that schedules regular check-ins with your team to discuss what’s working and what should be adjusted.

At Enrollment Builders, we believe that rising waters lift all boats. We regularly share insights about what’s most effective so our clients can optimize and enhance their overall admissions efforts.

Key Questions to Ask a Call Center When Evaluating Their Services

Now that you understand the most common call center problems for higher education institutions and how to avoid them, you have a lot to think about.

Vetting potential partners to work with your team can be overwhelming, especially if you haven’t worked with a call center before.

To prepare for conversations with various call center options, download our free list of questions to ask an admissions service vendor

In the checklist, you’ll find key questions to ask vendors so you can feel confident about making the right choice for your institution. Click below to download your checklist now: