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Higher Education Contact Center vs. Multi-Industry Call Center: What’s the Difference?

Do you want to increase student enrollment and feel that outsourcing part of your admissions process can help you get there? If so, you’re probably considering hiring an admissions partner to communicate with your prospective students.

As we consult with leaders from higher education institutions, it’s common for them to evaluate conventional call center options alongside specialized higher education contact centers. During our conversations, they often ask: “Is it necessary to partner with a vendor that has specific experience in higher education?”

In this article, you’ll discover the key distinctions between a multi-industry call center and a higher education contact center, including the pros and cons of each one.

After reading, you’ll feel more confident in knowing which type of admissions contact partner you want to work with and the right questions to ask when vetting potential vendors.

What Is a Multi-Industry Call Center?

A multi-industry call center is a broad-service provider that offers customer service, technical support, and other communicative functions across several industries. These centers are equipped to handle a large volume of calls, utilizing a standardized approach to customer service that applies general best practices. 

Conventional call centers typically use phone as the primary means of communication - both for incoming inquiries and outbound communication.

Multi-Industry Call Center Pros

  • Lower Cost Option - Because multi-industry call centers aren’t specialized and take a transactional approach to conversations, they typically cost less for outsourcing and are often priced solely on a per-lead basis.
  • Multilingual Proficiency - Some multi-industry call centers employ agents who speak multiple languages. This is key if you work with many international students or individuals whose primary language is not English.
  • Operational Hours - Most multi-industry call centers use a blended staffing model. This means there are a large number of agents available in the queue, sometimes with 24/7 availability.

Multi-Industry Call Center Cons

  • Lack of Higher Education Industry Experience - Multi-industry call centers act as a “jack of all trades, master of none.” For many, higher education is just one segment of business they conduct. This results in call center agents not developing a deep knowledge of higher education admissions processes and compliance requirements.
  • Transactional Approach to Conversations - A multi-industry call center uses a standardized approach to customer service that applies general best practices. Many have strict Average Handle Time (AHT) standards that encourage the agents to get off the phone as quickly as possible. Additionally, some call center agents may only be approved to ask or answer a certain number of questions during a conversation.
  • Singular Contact Method - Multi-industry call centers use phones as the primary means of communication. While this can be helpful if you have a huge influx of inquiries via phone calls, it’s not the optimal way to grow new student enrollment.
  • Minimal Flexibility for Your Changing Needs - Due to the minimal knowledge in higher education, multi-industry call center partners can only assist with the qualification of prospective students. If you need an admissions partner who can take students through to completing their application, conventional call centers aren’t the right fit.

What Is a Higher Education Contact Center?

A higher education contact center works solely with institutions to grow enrollment and address admissions challenges. They accomplish this by collaborating directly with your admissions team to be a true extension of your brand and processes. 

Higher ed contact centers typically use multiple methods of communication with prospective students, including phone, text message, and email.

Higher Education Contact Center Pros

  • Tailored for Higher Education Admissions Conversations - Due to the sole focus on working with institutions like yours, a higher education contact center has staff who are intimately familiar with admissions processes and compliance.
  • Specialized Team Commitment - Higher ed contact centers like Enrollment Builders use a dedicated staffing model, meaning your institution benefits from a specialized team exclusively assigned to your brand. Unlike a typical call center where agents may juggle many clients, your dedicated team’s singular focus ensures they are deeply integrated with your admissions process and brand identity, enhancing the consistency and quality of student interactions.
  • Relationship-Focused Student Experience - Using proven contact cadence strategies, a contact center engages with each prospective student in a way that feels personalized to them. The hand-off experience from the contact center to your team is seamless for every prospect so they feel a consistent connection to your institution from inquiry to enrollment.
  • Multiple Communication Methods - Higher education contact centers use multiple methods of communication with students, including phone, text message, website chat, and email. Combining these methods helps to maximize student engagement with your institution in their preferred medium.
  • Ability to Adjust Services Based on Your Needs - Higher ed contact centers can assist with both qualification services and completed application services. In addition, they can scale up and down with your seasonal lead volume as needed.

Higher Education Contact Center Cons

  • Operational Hours - Unlike conventional call centers which may have availability 24/7, a contact center with a dedicated staffing model engages prospective students during specific high-impact hours. These hours typically align with when your admissions team is available, allowing for effective collaboration with your team and a seamless experience for prospective students. Night and/or weekend hours can be added at an adjusted cost.
  • Price - A higher education contact center can be more expensive than a traditional call center due to its unique specialization, dedicated agents, and use of multiple communication channels.

Key Questions to Ask When Evaluating Call Center Options

Now that you know the major differences between a traditional call center and a higher ed contact center, you’re likely ready to start researching potential partnerships. Before you take that step and get quotes to compare, it’s important to know the right questions to ask in your conversations.

When vetting call center options, ask these questions to ensure you work with the right vendor based on your unique needs and challenges:

  • How far do you take the admissions process for a client?
  • Do you have clients outside of higher education or do you solely focus on higher ed?
  • Do you use dedicated specialists or would our call center staff also be assigned to other institutions? How will you train them to represent us?
  • How much experience in the admissions process do your specialists have?
  • How do you adapt your strategy as you learn what works best for our prospective students?

In our experience, we recommend admissions leaders like you speak with and get quotes from 2-to 3 vendors to ensure you understand the difference between the partnerships you’re considering.

Higher Ed Contact Center vs. Traditional Call Center: Which Is Right for You?

Now that you know the key differences between a traditional call center and a higher education contact center, it’s time to review which is best for your institution.

In our experience, we wouldn’t recommend an institution work with a traditional call center unless they have an unusually high volume of leads and only need fast/cheap help qualifying the leads for internal conversations. This may occur if you purchased a list of student contacts or had an extremely successful ad campaign and need someone to do a large amount of top-of-funnel qualifying.

Partnering with a higher education contact center could be a valuable investment for your institution if:

  • Your admissions team doesn't contact leads quickly or effectively enough
  • You only want your team to focus on interested, pre-qualified leads
  • Your team struggles to convert leads into qualified applicants
  • You need an out-of-the-box effective admissions team that you can scale up/down with lead volume

If that sounds like your current situation, it’s time to find the right call center for your institution! Click below to discover higher education contact centers to consider this year: