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6 Considerations for Choosing a Higher Education Call Center

Are you an admissions leader considering using a call center to help address your challenges with student enrollment? If so, you probably feel unsure about how to decide between all of the options out there.

Choosing the wrong call center can result in wasted budgets, missing your enrollment goals, and putting further strain on your admissions team.

At Enrollment Builders, we’re here to take some of that worry and stress off of your shoulders so you can focus on finding the right solution for your needs.

In this article, you’ll discover the six most important things to consider when deciding which call center to partner with:

  1. What problems are you trying to solve for your institution?
  2. What’s the monthly lead volume you plan to outsource and how much will it vary?
  3. When is the best time to contact your prospective students?
  4. What is the right outreach channel and cadence for your leads?
  5. How much of the student experience do you want the call center to be responsible for?
  6. What will collaboration between the call center and your admissions team look like?

After reading this article, you’ll be ready to have effective conversations while vetting potential partners for your admissions team.

1. What Problems Are You Trying to Solve for Your Higher Education Institution?

Depending on your specific needs and challenges, you may find a certain type of call center will be a better fit for you than others. 

The three types of partners admissions leaders like you consider working with are a Traditional Call Center, a Higher Education Marketing Agency, and a Higher Education Contact Center. Let’s discuss each option to help you understand which option may fit your needs.

What Is a Traditional Call Center?

A traditional call center is a broad-service provider offering various services such as customer service, technical support, sales, and other communicative functions. Unlike a specialized call center that focuses on a particular industry or service, a generic call center caters to many industries without specializing in any area.

In our experience, we wouldn’t recommend that an institute works with this type of 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.

What Is a Higher Education Marketing Agency?

A higher education marketing agency specializes in promoting universities and colleges through various channels and strategies. Some organizations that offer marketing services for higher education also include call center services as an add-on for their clients.

If you need assistance with a larger marketing or admissions project that will also require temporary contact center help, working with a marketing agency that can also do call center work may be a good fit for your institution.

What Is a Higher Education Contact Center?

A higher education contact center is a partner that solely focuses on working with institutions to grow enrollment and address admissions challenges. A first-rate higher ed contact center will become a true extension of your student experience and act as an out-of-the-box effective admission team.

If you quickly need an effective admissions team that acts as an extension of your brand and scales with your seasonal lead volume, a higher ed contact center is a great fit.

2. What's the Monthly Lead Volume You Plan to Outsource and How Much Will it Vary?

Understanding the number of prospective students you need to contact every month is key to any conversation with a call center. Monthly lead volume can have an incremental effect on pricing and the number of specialists assigned to your account, based on a few considerations:

  • New number of leads per month
  • Whether the leads are aged, new, or a combination
  • The point of transition

Call center partners often differ in how they can scale lead volume up or down throughout a 12-month period. When discussing services, be sure to ask about the agreement options and whether you can make changes if your lead volume will vary from month to month.

3. When Is the Best Time to Contact Your Prospective Students?

When comparing different call centers, discussing the operational hours your institution requires is another important factor.

Some call centers use a blended staffing model that offers 24/7 service, while others have a dedicated staff that operates on specific hours each week.

If you offer adult or nontraditional programs, you need a contact center partner who is willing to work nights and weekends when your prospective students are available for a conversation.

4. What Is the Right Outreach Channel and Cadence for Your Leads?

Your students’ expectations have changed over the years, and so have their preferred methods of communicating with institutions like yours.

When considering a call center, find out what methods of communication they use when working with prospective students. A first-rate contact center should use a combination of phone, SMS messaging, voicemail, email, and website chat.

it takes an average of 7 contact attempts to engage a prospective student

In addition, ask if they have developed contact cadence sequences and what they typically entail for institutions similar to yours.

In our experience, it takes an average of 7 contact attempts to successfully engage a prospective student. Therefore, any effective contact cadence should have a minimum of 7 touchpoints for your leads.

5. How Much of the Student Experience Will the Call Center Be Responsible For?

One of the most important aspects to consider is the “point of transition” - or how far you want your call center partner to take students through the process before transitioning them to your internal team. 

When partnering with a contact center, the two most common points of transition are Upon Qualification and Upon Completed Application.

Qualification services focus on real-time contact and qualification of prospective students. When appropriate, the contact center will transition interested, qualified leads back to your institution. This is typically done via warm transfer or by scheduling an appointment with your admissions team or an advisor. 

Completed Application services include real-time contact qualification and maintaining the relationship until after the application and required admissions materials have been collected. This allows the institution to make an admissions decision on the applicants, and then transition to your internal team typically occurs once the university admits a student.

the more a higher education call center will interact with students, the more important it is to evaluate them as a partner

Deciding on the right point of transition for your institution depends on the challenges you’re trying to solve and your biggest areas of opportunity. It will also depend on whether or not your institution will need the flexibility to go between these two levels of service as your needs fluctuate.

Overall, the more your call center will interact with students, the more important it is to evaluate them as a partner. This ensures they understand higher education and the admissions process.

6. What Will Communication and Collaboration Between the Call Center and Your Admissions Team Look Like?

When you propose working with a contact center, your internal team will have a lot of questions. Your team will be communicating directly with your call center partner, so you’ll want to make sure the collaboration and student hand-offs run smoothly. Understanding how call center agents will interact and collaborate with your team is crucial for a successful partnership.

Important communication-related questions to ask include:

  • How will your specialists and our staff communicate day-to-day?
  • Do we have the ability to communicate with your specialists in real-time?
  • What are our options for transitioning prospective students? 
  • Can we have multiple hand-off scenarios?
  • What data/reports will we have access to in real time?
  • How often do we meet to discuss performance and optimizations?

The more you and your team know about what the partnership will look like, the more comfortable and confident you will be with the outsourced part of your admissions process.

Key Questions to Ask When Evaluating Higher Education Contact Center Options

Now that you know the most important factors to consider when comparing higher ed call centers, you’re likely ready to contact potential vendors. But before you take that step and get quotes, it’s key to know the right questions to ask in your conversations. After all, you want to invest in a partnership with the right contact center based on your unique needs and challenges.

When vetting call center options, we recommend you ask these questions during your initial conversations:

  • Do you use dedicated specialists for client accounts or would our call center staff also be assigned to other clients?
  • How do you scale up/down with my lead volume?
  • Do you offer options for night or weekend hours?
  • What optional service add-ons do you offer?
  • How do you prepare and train your staff to represent us?
  • What will communication look like throughout our partnership?
  • Can I review audio transcripts of calls to hear the people who will represent our brand?
  • What does exiting this relationship look like?

In our experience, we find it’s best for admissions leaders like you to speak with and get quotes from 2-3 different vendors to make sure you understand the difference between the partnerships you’re considering.

Should You Partner with a Higher Education Call Center?

Even with the information provided in this article, you may still have lingering questions about how to address your enrollment challenges.

It can feel overwhelming to reach out to a vendor when you haven’t worked with a call center before. You’re not alone! Many admissions leaders feel out of their depth when trying to contrast the differences between admissions partners.

Download this free checklist to guide your conversations with potential partners so you can feel confident about making the right choice for your admissions team and institution.