Are your student information systems letting your students down?
How are your student information systems looking? Heavy on the administrative functionality, but light on delivering a great student (customer) experience (CX - or perhaps that should be “SX” for those whose customers are students)?
If you’re using a mishmash of disconnected systems supplemented by spreadsheets, then you’ll be all too familiar with the requirement for duplicated data entry and lots of manual or paper based processes. Or perhaps you’re reliant on a legacy student management system that started life as a process-driven administrative tool, but doesn’t adequately support the student lifecycle?
We’re all aware of the need to compete for customers – it’s the same across every sector. And your ‘customers’ are tougher and savvier than every generation before them. They’ve grown up in the digital era and have been exposed to a world of exceptional customer experiences”. In their universe, complaints are quickly met with solutions (via their preferred communications channel), and unresolved or poorly addressed issues are promptly aired and dissected on public forums.
Today, you’re faced with the reality of not only competing with other education providers who provide good CX, but facing off against service providers in virtually every other consumer-facing industry. When you add to the mix all the other pressures you face in the education space (think technological disruption, financial pressure, compliance requirements) the challenge is even greater.
So, how do you recognise that your CX doesn’t stack up?
Answer: When your student feedback looks like this:
“It takes forever to hear back when I’ve registered / asked a question / made an query. Glad you’re not my bank!”
“Why don’t you know who I am? We’ve talked before.”
“Why do I get treated differently by each department? Don’t you guys talk?”
“It’s all about your admin ticking boxes, and not about me and what I need. Hey, I’m the customer here!”
If any of these complaints sound familiar, then we’re sure you know it’s time to sit up and take notice. In a competitive environment, you can’t rely on past successes to dictate the future. You need to embrace new technologies to deliver better outcomes.
First, poor systems deliver an inconsistent and fragmented customer experience. While students may have a great experience with one part of your organisation, they can get frustrated and stuck when dealing with another.
And the cause? Typically, your behind-the-scenes information isn’t centrally available. It’s likely to be sitting in different systems and only accessible to some of the people who need it for student interactions or reporting. So, your students must provide the same information multiple times and end up feeling like they’re not ‘known’ to your organisation. This makes the service you provide feel very transactional and doesn’t meet the expectations of today’s students who expect a seamless, highly responsive and personalised approach.
Next, poor systems hinder your ability to support your students. Given the best intentions and efforts of your team to provide support when it’s needed throughout the student lifecycle, outdated or disconnected systems will let you down. Tutor and administrative time is always limited, and if your people are tied up in low value, process-driven tasks, they simply don’t have the bandwidth to focus on the needs of students.
To identify where you can give back time to your team, your system/s needs to provide you with ready-to-action insights which highlight those specific students in need of attention. But it requires the ability to apply exception scenarios to all the data across the student lifecycle. If you can do it, the benefits are great. By managing your exceptions proactively, you’ll reduce the snowball effect of issues escalating, being double/triple handled, or bouncing back and forth. The outcome? Because you know who needs help, you can provide the focused attention your students need to succeed. And your staff can effectively allocate their time based on where help is specifically needed.
Lastly, disconnected data is a roadblock to self-service. Today, self-service and real-time access to information is no longer a luxury. It’s expected. None of us, students included, like having a list of different user names, passwords, apps, and URLs to access and remember to discover what we’re looking for – especially when all those access points are within one organisation. But providing self-service tools for students and tutors is difficult if your data isn’t united. Without connected data, you’re left with making your students hunt around different systems to apply, enrol, pay, track course results, register for accommodation, get Student Union or Association communications, manage Library orders….the list goes on.
If you have a student information system that is architected from the outset to focus on students and their lifecycle, you can consolidate the myriad of systems and centralise your data. You can then provide a student-centric view of information and services that opens the door to self-service.
Sorry, but if you are struggling with disconnected data, it’s all bad news when it comes to giving your students the experience they’re wanting, needing, and expecting. Your ability to deliver a consistent (and excellent) student experience is always going to be limited by your systems.
And until you can shift the focus from administration and processing to student support and outcomes, the complaints will keep on coming.
My next blog discusses how using a bird’s nest of disparate systems impacts your administrative capabilities. The news gets better after that though!
Student Management System Consultant