CRM in Higher Education
“Today, more than ever before in human history, wealth of nations depends on quality of higher education.”
Higher education, today, is undergoing a more radical transformation than perhaps any other aspect of our culture. Educational institutions world-wide are undergoing fundamental shifts in how they operate and interact with their “customers”: students, alumni, faculty members, and staff members. The quality of knowledge generated with higher educational institutions and its availability to wider economy is becoming increasingly critical to national competitiveness. New technology-based tools for gathering and disseminating knowledge have become central element of today’s education. Technological, economic, sociological, and governmental forces are altering education dramatically, impacting its institutions, teachers, students, funding sources, and basic function in society. To unlock potential and helping talented people to gain advanced training, whatever their background, requires customer-centric approach to education.
So, institutions need strategies that make them more receptive and responsive to their core constituencies – their students. Students increasingly see themselves as customers who purchase education services form competing providers. Kotler & Fox (1995) state, “The best organization in the world will be ineffective if the focus on ‘customers’ is lost. First and foremost is treatment of individual students, alumni, parents, friends, and each other (internal customers). Every contact counts!”
During the mid-1980s and late 1990s, over-crowded classes, inadequate library and laboratory facilities, and little student’s services have been the norms in most of the institutions. Rarely has an institution responded by creating remedial program for inadequately prepared students. But now colleges and universities have initiated re-structuring and re-engineering their operating processes to cut costs and become more efficient while responding to increased competition. Higher education customers are demanding more attention and immediate service. Proactive institutes are now adjusting their practices by refocusing their efforts externally. Because of the need to concentrate more on customers, many institutions are tuning to customer relationship management.
CRM is important because of the changes occurring in the competitive environment. Globalization and the Internet mean that competition can now come as easily from around the world as from around the corner. Power and choice are moving to the customer as never before, and leading to the commoditization of products and services in most situations.
In today’s scenario, most of the institutions want to compete with others. To compete with other institutions, some institutions are getting autonomous status, some of them are trying to get ISO Certification, others are looking for accreditation status, deemed university status, and some others are tied-up with multi-national companies (MNCs), and so on. The institutions, which are not ready to compete, will surely become as “Void and Vanish”.
It is essential that academic institutions have to concentrate about some strategies, techniques, or methods by which they can become “Brand Building”. And one such strategy is CRM. CRM strategy for an academic institution should lead to employment rather than merely giving education. At present, academic institutions are eager to maintain a long-term relationship with the students rather than a relation which is related only to their course duration.
Customer relationship management is all about satisfying and retaining the customer by providing the perquisites he/she desires for. The relations that are maintained are a kind of trust that the institutions provide to its customers (students) and fulfill them. Educational institutions are also among those profit-making institutions which are attaining the path of CRM. Academic institutions are themselves not different from any other organizations. They are themselves profit-making firms who impart education for money and try to grow as any other organization. Whether they are government-owned or self-financed private institutions; almost all educational institutions are profit-making organizations. Such organizations focus on CRM not only to impart state-of-the-art education to their students, but also have to maintain relations with their working staff, administrators, companies, vendors and with their primary customers – students. CRM plays an increasingly important role in maintaining such relationships in these organizations.
Why Implement a CRM Business Strategy in Higher Education
Because higher education is far enough behind the commercial sector to gain from the CRM and assume customer-centric approaches. Teaching departments and offices work as separate entities in many colleges and universities today. Faced with divisional boundaries, it is often very difficult for these different institutional functions to focus on their customers in a coordinated fashion. By providing a common platform for customer communication and interaction, CRM applications are designed to increase the effectiveness of staff members who interact with customers or prospects.
Emerging CRM processes and technologies are going to drive the growth of new types of resources and services. Within the higher education enterprises, much of this new functionality is focused in the students’ area. The exciting new level of student-related functionality and performance is having an impact on students as well as on the administrative staff and management, companies, the faculty, media, and the institution as a whole.
A look at each of these areas: –
Students – Today’s system has little to offer students, particularly the new breed of technology-savvy students who want to be more in control of their learning environment. Today’s students demand a higher level of access to information about their options, their performance, and their future. They also demand the technology resources to be an integral part of their learning experience. The standard for access to faculty and student services will change as students come to expect virtual access to faculty and student services resources. The old ways of interacting with students will become untenable – like expecting them to line-up for hours when instead they can choose an institution that can meet their needs on their own terms, on their schedule, with virtual support system.
Companies – Companies come to educational institutions for recruiting their students in campus selection procedures. They are so amongst the most important clients of such education organizations. Keeping continuous and direct contacts with these companies will enable institutes to maintain good and healthy relationships and improve contacts and service to them.
Administrators – A CRM business strategy for a college or university administrative system would also introduce a true self-service system that empowers the administrative team to rethink the investment to administrative resources in institutional services.
Faculty Members – Today’s system provides little value for faculty members. In the new learning environment, faculty and student services are closely linked, dynamically sharing resources and strategies to enable student learning. Imagine a process whereby a faculty member can make immediate student referrals to key support programs on campus-even when working at home.
The Institution – CRM delivers a new conceptual and structural framework for directing institutional activities to attract and retain its various customers. Most import is the ability of a truly robust set of institutional processes and tools to bring the entire institution together around its people.
Media – Academic institutions are many times interested in advertising, publicizing, promoting, and marketing for them. In doing this, they are required to maintain and be in contact with various media-based service-providers who help them for this purpose. CRM plays an important role in maintaining and making new such productive, profitable, rewarding, and fruitful relationships, which benefit these organizations on short and long runs both.
Fortunately, emerging methodologies in research and marketing offer higher education institutions the ability to adapt and evolve by building an ongoing dialogue with students, admissions representatives, parents, employers and alumni. This dialogue serves as the process by which an educational brand is built and maintained. Using an effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution is vital for education establishments to deal more efficiently with the complex multi-level relationships they have to manage.
Department of Commerce,
Periyar University, Salem-11