Crimson has over 30 customers in the HE sector, many of whom have been kind enough to collaborate in news items and case studies to share their experiences of using CRM to support the achievement of their own particular business objectives.
In today’s super-competitive world, most are reluctant to quote specific figures, but this Case Study examines the commercial landscape against which most universities have approached the implementation of a CRM solution and uses direct evidence from 2 of Crimson’s local, South Wales customers to underline the benefits which can be enjoyed.
The need for CRM
At the highest level, Customer Relationship Management is a business system designed to support the marketing, sales and customer service functions in organisations whose success is dependent on the recruitment of new and development of existing customers.
This is exactly what most universities are trying to do and CRM has been in their vocabulary for about 10 years. As a philosophy most institutions espouse this customer-centric approach – it is the methodology that has been lacking.
“The problem was that there were no common practices in place and each college (across the university) worked to its own timescales, processes and service levels and these varied from good to ‘could be better’. Head of Admissions, Keran Williams felt, “there was a need to establish a common process and consistent service level guidelines which each college could operate to and be measured against”.
“Having previously invested in improving our admissions system, the move to invest in better enquiries management and conversion is both a natural next step and a response to increased competition: both domestic and overseas”. Ioan Evans, Director of Marketing & Student Recruitment.
Fragmented customer data
The main problems have come from the fact that email, phone and document interactions are largely untracked against the customer record. The use of spreadsheets is endemic to support many business processes and many mini-databases exist.
Often these methods operate at departmental level, creating silos of unrelated and often conflicting data from which it is difficult or impossible to produce management information. Even where CRM systems have been implemented they have been used departmentally and often contribute to the overall problem.
Although most of the customer relationship data is recorded somewhere, it is spread across departments in an uncoordinated way and cannot be used to produce accurate and cohesive information. All the work is being done, but none of the benefits are being enjoyed.
The result is:
- low administrative efficiency,
- poor customer experience,
- non-existent business benefits.
“The key to this was developing a systematic process and being able to measure ourselves against it. In short we needed a new system which supported the staff and enabled them to provide a consistently high service level to prospective students, improved their overall experience with, and impression of, the University and ultimately raise conversion rates”. Keran Williams, Head of Admissions
“Over recent years the University had invested heavily in providing a personalised application process for its prospective learners with the development of its My Future portal and ADMIT application processing system. With an existing CRM managing student enquiries the University was doing a good job in supporting its admissions processes, with an engaging Portal interface and personalised communications with prospective students.
Unfortunately, none of these initiatives were underpinned by a single system and there was no central record of student engagement prior to enrolment. A symptom of this was that email correspondence was simply tracked within Outlook and was not easy to manage. There was a nagging feeling that the University could do more to support staff processes in this key operational area”. Ioan Evans, Director of Marketing & Student Recruitment.
A properly implemented CRM system will streamline administrative efficiency, improve the customer experience and generate business benefits in two main ways:
“It was decided to tender for a new CRM solution which would support the marketing process from enquiry through application and clearing to enrolment. Having gone through a detailed selection process and working within a very ambitious set of time constraints, the University launched the first phase of the new solution in the summer of 2013 by selecting Crimson Consultants, Microsoft’s lead partner for CRM in post-16 education, as its chosen supplier.
The delivery of this project on time and on budget is a result of the hard work put in by both University and Crimson staff and is a testament to the determination and close working relationship built by the project team. Working with Crimson has demonstrated that commitment to the end result is the key to success”. Steve Owen, Head of Corporate Information Systems
“Fit for purpose CRM capability – a modern system supported by improvements to staff skills and key processes – is an integral part of the University’s response to these challenges and pressures”. Ioan Evans, Director of Marketing & Student Recruitment.
All parts of the HE business model can benefit from the application of functionality provided by a suitably configured CRM solution, providing it addresses the specific HE requirements, which can vary across the sector. This is where all generic CRM systems fall down and where the requirement calls for a solution which is customisable both for sector-wide and institution-specific needs.
Crimson provides a HE-specific solution
Crimson Consultants has extensive experience of CRM as a business tool and of the detailed requirements of the HE sector. The Crimson CRM solution is based upon Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM which delivers massive generic functionality at an incredibly cost-efficient price. Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM also benefits from native integration with the other Microsoft software products used by most universities, e.g. Outlook, Excel, Word etc.
The Crimson difference is its ability to deliver the critical sector and institution-specific elements which are key to achieving the necessary close fit with each university’s business requirements and operating preferences. It does this via its own range of education-specific Accelerators and a proven implementation methodology, known as Crimson Fusion.
Claire Cowell, Student Admissions, commented: “We have worked with Crimson Consultants since April 2013 where we designed and deployed phase 1 of the current CRM in 4 months! The Project Team were great to work with and very accommodating, the developers were patient with our requirements and since deployment in July 2013 the Customer Service aspect has been excellent.
Before the CRM system, we had no integrated system to record and manage enquiries from prospective students. Its deployment has helped integrate and streamline central and College recruitment processes. All areas across Recruitment and Admissions can now see student communications and are better informed when dealing with specific students. This has improved the student journey from enquiry to enrolment, and given us the ability to build strategies and communication plans around this and report results with ease.
CRM is helping us develop stronger relationships with our customers, maximising our sales opportunities and measuring our work easily. The more we use CRM, the more we can track our customer’s journeys with us, whilst providing clear KPIs to our funders and managers. We no longer need to rely on multiple spreadsheets, and can support other teams and projects based at the University with referrals and introductions.”
Paul Edwards, CRM Project Manager at the University commented: “The team at Crimson were as driven as us to deliver a quality solution within the agreed timescale and budget, providing excellent, timely support. As a local business, all employees from ‘top to bottom’ were readily available. They demonstrated excellent customer care and were a pleasure to work with”.
“Right from the initial project initiation, it was clear that an ‘off the shelf’ CRM was not going to meet our needs. We have worked with Crimson to develop a bespoke solution that fits our specific business model. This will allow us to create customised, personalised and timely communications and provide an excellent customer service”. Katie Hearn, CRM and Conversion Manager.
“Student Recruitment is tough; enquiry management, improved conversion to application and finally enrolment is the holy grail. Achieving this means challenging cultural norms and with support from Crimson, utilising their unique Accelerators and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM, we feel we are getting there.” Ioan Evans, Director of Student Recruitment.