Practically every industry today is a fiercely competitive one. Whatever sector you may be in, gains are made chiefly by improving efficiency and putting the client at the center of your business model. It’s no wonder then, that Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software has come to play such a crucial role in building a competitive advantage for many companies.
The situation is no different for universities and other educational institutions. The cost of education has been rising and students have become increasingly selective about where to make their investment in education. And with this particular generation being tech- and media-savvy, it is important for educational institutions to have an agile business model with some sort of student relationship management system that attracts students and provides them with support throughout their experience with their institution.
What Is a CRM in the Education Industry?
A CRM in education essentially does the same thing CRMs do in other businesses. It helps the company manage interactions with clients at every stage of the customer’s journey. For an education CRM, this means everything from student recruitment and retention, to student support, providing reports to both the institution and to the student along the way, while also automating processes to make life easier for both parties.
With competition being a growing issue for more institutions, higher education CRM systems are expected to provide tools to enhance collaboration for teams, to make those institutions more competitive.
Benefits of Using an Education CRM System
Purely from an operational standpoint, there are numerous benefits to using a CRM. For one thing, the digitization of processes brings with it all the benefits of paperless operations: processes can be completed remotely, with fewer errors and losses of data, and at a lower cost to the institution and the student, all the while providing a better experience for the client.
Here are some of the benefits of using a CRM system for higher education:
Engagement with Prospects
It is important to capture contact information such as the prospect’s name, email, educational background, location and more, from potential students that seek valuable information about courses. Your CRM system easily can capture this data that can help you to create tailored campaigns for promotions based on their interests.
Marketing Through Automation
The ability to automate lead identification, personalize and track the application process for the student, and streamline workflows for staff are all vital to the success and competitiveness of the institution. Higher education CRM systems improve efficiency, and this translates to quantifiable cost and time savings.
Gain Insights into Organizational Processes
There was a time when educational institutions had to gather a huge amount of paper records or complex spreadsheets to find important information and gain insights into different institutional processes. Thanks to CRM systems for education, maintaining essential organizational data is quite simple with the help of built-in reporting and analytics features that allows you to gain key insights and make data-driven decisions to grow your institution.
Security & Data Protection
Higher education databases always contain personal information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, email, phone numbers, etc. Your organizational data requires a robust security system to safeguard these sensitive students’ personal data. Luckily, the best higher education CRM systems offer a range of security features, such as user authentication, data encryption, authorization, and much more, to protect your data from falling into the wrong hands.
Key Features of Education CRM System
Institution Events Management
Planning various Institution events is an important aspect of fundraising, student engagement, and new staff recruitment. With a robust higher education CRM, you can easily track all the relevant data and monitor all of your event-related tasks, from one centralized system. Many higher education CRMs have in-built event management tools that allow you to implement your event planning strategy.
Education CRM’s event management tools allow you to:
- Design registration forms,
- Create guest lists,
- Set personalized prices for tickets,
- Send pre-event surveys and feedback
- Create event reports,
- Set up recurring event registration.
There was a time when phone calls were the only way to make inquiries, but now, the scenario has changed. In educational institutions, course inquiries can come from emails, as well as many other channels such as phone calls, contact us forms, website chat boxes, social media, etc. You need to make sure they are captured accurately under one centralized database.
Furthermore, you also need to reach out faster to close more deals. According to sales statistics, the probability of converting a lead to a customer can improve up to 80%, if the prospect’s inquiry is responded to within 5 minutes of the initial contact.
Most CRM systems come with all the tools you would need to automate responses, and act rapidly as soon as a new inquiry drops while maintaining a smooth and non-frustrating communication between the institutions and potential students. Using the advanced features, you can also make sure that every prospect is assigned to the relevant admission staff based on the location and course choices.
Automate the Admission Process
With the help of Higher education CRMs, you can automate the entire admissions process from a lead to enrollment. You can also streamline the application and payment process. Education CRM allows you to track your leads’ status and help you identify which part of the process requires more investment according to the detailed reports on the admission process.
Most CRM systems for higher education come with a built-in document management system that allows you to upload, view, and print student documentation which is a common part of the admissions process.
Accounting & Invoicing Systems
In order to run your finance operations smoothly, every higher education institution needs a robust accounting and invoicing tool. Top CRMs systems for higher education allow you to securely process the payments of student fees, record payment history, and create on-demand financial reports. Additionally, your CRMs should be capable of being integrated with third-party payment gateways that allow you to accept online payments of tuition fees and other types of payments from students.
Integration with Social Media and Institution’s Website
For the education industry, the institution’s website is the powerhouse of the recruitment process. Your website is the primary platform visited by your prospect to find relevant information, get course details, check fee structure, and make inquiries. Most of the time, your website acts as the bottom of the funnel, regardless of wherever a prospect is coming from.
By integrating your CRM system with the institution’s website, you can easily funnel all your leads and manage them from one single place. With the help of the integration features, all the information will pass to your CRM and get updated in real-time, which will help you convert the leads into students quickly and efficiently.
The integrations work the same way with your social media channels. Social media is the most important channel for communication and awareness. Integrating your higher education CRM system with your social media channels can help your team save a huge amount of time going through all the prospects’ inquiries, and responding to them manually – which mostly leads to communication delays and even missed communications.
With the integration features, you’ll have the right tools, support, and strategy in place to use your website and social media to their full potential.
Choosing the Best CRM for Education
Before investing in a brand new education industry CRM, it is important to have answered a few questions.
Does the Education CRM Fit Your Specific Needs?
You might need to consider what additional costs might come from having to customize the education industry CRM after you have purchased it, should such a need arise. If you have an existing technology infrastructure, you will want to know if the new CRM software can be easily integrated into your system. If you have to hire programmers to implement modifications, this might incur a hefty cost.
Is the Product White-Labeled?
It will probably be important to brand your school CRM software in your style in order to present a unified experience to your clients. If the CRM does not provide this capability out of the box, you may wish to reconsider.
Does the Provider Offer Support/Training With the CRM Software?
The CRM software will only be as good as the people using it. You will want to be sure that the software provider will be invested in helping you get the best out of their product, by offering training for example, and that they will provide support should anything go wrong.
Consider Initial and Additional Costs
Apart from initial purchase/licensing costs, you will want to ensure that there are no other recurring costs, that your package price includes all the features relevant to you, and that there are no limitations that will hinder you from using the product fully. For instance, if you opt to get college CRM software on some sort of subscription plan, you will want to know what limits, if any, are placed on the number of users who can subscribe.
Keep in Mind Security and Stability
Given that CRM software is by its very nature, a distributed system, security should be one of the foremost concerns. Your CRM should always be available for students and teachers alike. With the school calendar often quite rigid and intolerant of delays, downtime for college CRM systems, for example, is highly disruptive. You also want to make sure that the information you save is regularly and safely backed up so you can easily recover from an unexpected data loss.
What Are the Best Education CRMs?
The market is literally teeming with CRMs all vying for your attention. We’ve rounded up the best five we could find to get you going in your search for a solution that works for you.
One of the best-known names when it comes to CRM software might also have the best CRM for higher education. Salesforce normally provides options not just for businesses, but also for non-profits and educational institutions. For education specifically, they offer Salesforce Education Cloud. This package provides features for recruitment, engagement and retention for students and alumni, and has options for customization with other Salesforce products like Marketing Cloud.
One of the best-known names on the market, with many advanced features like predictive modeling, AI-enabled engagement, automated scoring, and others.
Provided by a vendor on request.
Full Fabric is a higher education CRM system specifically designed for that purpose by founders who have actual experience in the industry. It, therefore, features an impressive array of options that are tailor-made for use in this sphere: a customizable admissions portal, a module for student support, providing information and advice to students, and a tool specially for alumni, descriptively called Connector.
Specifically designed to be an education industry CRM, making it a natural fit for the majority of institutions.
There have been complaints about the software’s analytics and data reporting capabilities.
Module-based and dependent on the annual number of applications.
Hubspot turns heads because it is free. You can pay for additional features but the free version still provides quite a few useful things like contact management, tools for marketing, form builders, the ability to chat live, and Social networking Services (SNS) integration, although these are, frankly, to be expected from any decent CRM. Its biggest drawback is that it is not specifically designed for educational institutions, so it doesn’t have some of the bespoke features that school CRM software like Full Fabric and Slate do.
Free with a very well-designed with an intuitive UI.
The mobile app version of the platform has left some customers unsatisfied.
Jenzabar is another education CRM designed specifically for use in this sphere. It, therefore, provides tools specifically for school-related processes like enrolment, e-learning, student retention, and even fundraising. It also features a well-designed UI that makes for a user-friendly experience whether you are on a desktop or mobile device.
Specifically designed to be an education CRM. Well-designed UI.
It has been reported to be buggy by some users.
Provided by a vendor on request.
Slate by Technolutions
This is another popular option when it comes to college CRM software. It has well over a thousand higher learning institutions on its platform. It offers tools to automate some marketing tasks, manage events, and tools for data visualization.
There is also Slate.org, which is a free platform that school counselors and community-based organizations can use to connect with higher learning institutions.
Has the tools institutions typically need from an education industry CRM.
Several users have complained about it not being user-friendly.
Provided by a vendor on request.
In Dynamics 365, Microsoft offers an extremely comprehensive CRM that provides excellent tools for both the client and the organization. A learning institution can get a complete view of its clients, including purchase history, and use that information to identify leads or create tailored offers to existing clients.
From the clients’ end, Dynamics 365 provides organizations with the ability to create self-service portals that the students can use to find information, track their activity, or simply engage with the institution.
Highly scalable, well-supported, familiar Microsoft interface that users will be comfortable using.
Not designed to be a CRM for education and so it lacks some specialized features, such as modules specifically for enrolment.
Module-based. Dependent on the scale of implementation.
Finding a CRM that works for you is dependent on the unique characteristics of your institution, what resources are available to you, and what your expectations of the CRM software are. That said, there are a few pointers to bear in mind before you make your investment, and a few well-known names trusted by many educational institutions that might be worth looking at. Once you find the solution that best fits your needs, the benefits will be of crucial value to the success of your institution.