Tagged in student contact center

Summer Checklist: 5 Things for a More Effective Financial Aid Office This Fall

June 21, 2018


Ah, summertime. The season of fun, sun, and finally catching up on all those little projects that get shoved to the side during the school year. Summer is the best time to take advantage of the comparative quiet and make improvements for a more effective financial aid office this fall. Here are just few easy things you can put into place now that can ensure your next semester gets off to a great start.

  1. Tie up loose ends

Now is the time to wrap up the last elements of the spring semester and begin strategizing for the fall. Work with your bursar office teams to reconcile remaining balances and finalize financial aid awards for the next semester. If you have a call center, an outbound calling campaign and blast messaging can help you contact students before they get too caught up in summer jobs, vacation, and other seasonal commitments that could impact your ability to reach them.

  1. Look to the future

Meet with your internal teams to conduct a post-mortem on the school year: what were some of the challenges you faced? What were your successes? How can you take this information and transform it into best practices for future semesters? It’s important to have these discussions earlier in the summer when the previous year’s events are still fresh on everyone’s mind.

  1. Help your incoming class

Your incoming freshmen and transfer students are already nervous, so if you haven’t already, develop a list of paperwork they must submit before their first day to ease their anxiety. What will they need to have a smooth start to the year? Can you use this outreach to also answer any FAQs before they step on campus? Things like a list of financial aid forms and deadlines, housing requests forms, emergency contact information, and medical profiles can all get lost in the excitement of starting school, so having a clear reference guide can be a life-saver for harried students. Having this information also eases the strain on your staff in the long term, as it can reduce the number of questions you have to answer from your students.

  1. Update your frequently asked questions

Students tend to ask the same questions, but they don’t always get the same answers. A frequently asked questions (FAQs) library can bring more consistency to the responses your busy staff gives to students and make for a more effective financial aid office overall. Summer is a great time to update your existing questions and think about new questions students might have as you close in on the fall semester. If you don’t already have a library, the slower pace of June and early July can lend you the time you need to develop that library and share with your team before your inbound call volume increases and students return to campus.

  1. Consider a call center

With budgets tightening across the nation, many schools are realizing the ROI of a call center. Whether managed internally or outsourced to a third-party vendor, call centers can help alleviate your staff by having individuals dedicated to handling your inbound call volume and outbound messaging. The end of the year can be an excellent time to begin exploring this option, as you have brand-new data sets – your current inbound call volume, future school initiatives that may require a dedicated outreach team – that can guide the decision-making process.

When summertime hits, it’s natural to want to slow down after the hectic pace of the school year. And while it is important to use the summer to take a breath and reset, incorporating these few easy steps – wrapping up your work from the prior season, identifying your lessons learned, simplifying things for your incoming class, and researching the investment value of a call center – can go a long way to making sure your fall is much calmer.


How Student Call Centers Benefit Busy Campus Departments

March 16, 2018


Generation Z is the most connected generation yet. From ride sharing to grocery delivery to streaming media, today’s students expect prompt results and top-notch customer service. In an effort to stay on top of this trend, many schools are turning to student call centers as solutions to strengthen their outreach, recruiting, and retention metrics. Some elect to create a call center in-house, staffed with students or entry-level employees, while others seek out third-party solutions. So what advantages do student call centers offer busy universities?

  1. Improved customer service

Having personnel who are dedicated to helping your students is the surest way to offer a top-notch experience. Providing a list of frequently asked questions with their answers not only helps a student call center representative rapidly deliver information to the student, but also streamlines your operations by reducing confusion from the get-go. When your calls are handled by trained professionals who understand the nuances of customer service, rather than employees who are managing other duties as well, student satisfaction levels will inevitably rise.

  1. Managing seasonal peaks and valleys

A successful student call center understands and scales to meet the seasonally driven fluctuations in volume. Busy periods, such as admissions, add/drop, and financial aid deadlines can be challenging to your already overloaded staff. Transferring those time-consuming calls to a call center that’s in place and ready to go before the deluge starts lets your people focus on the tasks essential to their roles. It also means that your students – who themselves may be stressed out during these busy periods – are assisted by friendly professionals whose only job is to help them find the information they need, and quickly.

  1. Increased flexibility

Dedicated student call centers can increase campus departments’ overall flexibility. For example: let’s say you have several dozen students who are eligible for a tuition discount from their employer, but the deadline for applying for the discount is rapidly approaching. A short-term calling campaign can reach out to the qualifying students and help them complete the necessary paperwork. This “extra-mile” effort can make a difference in retaining students from underserved populations, who often have to balance a full-time job on top of their studies.

The importance of connecting with your students in meaningful, effective ways cannot be overstated. Students who feel valued and respected by their institution are more apt to succeed in their classes and achieve the degree they’re aiming for. Your student call center is the face of your institution, and when those representatives model respect and trust in their communications, your students are more far more likely to respect and trust their school.

6 Ways to Keep Your Student Call Center Sane This January

January 18, 2018


As one semester ends and another one begins, simply returning to campus in January from the extended break can be daunting enough. Never mind the flurry of student and parent requests and questions bombarding your student call center. While January will never stop being a busy time, there are some things you and your student call center team can do to make your work life a little more manageable, based on Windham Professionals’ experience of managing calls for our higher education clients.

  1. Understand and assess your call volume

Every student call center is unique, so it’s important to understand the drivers of your call volume and segment accordingly to plan an effective approach. Even if you don’t have access to detailed call data and trends, you and your staff can likely make reliable guesstimates to bucket volume (e.g., 40% deadlines, 20% paperwork, 10% payment issues, 5% Spanish-speaking callers, etc.). Knowing how volume breaks down can help you draft missing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), staff according to demand, and assess technology needs.

  1. Meet with staff

To avoid misunderstandings and errors, gather your staff for an in-person meeting. It doesn’t have to be long, but you should use the time before students arrive back on campus to get everyone on the same page. Review process and informational changes. Set goals and service expectations. Field questions and concerns. Already know what they’ll ask you? Then be sure to prepare thoughtful responses to avoid on-the-spot explanations and subsequent confusion.

  1. Update your call center’s FAQs

The foundation of any well-oiled student call center is drafted FAQs. It’s another way to keep every team member on the same page. FAQs also speed up talk time by having your most common questions and answers at your fingertips, helping you to get through more calls in less time.

  1. Post some FAQs on your website

Studies show that 73% of millennials prefer self-service, so there’s a good chance they’ll check out your department page before contacting your call center. Since many FAQs and inbound calls revolve around deadlines and traditional paperwork processes, even posting your top ten FAQs on your department’s website could significantly reduce call volume, allowing your team to focus on more intricate student issues.

  1. Increase outbound communications to students

Reducing call volume can sometimes be as simple as being more communicative with students. Schools often rely on snail mail or school-provided email addresses. Unfortunately, many students check physical mailboxes too infrequently. They’re also more likely to check their personal email, especially during breaks or after graduation. As students re-enroll this semester, get their permission to text them and consider requiring an alternative email address.

  1. Seek out student pain points

If there’s anything you can do at the start of the semester to prevent delinquency woes later, you should do it. Misunderstanding bills, grace periods, or loan requirements are just a few of the pain points that students encounter that can lead to past due accounts. Review your paper communications and invoices to re-familiarize yourself with what your students are looking at when they call you. And, again, update your FAQs accordingly. Perhaps even consider sending out a novice-friendly support document.

You can’t prepare for every call your student call center receives, but taking a few small steps to better support and resolves the ones you know are inevitable can go a long way with students. The suggestions above don’t take much time to implement, but they could save you and your team members hours in the long run and simplify your workload.