Creating a new approach to engaging students
California State University, Fullerton’s (CSUF) Extended Education and International Programs and Global Engagement (UEE/IGPE) divisions approached Story+Structure about transforming their approach to student engagement to ensure more student-centered interactions and experiences, as well as effectively aligning with broader institutional priorities.
UEE/IGPE specifically sought to re-evaluate their methods when it came to service, branding, proactively approaching organizational challenges, and closing any functional gaps that might impede structural success
- Increased regional competition
- Recruitment and enrollment infrastructure limitations
- Historically programmatic and product-centric culture
Led a strategic planning retreat for the UEE/IGPE executive team.
Conducted customer experience analysis to understand existing approaches, perceptions, risk and readiness.
Analyzed & created recommendations for four critical areas: marketing, recruiting, critical transactions, and the classroom experience.
Performance benchmarking and finance review
Challenge: Transform student engagement
Due to increased regional competition, recruitment and enrollment infrastructure limitations, and a historically programmatic and product-centric culture, the time had come for UEE/IGPE to become more strategic with their marketing, operations and student interactions. After initial discussions, it was clear that Story+Structure’s experience-driven approach was an ideal fit to help them reach their goals.
We quickly got to work with the in-depth discovery process, looking at the customer experience from all angles, understanding existing approaches, perceptions, risk and readiness. Through customer surveys, and interviews with faculty, staff, and students, it became clear that UEE/IGPE was facing some growing pains, and there were ample opportunities to ramp up internal functions. Working closely with UEE/IGPE, we determined that the following areas were most in need of addressing and/or re-designing in order for CSUF to achieve its desired levels of student satisfaction and operational accomplishment.
- Configure and prepare for a CRM system and its many benefits through technological and support enhancements
- Consider existing marketing processes for planning effectiveness and centralized communications
- Implement a unified recruiting and enrollment management system
- Standardize and systemize “the UEE/IGPE student experience”
- Determine where to replace custom in-house technology with off-the-shelf solutions
- Create an online registration process
- Update the website for responsiveness
- Ensure ease-of-use and clarity for all customer-facing interactions
To accomplish such intensive and far-reaching goals, we began by breaking the essential functions down into four critical areas: marketing, recruiting, critical transactions, and the classroom experience.
- Establish a strategic internal framework prior to CRM installation - what would an effective solution look like? What are the roles and responsibilities of marketing prior to hand-off to enrollment management or other departments? What does a marketing win look like?
- Explore the organizational structure - reorganize the marketing & communications team for greater functionality. Consider options such as outsourcing collateral production and list generation and shifting to strategic support. Alternatively, marketing & communications could serve as an in-house agency providing required services, and optional ones based on programmatic needs. Determine whether marketing & communications should serve as the brand managers.
- Define performance metrics - establish performance metrics including cost-per-lead, lead quality, leads-per-conversion, and cost-per-conversion. Define what a successful marketing effort looks like, and develop a strong brand identity to tie together collateral and provide consistency.
- Create a service blueprint - create a unified and holistic view of the relationship between UEE/IGPE and the student with a service blueprint documenting all touchpoints encountered across the entire spectrum of the student experience.
- Create a service blueprint - understand how the pieces fit together in this area, from the students’ perspective; clearly define who is responsible for recruitment, clarify hand-off points, and ensure a seamless transition from the students’ viewpoint.
- Create program journey maps - document the steps a prospect takes to become a student, from inquiry to conversion. Create a communications strategy to support this journey.
- Adopt marketing automation - implement a marketing automation system in support of marketing messaging and relationship-building, and to nurture leads.
- Update information architecture – ensure that all customer-facing interactions on the website are intuitive and mimic the familiar shopping experiences students will have elsewhere; understand visitor expectations, and mirror those in architecture and navigation design.
- Designate a service experience leader - determine who will serve as the experience leader, incorporating this responsibility into their job description. This person ensures the critical customer experience through governance, training and support, and participation in all decisions that could potentially impact customers.
Solution: Critical Transactions
- Deploy an online registration system – mirror the online experience students have elsewhere
- Refocus student services – rather than focusing on recruitment (a marketing function), have student services manage enrollment management and financial services
- Eliminate high PCI security requirements – avoid security breaches with a registration process that does not store sensitive (even encrypted) data
- Balance the service model – ensure that online and walk-in registrations are equally positive
- Review customer satisfaction measures – define and document customer satisfaction measurements to ensure adherence
Results: Next steps and early outcomes
Following the extensive discovery and planning phases outlined above, UEE/IGPE engaged S+S for a strategic Salesforce® CRM implementation. This, too, required rethinking and documenting internal processes and responsibilities from leading the creation of a strategic plan, rebranding/developing a brand expression guide, and identifying a strategic CRM marketing team, to identifying a strategic CRM recruitment team, performance benchmarking, and finance and administrative review.
We led a strategic planning retreat for the UEE/IGPE executive team during which we collectively identified key preferred outcomes to align with strategic institutional goals. During this time, we recognized nine initiatives and the teams necessary to deliver each. The end result was a project charter that UEE/IGPE will use to communicate objectives and benchmarks to all stakeholders.
Taking into account the wide-ranging facts and planning recognized and outlined during the discovery phase, we worked with UEE/IGPE to develop a new brand identity. We looked at brand thesis and brand promises to develop a new brand expression guide for the divisions. Following this exercise, we were able to put into place a new service blueprint recognizing all touchpoints between prospects/students during their interest/buying journey in order to create a custom experience that reinforces UEE/IGPE and CSUF’s brand promises.
In order to maximize all of these efforts and the benefits of the CRM system, we advised UEE/IGPE to reorganize its marketing & communications team. Transitioning from a production shop creating marketing materials for recruitment, the team is now able to commit their efforts to lead generation. Similarly, we advised centralizing the recruitment process to allow dedicated individuals to concentrate on mapping the student journey, lead nurturing, and ensuring the customer experience meets expectations.
Finally, in performance benchmarking and finance review, we were able to help UEE/IGPE evaluate internal performance against benchmarks for other extended education units. Our deep experience with diverse clients in the PCE space has given us unique insights and valuable data in these areas.