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Higher Education CRM Advice: Move from Opinions to Data

By October 23, 2018

Higher education CRMBy: Richard Young, Vice President, International at Fonteva Inc.

Can CRM Make Higher Education Smarter?

Higher education is experiencing changes in the way it operates and interacts with constituents. Students especially (as well as alumni, not to mention sponsors) are demanding more personalized, focused engagement in ever-shrinking time periods. It’s critical that higher education institutions step up to meet these needs in a proactive manner.

I like to use this simple term to describe CRM: “Helping you to win and retain customers.”

Higher education CRMOver the last 20 years of working with CRM, I’ve been asked many times what CRM is. In the 90s, the leading minds described CRM as a business methodology rather than a technology. While that has a modicum of truth to it, I can count on one hand the number of “true CRM” business projects I’ve worked on. The vast majority are about technology – and using technology to enable and improve the experience of your constituents.

So, what is a CRM? In the most basic form, it’s a database of your constituents: your students, staff, faculty, advisors, alumni, and so on. Understanding facts about your constituents and their behavior allows you to leverage the data in your CRM system to guide and improve their relationship with your organization. Given what you intend to use it for, it is imperative that this data is meaningful, timely, accurate, and most importantly, from trusted sources.

Make the most of your CRM by segmenting your database

Once you have collected data, behavior patterns can be used to segment the people in your database. These people are members of the higher education “tribe” and while there will be commonalities among them, there are also subtribes with their own unique set of interests. Understanding both the similarities and differences allows you to target your members more effectively and efficiently. Better “scoring” and targeting leads to better engagement, and better engagement leads to happier members and higher revenues.

Tip: Leverage AI tools such as Einstein Discovery to find new segmentation groups (tribes) within your CRM.

Now that your CRM has a meaningful data set, you can look at automation. Automation allows time savings across your organization. This can be as a simple as a student chatbot to help with enrolling or “first-day” questions – or as complex as working out class timetables.

Here’s a great video from Harvard about how they built out their data architecture:

Watch Video

Be the cornerstone of your IT systems and be digitally ready – a strategic choice.

Once you have a finely tuned CRM platform, you’ll have a full view of your constituents with information provided that is accurate, detailed, and meaningful. This is what will enable you and your staff to plan, engage, and make informed decisions with the best outcome for everyone.

But on top of high-quality data and well-defined processes, here are a few more points to consider for a successful CRM system in higher education:

  • Provide a flexible platform that will evolve with your needs – we don’t know what will happen in the future, but we need to be able to adapt to it.
  • Use a system that innovates – AI, chatbots, and business intelligence are all at the forefront of technology and can make substantial efficiency gains for higher education.
  • Manage all activities and communications in one place – this is the 360 degree vision people commonly talk about, and what gives you the knowledge to act.
  • Automate everyday tasks – for example, did you know password reset is one of the most common IT requests?
  • Be where your students and alumni are – and interact how they want to interact, such as in chats.

constituent relationship managementThe key identifier of an effective CRM solution in higher education is in the name: It is all about managing relationships with your constituents. CRM plays a key role in “connecting the dots,” from business operations to prospect, student and staff engagement activities of academic institutions, delivering benefits at operational, organizational, and social levels.

If you want to learn more about leveraging your CRM platform to implement scoring and improve member engagement, the e-guide “The Evolution of Member Engagement” from Fonteva is a useful resource.

For more best practices in higher education technology, learn how 8 higher ed trailblazers are transforming the student journey with Salesforce in this e-book.


AppExchange PartnerFonteva is an official Salesforce Premier AppExchange Partner.

Find their apps, Fonteva Membership and Fonteva Events, Framework and eCommerce, on the AppExchange.

About the Author
Richard YoungRichard Young is Vice President, International, at Fonteva, the leading Association Software platform powered by Salesforce, offering an end-to-end strategy with a 360 degree view of all member activities.

With over 20 years in the CRM industry, Richard has a wealth of experience in vendor and buyer roles, covering all aspects of the CRM lifecycle, from pre-sales to sales, consultancy, and technology. In each of his roles, he has ensured the alignment of the strategic business goals with CRM and customer experience, both for his customers and the organizations he has worked with.

His trailblazing as a CRM thought leader dates back to the mid-90s when he helped pioneer the idea in the UK market. From DOS to Windows, and now in the cloud, Richard brings critical experience to help clients navigate their way through CRM projects and objectives.