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2 Things Before You Go On BreakTuesday, December 18th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

As you finish up your final few days in the office for 2018, I’ve got two things I want you to think about.

First, when you interact with prospective and admitted students and their parents in the coming weeks, be mindful that you’re one of a number of colleges reaching out to them through the many different channels.

For you to have a productive back-and-forth conversation, you need to understand how to influence them on a personal level. That means taking the time to really get to know who they are if you haven’t done so already – specifically their wants, needs, motivations, and fears as they pertain to the college search. The key to all of that is consistently asking the right kinds of questions that then allow the other person to take control of the conversation and express their thoughts and opinions on different things.

If you don’t take this approach, you go from being someone who they’re excited to learn more from, to just another college representative delivering a sales pitch…no matter how much they like your college on the surface.

Much like I never forget those who connect with me and thank me for helping them, your students and their parents will remember you when you consistently make this process about them. Caring, being thoughtful, being accessible, and just being plain relatable never go unnoticed, even if they don’t verbalize that to you.

Once they “know you” and it’s clear you’re consistently trying to help guide them through the college search process, they’ll listen and they’ll engage as you tell various aspects of your school’s story and explain why your college is a good fit for them. But it has to be about them.

Let me add one word of caution. While relationship building is extremely important, so is action. Relationship building without action (i.e. getting them to take the next step in the process) makes yielding a student much harder.

The second thing I want to bring to your attention is a question that needs to be answered – How is your school really different from the other colleges that your admitted students have on their lists?

Students tell us in surveys that they cut down their list of schools to two or three and then proceed to really struggle with how to differentiate between them. So, if one of your admits asked you that question, what would your response be?

Sure, a lot of colleges offer similar experiences, but there are also a lot of things that make your school, and every other college that your students are considering “unique.”

For example, instead of saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care (i.e. tell more stories). And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then give some more context that allows the students to connect the dots and understand what that exactly means, why that kind of atmosphere is important, and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.

These two little things can make a big difference, so please take a second and think how they apply to your day-to-day.

And don’t forget, next Tuesday’s newsletter will contain the most popular articles of 2018.

They’re Everywhere! More Recruiting Tips From My TravelsTuesday, May 29th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

What a way to end my spring travel. Last week started with 48 hours in Atlantic City during which I gave the keynote speech at NJACAC and presented a breakout session. Then it was home for 12 hours to sleep in my own bed and have breakfast with my wife and daughter. And then it was back to the airport to fly to the opposite coast and Spokane, WA for 36 hours to speak at PNACAC. I had so much fun connecting with many of you in person!

When I travel, my eyes and ears are always paying attention. Why? Because there are people all around you that can teach you really valuable recruiting techniques. So, when I see or hear something of note, I add it to a Word document and then eventually I pass it along to you in an article like this one.

Here are nine things to think about if you want to become a more effective recruiter and communicator:

  • Earning trust. We have a lot of options when we fly. Last week during my layover at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport I met Captain Mark and First Officer Jason who work for Delta. Prior to boarding our flight, both of them were walking around the gate area striking up conversations with many of the passengers…including me. Not having seen others do this before, I asked Captain Mark about it. He told me that in his mind it was extremely important to earn the trust of customers before they flew with him. Plus it was another way to personalize the traveler experience. Without either, he said, how was he or the airline he flew for any different than the rest? My question to you is, how are you earning the trust of your prospective students and their parents?
  • Perfecting your approach. Have you noticed that more bartenders are asking you for your name? Some like Robert in Wichita, KS and Nate in Peoria, IL, will even go so far as to describe how the food is prepared and why the food at their restaurants is better than the rest. It’s all about how they first establish contact with a new customer. That sets the tone for the customer relationship even if it’s only for a few minutes. When done correctly, it increases the likelihood of repeat business. How much time do you put into figuring out what your approach sounds like to prospective students?
  • Using compliments. It’s a simple thing with a massive ROI. Compliments help you make a connection and cultivate a relationship. They also show that you care, which is something that prospective students tell us they’re actively looking for.
  • Pay attention to body language. Are you aware that your body language reveals things to total strangers including prospective students and their parents? It’s true. Why does that matter? It might surprise you to know that research indicates over 65 percent of our communication is done nonverbally. In fact, studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. Therefore, if a prospective student’s words don’t match with their body language, you’d be wise to rely on body language as a more accurate reflection of their true feelings.
  • Prove that you can solve their problems. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with young people who want to have their problems (specifically – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. It starts by asking effective questions. If you can’t do that, you’ll miss out on opportunities to solve problems and separate yourself and your school from your competitors.
  • Know what your competition has to offer. How much do you really know about the three or four schools that you constantly compete with for students? Without that knowledge it’s hard to outline the differences between your student experience and theirs. Let me clarify. I don’t want you to focus on negative recruiting. Instead, I want you to be able to passionately explain why your school is a better fit. Are you able to consistently do that in a professional way?
  • It’s how you say what you say. In other words, the “feel” of the language you use with prospective students is even more important than the facts you’re relaying to them. As I’ve said before, our research clearly shows that this generation of students is focused more on how you make them feel. That’s one of the big reasons we focus on the overall tone of the messages and recruiting strategy that we help develop for our clients.
  • Are your letters and emails speaking the right language? Stop worrying so much about everything being “on brand.” Your communications, specifically the letters and emails you send, need to be shorter, and they need to be all about them. Use language that we all speak every single day. And most of all be consistent.
  • Do they understand why, how, and when to take action? And if the answer is yes to all three but they’re still not moving forward, what’s holding them back? Your prospect is always moving in one direction (towards you) or the other (away from you). They never stay neutral.

Looking for more ideas that can help you in your day-to-day? Reply back to this email and let me know what you need help with.

P.S. I want to give one more big shout-out to NJACAC President-Elect Carlos Cano and everyone else from Jersey for their hospitality last week. What an amazing group!

Are You Giving Them Enough Context?Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

I’m asking because context plays an important role in the student recruitment process. And, too often admissions professionals, namely counselors, don’t give prospective students enough of it when telling their school’s story.

Here’s what I mean:

You start a conversation with a prospect, and you say something like, “We have professors that care and a welcoming community that will quickly feel like home.” You also talk about class sizes and the fact that a high percentage of your recent graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months or a year of graduating. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

But if you dig deeper, context is missing. Without it, you’re going to sound a lot like every other school that you’re competing against.

When I lead a staff training workshop I explain that prospective students often need the WHY behind what a counselor, coach, faculty, or another staff member is telling them or asking them to do. When you provide the “why,” you educate, motivate, and empower. And when the student feels like an active participant in something that involves them, and they understand the value and benefit, they’re more likely to take action.

I would also add that sometimes you will need to tell your prospect what they should think about a certain topic, fact, or something you might show them during their visit to campus. If you don’t supply that context you’re opening the door for someone else to define parts of your school’s story…will it be accurate?

Context also does the following:

  • It gives them a reason to listen to you.
  • It accelerates their understanding of your school and why it might be a good fit for them.
  • If done regularly, it helps to personalize the recruitment process.

So, as you create your story for this next class of students, consider implementing these three strategies that have worked well for our clients:

Start any big conversation with an explanation. For example, “Here’s why I want to talk to you now about financial aid and paying for college…” Doing so sets up a reason that they should listen to what you’re about to say. And when you give them that explanation, make it about them as much as possible.

Or, end a big conversation with definition. After you show your prospect something, or talk to them (or their parents) about a topic that’s important, define it for them by saying something simple like, “Here’s why all of this should matter to you…” Tell them why what you just talked about is important, and how they should define what they just heard you say, or what you’ve just shown them.

Anticipate and address potential negatives from your competitors. If you know that other colleges consistently point out a negative about some aspect of your school (ex. location, size, outdated buildings), warn your prospect ahead of time. Give them context about what they’re likely to hear, and do it in a way that combats and eliminates their intentions. For example, if you know that a direct competitor is likely to mention your school’s outdated buildings and facilities, give your prospect context. Not about the buildings and facilities, but about your competitor’s intentions. You could say something like, “So now that you’ve seen campus, let me warn you about something that might happen. There are some schools out there who are going to tell you that our buildings and facilities won’t allow you to excel here as a student. That’s just not true, and here’s why that should be a huge red flag for you…”

Remember, it’s up to you to define what your prospects should think about something and why that something should be important to them. And in some cases, you’ll also need to explain how that something is different at your school.

Context is one of the hidden secrets of effective recruiting. Do it correctly, and you’ll not only notice an immediate difference in the conversations you have, but it will also allow you to move a student/family through the recruitment process more efficiently.

Have a great day!

P.S. I’ll be speaking at NJACAC in Atlantic City, NJ next Monday and Tuesday. If you’re going to be there, be sure and say hello.

P.P.S. And next Thursday and Friday I’ll be in Spokane, WA speaking at PNACAC. My session which is titled, “The value of phone calls in student recruitment” will be presented on Thursday at 2:15pm in Room 201.

It Happened Again Last WeekTuesday, February 6th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

The “it” I’m referring to is poor customer service. On the plus side my bad experience provides the perfect opportunity to offer an important reminder as you continue to assemble your next class of students.

Last week I had an appointment set up with an auto glass company to replace the windshield on my wife’s car. As you can see in the picture to the left, those pesky rocks got her again during a recent drive in to work.

The company had given me a window of 8am-12pm to do the repair. A little after 9:00 on the day of, I got a call telling me that they’d have to reschedule for later in the week because the windshield was still in Kentucky…annoying, right. Unfortunately, it gets worse.

Three days later the technician arrived to finally do the repair, and within minutes he gave me a look that I knew wasn’t good. My wife’s car has rain sensor wipers and the replacement windshield in his truck was the wrong one.

At this point I was 0 for 2, but what really frustrated me was the fact that less than a year ago the same company had replaced the same windshield on my wife’s car for the same reason…meaning they knew the exact specs, and this was a clear case of poor communication somewhere along the line.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that the company (including the technician) has yet to apologize for their mistake. They’ve rescheduled me (again) for tomorrow, so hopefully they’ll show up with the correct part, although I have yet to receive any sort of confirmation or reminder of tomorrow’s appointment.

Situations like this happen all the time in business. They also happen during the college search process with poor (or lack of) communication almost always being the reason. I’m sure you could give me a personal example if I asked you for one. Think for just a quick second about how you felt in that situation and how it affected your view of that company, a specific person, or a particular store location. You might have even voiced your anger to family, friends, or through one of the oh-so-public social media platforms.

Now I want you to think about the miscommunications and mistakes (even the little ones) that occur with students and families during a typical recruiting cycle. They’re going to happen because none of us is perfect. But how many of them could be avoided with better communication or collaboration within not only your admissions team but also other departments and colleagues on campus? I think we can both agree that the answer is “a lot!”

Here are some common communication mistakes that I continue to hear/read about in my travels. Some can be embarrassing while others can have more serious consequences:

  • Sending an email, letter, or text message without checking it
  • Assuming that a message has been understood
  • Assuming that a student/family knows all the different steps to take during the college search process
  • Assuming that when a conversation happens between an admissions counselor and a student (ex. financial aid), the student will immediately relay all that information to their parent(s)
  • Admissions counselors and coaches spending time on the same task because both assume the other won’t do it correctly
  • Student tour guides or ambassadors bringing up talking points (and questions) during a tour that have already been discussed or answered by their admissions counselor
  • Not asking the parent(s) how their child’s college search process is affecting them
  • Doing more talking when you should be listening

When a mistake or miscommunication occurs, here are three important things I would recommend you do:

  • Admit your mistake
  • Apologize sincerely
  • Come up with a solution (and make sure the other person is in agreement)

If you’re still questioning whether or not all of this is really that important, let me remind you that Dan (Tudor) and I have massive amounts of student survey data which continue to show that superior customer service by a college’s admissions staff (and other departments on campus) significantly impacts a student’s final decision in a positive way.

Let me know if today’s article was helpful. And if you did enjoy it, please share it with your colleagues or consider bringing this topic up at your next staff meeting. It really is that important!

This is How You Can Improve Your Customer ServiceTuesday, September 5th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

At some point this summer I’m sure you’ve experienced poor customer service. You know, the kind that frustrates you to no end, and you proceed to tell your family, friends and neighbors all about it.

Customer service, specifically that of your admissions staff, is a critical component to growing the enrollment on your campus. When everybody puts the wants and needs of prospective students and parents first, it’s noticeable, good things happen, and word spreads. The same thing is true about a bad experience. If you or one of your colleagues comes across as unpleasant, can’t be bothered, or is down right rude, many complaints these days get aired through one of the oh-so-public social media platforms.

All of this begs the question – Can superior treatment by a college’s admissions staff really influence a prospect’s final decision? I continue to argue absolutely, and here’s why.

Each time we begin work with a college, we conduct focus group research with their incoming or current freshmen. One of the survey questions we ask those freshmen is to rate the importance of 16 different factors in terms of how they influenced them to choose their college over the competition. Factors include affordability, location, the “feel” of campus, the history of the school, the perception of the college as a whole, and how the admissions staff treated them throughout the process.

Taking nearly three years of data into account, this generation of students continues to tell us that the treatment they receive from a college’s admissions staff is one of the top three factors in their final decision (consistently ranking ahead of things like affordability and location). In fact, it ranked #1 at a private university in Georgia and a private college in New Jersey that I worked with last week. And it’s also number one for a private college in South Dakota that I’ll be leading a workshop at the next two days.

So, when was the last time you evaluated your office’s customer service? I’m talking about anyone that a typical student or parent interacts with on your campus during the college search process.

Today I’m going to give you 9 strategies that will help you and your colleagues deliver exceptional customer service…the kind that results in a student quote like this one which came from a recent survey we conducted:

“My counselor was amazing in that she not only remembered my name, but she remembered other aspects from when we spoke over the phone. She continually kept in touch through email and she even wrote some hand written cards, which really meant a lot because it meant that she took the time to write it instead of say, an automatic email. She even kept in touch after I finished the application process and enrolled at (college name)! I think the little things like that really go a long way when kids are trying to pick a school.”

  1. Listen more than you talk. Being a good listener is one of the key principles I stress with our clients. Doing so is often the difference between developing a superior relationship with a prospect/family and being just another college on their list. When you do most of the talking, you make it nearly impossible to discover what’s really motivating your prospect to consider your college. You‘re also cheating yourself out of valuable information that you can discover from the comments a student or parent gives when they feel like you’re making the conversation about them.
  2. Talk about deadlines far in advance. Most prospective students don’t have a clear picture in their mind of how they’re going to get from A to Z in the college search process. Helping them build out a timeline benefits both them and you. Reiterate when they need to submit specific paperwork, and explain the differences between deadlines and timelines depending on the other colleges they’re considering. Deadlines help to keep everyone focused on the task at hand.
  3. Continually look for ways to engage. If you’re sending long, wordy mailings or always asking yes/no type questions in person and on the phone, are you really gaining their interest? It’s hard enough for this generation of students to respond to your communication because of fear, so what are you consistently doing to create an environment where they’re comfortable sharing their wants and needs?
  4. Become their “go-to-person.” I use this phrase all the time when I lead a staff-training workshop. The more you do for them, the more they’ll look at your school as the logical choice. As that “go-to person”, some of you will even find that prospects and parents will call you when they have questions about other schools they’re considering. Another tip on how to do this – When it comes to your recruiting communications, why not have all your emails and letters come from each individual admissions counselor? It’s the strategy we use with our clients and it’s yet another way to deliver exceptional customer service.
  5. Always tell them what’s next.  There’s always a next step throughout the college search process. I think part of your job is to explain it clearly at each point along the way. And narrow it down to one thing, not two or three. By doing this, you’ll increase the comfort levels of your prospects and their parents and minimize what can otherwise easily become a stressful time in their lives.
  6. Ask the parents how they’re coping with the college search process. And do it long before you deliver their child’s financial aid award letter. You need to understand how this process is affecting them and what obstacles it creates when it comes to considering your school.
  7. Gain agreement along the way. I call them “little yeses.” I want you to gain agreement throughout the process that they like what they’re hearing about your college and that they understand why it would be a “good fit” for them. Agreement along the way makes that next phone call or communication and that next step much easier…especially when it comes time to “close.”
  8. Be where your customers are. Most of this generation thinks colleges have no idea how to effectively use social media during the student recruitment process. It’s one of their biggest complaints on our surveys. In addition to being on the platforms that your prospects use the most, what kind of content are you generating, and is it “real and raw?” That’s what this next class wants. Developing a social media strategy that provides content that’s native to each platform and gives them a “behind the scenes” look at daily life on your campus will results in a massive ROI.
  9. If your prospect chooses another school. Sometimes no matter how great your customer service is your prospect will choose to go elsewhere. The reasons rarely make sense, but that’s the reality. When this happens, send them a personal note wishing them well. Tell them you’re even excited for them. That kind of customer service will pay dividends down the road when others around them inquire about your college and the overall experience that they received from you.

If you want to talk about any of these 9 points in greater detail and you’re going to be in Boston next week for NACAC, stop by Booth 311 and we’ll have a conversation. Or you can always email me directly at: jeremy@dantudor.com

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