NTT DATA Business Solutions
Peter Jongsma | April 23, 2019

Educational institutions, invest in a modern customer experience

Book a group lesson at the gym, select an energetic playlist for the cycling route to it and quickly transfer some money from the savings account to the current account. Nowadays it’s all possible within a few minutes during the lunch break or while waiting for a train to arrive. Thanks to super user-friendly apps, banks, streaming services, sports clubs and many other organisations are putting pressure on educational institutions to offer similar services. Or at least a similar customer experience (CX) or user experience (UX). Students expect nothing less: if their bank can do it, why can’t their school or university do it?

Services as a distinguishing feature

(Digital) services are becoming increasingly important for students, and therefore for educational institutions as well. In fact, a state-of-the-art service can become a ‘unique selling point’ for a school or university. This is particularly relevant now that educational institutions want to retain students for longer by means of a ‘life-long learning’ strategy with which they can respond to the growing demand from the labour market for lifelong learning. A concept in which the Netherlands is at the forefront (Dutch only).

In order to successfully transform students and alumni into lifelong customers, educational institutions need to automate their services with the help of a solid IT landscape that makes them more focused and efficient. Also, it is important to develop a well-thought-out data management strategy so that maximum use can be made of all (personal) information that is collected and used.

Automating services

Nowadays, the majority of students live in a world that is being created by the great CX that more and more (commercial) organizations offer. And that is a luxury they get used to quickly! It is immediately striking – and very disappointing – when students cannot use an app to choose their subjects, view results, or schedule an appointment with a lecturer or tutor. These services transcend education, but are crucial for upgrading student satisfaction and appreciation of the institution.

How do educational institutions take steps towards this modern educational CX? It starts with an integrated IT landscape that makes it possible to combine specific information and services and then offer them to users. Think of linking the different databases used by facility services.

For example: a student enrolls in a course with a laboratory practical. How user-friendly would it be to offer the necessary books for the course and laboratory clothing directly via the online education catalogue, to arrange temporary access to the lab and at the same time make the necessary software available for the duration of the course. These kinds of things, in particular the personalized offering of resources that suit a particular choice, contribute to the positive user experience of students and employees.

Personalization and automation of online services require connecting certain core systems, such as the student information system (SIS), virtual learning environment (VLE), customer relations (CRM) and library systems. This creates an integrated landscape with a seamless user experience. Nothing is more frustrating for users – students and staff – than a state-of-the-art experience at the faculty and an old-fashioned card box in the library.

How to deal with data?

Personalization requires an (extensive) personal profile of each student or alumnus. Nowadays it is easier than ever to collect relevant data: personal data, study history, results, interests, etc. At the same time, however, it forces educational institutions to think about a data management strategy. Especially now that legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) plays a decisive role in data processing.

A data management strategy is used to find answers to issues such as: what can we ask and record? How personal do we want to be? What data can we use for what purpose? What do we think are relevant interventions? And what means do we use to achieve this?

Moreover, target groups prefer to be approached in their own way. For example, an active student usually needs different information than an alumnus or a prospective student. These target groups also have a different value for a school or university and each requires its own communication approach.

It is therefore crucial to be able to assign multiple roles to one person within the integrated information landscape. Is an individual a student, an alumnus, a supplier, an employee, a partner? And which communication strategy is linked to each of these roles? Such a dynamic customer strategy can only be successful if the application landscape can provide a holistic view of each person.

Customer experience transcends education

Competition is fierce in the world of education. That’s why an automation and personalization strategy that contributes to a good CX can make all the difference. These strategies give an educational institution the opportunity to present itself as an modern, high-tech institution. And that it is more than just an educational institution, but is instead a school or university with which students want to stay connected for the rest of their lives and actually enjoy becoming ‘customers for life’.

Most educational institutions have already included parts of these strategies in their long-term plans for 2016-17, as has the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in their 10-year plan. Almost four years have passed since then.

Where do you currently stand in the digital transformation of your organisation? Is CX high on the agenda or is it in need of an adjustment? I am more than happy to help you answer these questions. Feel free to contact me via de form below.