Do you need a CRM? Evaluating CRMs for Higher Education

Most schools and universities today require some sort of system to manage their data.  Prospective students, alumni, suppliers, you name it - there is a significant amount of information to be managed, no matter the size of the institution.

Whether you like to use a mixture of emails, papers and Excel files, or utilize a fully-fledged Customer Relationship Management System (CRM), there are a lot of options out there on the market. We take a closer look at CRMs today, weighing up the pros and cons of their use from the perspective of a higher education provider. 

What is a CRM?

CRM, AKA Customer Relationship Management, refers to the system through which organizations manage the details of and interactions with their prospective and active customers in one holistic view.  Its goal? To simplify processes while improving relations -- and results.

Why Schools & Universities Use CRMs

A growing number of higher education institutions (HEIs) are turning to CRM software to gain an edge in an intensely competitive industry. Declares CRM expert Rolustech, “CRM is an amazingly powerful tool which if properly leveraged can provide valuable insights about your customers, allowing you to develop stronger and more personal relationships not just with prospective and current students but also the alumni.”

Specifically, Rolustech identifies several benefits of CRM for HEIs, including:

  • managing the complete student admissions life-cycle from one comprehensive platform
  • integrated tracking tools for leads across multiple management programs for better marketing budget planning and resource allocation
  • handling student inquiries and follow up; streamlining teacher evaluations
  • monitoring fee payments and reminders
  • building long-lasting alumni relations; enriching student life-cycle management
  • generating real-time reports to assess organizational performance

The takeaway? For HEIs looking to improve on their enrollment goals by maximizing the impact on the student experience, CRMs have the potential to deliver -- and then some.

But… do you need a CRM?

While CRMs may offer a host of benefits, they are not always the right fit for an organisation. We weigh up a few considerations to keep in mind when making your evaluations.

Cost of Implementation

The relative cost of implementing a CRM is the primary reason that many HEIs have been slow to take action in the past. According to Workzone, “A state of the art CRM system requires both a hefty financial investment and substantial IT resources, not to mention the toll on often already very stretched enrollment teams.”

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

And then there’s the fact that all CRMs aren’t created equal -- which means finding one that fits your specific needs is the imperative. Many CRMs are designed to work across industries, however this sometimes means that a function you would hope to see is not available without further development of add-ons. The best advice is to start by with assessing your institutional goals, then determining which features and functionalities you need to reach them.

Ease of Adoption by Employees

Employee use is also vital when evaluating a CRM. A CRM is only as good as its adoption. In order to make the most of your CRM, your employees must embrace it. Choosing a CRM that is easy and intuitive reduces training requirements while increasing the chances that your employees will actually use it. However, finding this is not always easy.

Security & Data Protection

Lastly, there’s the matter of security. The type of information that your CRM will play host is often sensitive and must be protected adequately. If not, then you can be open to many liabilities. This is why it is important to assess CRM for their security features, including ensuring that data loss prevention and disaster recovery capabilities are a standard.

Needs of Your Organisation

Most CRMs are highly complex software solutions, requiring IT technicians and implementation specialists to ensure a smooth transition. For some smaller institutions, this may not be necessary.  Many alternative CRM solutions provide out of the box management solutions that may answer many of your needs, without being too complicated for your staff. Sometimes simple is better – evaluate what is best for your organisation.

Overall, the decision process regarding whether you should use a CRM or go for an alternative is something that should not be taken lightly.  

At Keystone, we have developed SmartHub, a system designed specifically for higher education, linking CRM lead management and marketing automation. An affordable solution for institutions of all sizes, SmartHub is ideal, whether you need an out of the box CRM alternative or pre-CRM lead nurturing and marketing automation tool. Contact us to learn more about SmartHub today. 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.