Best Practices in International Student Engagement: From Inquiry to Enrollment - NAFSA 2014

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Presentation by Mike Elms, Hotcourses CEO, from NAFSA 2014 in San Diego. The presentation focuses on best practice in international student engagement following student inquiry on the part of higher education institutions. Consisting of findings from Hotcourses' own student survey and mystery shopper exercise involving universities, as well as examples of tracked responses in other sectors.

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  • What we did....
    Surveyed 4,500 students across 11 international sites and associated social media channels
    Sites including Hotcourses Abroad, Uniguru & Hotcourses China
    Questions covering expectations of a university’s response, mode of interaction and effect on decision-making
  • Explains why volume is quite high
    Less than a 3rd would apply w/out inquiring
  • Shows half of leads should turn into applications
    Out of 500 students, 100 will apply – 20%
    Puts in perspective the value of inquiries
  • Red column 24-48 hrs
    2nd most common response was w/in 7 days – green
    BPP example
    Show of hands who responds w/in 48 hrs
  • Blue column – overwhelming expectation of a personalised response – not a template
  • How many of you add a photo to the response in the email?

    Personalised – someone that becomes your point of contact
  • Email response
    But 83% expect emails to be in their own language
  • What we did...
    Constructed several student personas with various “real student” needs
    Sent inquiries as them to universities as part of a mystery shopper exercise
    Universities were a randomly-selected sample who have profiles on our sites
    We recorded, tracked and compared the responses received, including response time and quality of response
    50 inquiries were sent in total
  • Red UK, blue Aus overall best responses
    US just under 60% response rate – meant 40% went unanswered
  • Best Practices in International Student Engagement: From Inquiry to Enrollment - NAFSA 2014

    1. 1. Best Practices in International Student Engagement: From Inquiry to Enrollment Mike Elms, Hotcourses CEO NAFSA Conference 2014 29th May 2014
    2. 2. Hotcourses overview • Since 1996 • Ultimate search • 13 languages • 15 million visits • Webclicks, inquiries Applications and Enrolments
    3. 3. Back then… 481,000 819,644 1997/98 2012/13 International Students
    4. 4. San Diego 2030 2030
    5. 5. Back to reality - Agenda Part 1: Student Survey - What do they want to hear from you? Part 2: Mystery Shopper Exercise Results - How are universities currently meeting these expectations (or not)?
    6. 6. Why are inquiries important? 72%of all students would always enquire before applying to a university. Taking a closer look... 92% of Latin American students & 89% of Brazilian students said ‘Yes’. Yes No Maybe Can't say
    7. 7. The inquiry funnel – optimized 500 QUALITY INQUIRIES/LEADS 250 APPLICATIONS 100 STUDENTS *2.5 applications per student 50 FINAL OFFERS 40 ENROLLED
    8. 8. So, how do you make those inquiries convert? 1. Respond quickly Almost all students expect a response within 48 hours. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% Abroad Malaysia Singapore Brazil Latin America Middle East Thailand India China Within 24 hours 24-48 hours Within 7 days Within 2 weeks More than 2 weeks Latin America is the exception, 38% selecting 'Within 7 days' * Abroad = Students using Hotcourses Abroad
    9. 9. Competitive advantage Students from Abroad, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, India and China indicated that if they had to choose between two similar universities, they would apply to/enroll with the one that responded fastest! 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% Abroad Malaysia Singapore Brazil Latin America Middle East Vietnam Russia Thailand India China Yes No Can't say
    10. 10. So, how do you make those inquiries stand out? 2. Customize your response Almost all countries expect a personalized or customized response (i.e. One written by an actual individual) over an automated, templated response. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% 100% Abroad Malaysia Singapore Brazil Latin America Middle East Vietnam Russia Thailand India China Personalised response Templated response Can't say Brazil the exception, 67% selecting 'Templated response' Taking a closer look... This includes 95% of Singapore students and 90% of Vietnamese and Chinese students.
    11. 11. Easy ways to personalize 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Abroad Malaysia Singapore Brazil Latin America Middle East Vietnam Russia Thailand India China Individual (named) member of staff Department Either Can't say 3. Sign it from an individual Abroad, Malaysia, Singapore, Brazil, Vietnam and India all prefer a response signed from a specific individual staff member (whom they can continue the chain of communication with). Additionally more than half of all students said they’d prefer all ongoing communications to be with the same person
    12. 12. Preferred Modes of Communication 88% of all students selected email as one of their preferred modes of communication. More than half of Malaysian and Latin American students also selected phone to respond by. 83% of all students expected email responses to be in their own language (including 92% of Latin America students and 89% of Russian and Thai students). Over half of all students (54%) expected phone responses in their own language, while 57% of Russian students expected video chat in Russian.
    13. 13. Keep in touch 88% would be happy to receive further emails with additional content (e.g. Latest news from your campus) HOWEVER, these should only be once a week (although Middle Eastern and Thai students who would be happy to receive these more than once a week) Plus, this is your chance to acquire them as social media followers! 81%of all students would follow a university they’re enquiring to on social media too.
    14. 14. What actually happens?
    15. 15. Varies by country Australian and UK universities (70% each) had the best overall response rate as far as universities actually responding to inquiries. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% Australia Malaysia Singapore NZ UK US Australia Malaysia Singapore NZ UK US
    16. 16. Were the responses customized? Of those responses received, Singapore (100%) and Malaysia (88%) had the best rate when it came to producing those all-important customized responses. 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Australia Malaysia Singapore NZ UK US Templated % Customised %
    17. 17. Speed… 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90% Australia Malaysia Singapore NZ UK US Australia Malaysia Singapore NZ UK US New Zealand responded quickest with 80% of responses sent in under 24 hours. *None of the Singaporean universities responded in under 24 hours.
    18. 18. The Good Responses: Saamir Name: Saamir Abdullah From: Turkey Enquired to: Royal Agricultural University (UK) Interested in: Agriculture BSc (Hons) Seeking: Admissions and English language requirements for a specific course Inquiry: ‘Hi, Please can you let me know what are the English Requirements for this course along with other admissions details?’
    19. 19. The Good Responses: Aaron Name: Aaron Jose From: Brazil Enquired to: Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (USA) Interested in: Geology Seeking: Further information about a specific subject area Inquiry: ‘Hi, I am interested in completing my degree in Geology. What are my options? What are the degrees you offer relating to this?’ PLUS: In addition to a confirmation of inquiry being received, a further email sent to student to make aware of possible delay to response due to term break.
    20. 20. The Good Responses: Malik Name: Malik Ayesha From: Qatar Enquired to: University of Nottingham – Malaysia (Malaysia) Interested in: International Communication BA (Hons) Seeking: Further information about a specific course and career opportunities post- graduation Inquiry: ‘Hi, Please can you give me more details about this course. Also information about the career opportunities post completion of this degree.’ PLUS: In addition to response answering query completely and further information about English support offered by the university, university also set up a private chat session for further interactions with the student with access to information specifically for them.
    21. 21. The Good Responses: Mike Name: Mike From: USA Enquired to: University of East Anglia (UK) Interested in: Film and media studies Seeking: General information about UEA
    22. 22. The not-so-good responses: Divya Name: Divya Natrajan From: Malaysia Country of institution enquired to: America Interested in: Arts & Philosophy BA (Hons) Seeking: Further information about a specific subject area Inquiry: ‘Hi, Could you please provide me with some for information regarding the Arts and Philosophy course that is offered at your University?’
    23. 23. The not-so-good responses: Divya Name: Divya Natrajan From: Malaysia Country of institution enquired to: UK Interested in: American History MA (Hons) Seeking: Further information about a specific subject area
    24. 24. The not-so-good responses: Aaron Name: Aaron Jose From: Brazil Country of institution enquired to: UK Interested in: English and Italian Literature BA (Hons) Seeking: Further information about a specific subject area Inquiry: ‘Hi, Could please send me some more information regarding the course English and Italian Literature BA (Hons).’
    25. 25. In fact... In every response we received, universities left it to the student to get back in touch and continue the chain of communication (i.e. no plans to follow up themselves). Is this good enough?
    26. 26. Learning from other sectors: Who they are: Auto motors company What we did: Requested a test drive via website Frequency of responses: 7 over 28 days Types of responses: Phone (voicemail when unanswered), print information pack via post and email What we can learn: • Be persistent and frequent in your responses when you don’t hear from students • Provide information about similar courses you offer • Use different forms of communication to increase chances of making a connection
    27. 27. Hotcourses Initial Inquiry-Handling What we provide: Following up with enquiring students via email, telephone and Skype to sort the strongest leads, and forwarding these on to the university. Case study: Kansas State University Preferred method of communication: 77% indicated email, while almost ¼ said phone or Skype. How students respond: •1st email – 20% respond •2nd email – Additional 5% respond • 3rd contact (phone call) – Additional 10% respond Lesson: Keep engaging students on a consistent time frame.
    28. 28. If you have any questions, get in touch: mike.elms@hotcourses.com A small selection of sites from our international network...

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