Relationship management is becoming increasingly important in the tertiary education sector as education institutions try to meet the challenges of funding cuts and increased student and community expectations. Customer relationships, if handled effectively, will bring benefits to both the organisation and the sector as a whole and it is in this area that JISC developed the Relationship Management Programme.
The first phase of the JISC Relationship Management Programme ran from July 2009 to April 2010. The Programme, supported by the JISC CETIS RMSAS (Relationship Management Support, Analysis and Synthesis) project, was divided into two strands and was :
- BCE CRM (Business and Community Engagement Customer Relationship Management) Strand – aimed to improve business processes and to pilot and extend the BCE CRM SAF (Self-Analysis Framework). Twelve universities and one FE college used the SAF to examine factors affecting the people and processes that could affect the implementation or uptake of CRM (both as an approach and as a technology). BCE CRM includes employers and other external customers, who may have the potential to help the sector navigate through the current choppy waters of tertiary education sector funding. Good customer relationship management is vital in order to maintain and develop such relationships.
- SLRM (Student Lifecycle Relationship Management) – focussed on improving the student experience by putting the student at the heart of the process. Six universities and one FE college trialled service design techniques at different stages of the student lifecycle in order to identify areas for improvement. As students clearly exhibit certain customer attributes, such as paying for a service and expecting higher levels of choice, quality and experience, it therefore seems appropriate to apply such commercial techniques, in order to improve the student experience, the institution’s efficiency and retention.
Whilst the two strands can be viewed as focusing on two different types of institutional stakeholder – external business contacts in the case of the BCE CRM strand and students in the SLRM strand – many of the issues regarding the way in which the relationship is managed by the institution are similar. For example:
- BCE CRM
- Ensure that an effective CRM strategy is in place, and that is disseminated to and understood by staff.
- Use a framework to help your institution ask fundamental questions about the people, processes and systems currently in place, prior to making any decisions regarding improvements or attempting to purchase or implement a technical CRM system, because this will go a long way to help avoid potential pitfalls and dangerous assumptions.
- Strong commitment from senior management is vital if CRM is to succeed.
- The institution should not assume that it knows what students want, need and expect.
- Service improvements do not have to cover the whole service, e.g. enrolment, in one go – small adjustments can be made that can actually make a huge difference to the student experience.
- Improving the effectiveness of a process can also improve efficiencies.
The current funding situation means that institutions need to become more cost-effective. Therefore, making the most of the systems already in place, improving processes, and ensuring that the student or BCE customer has a valuable experience may help achieve this goal.
This findings from this Programme are now available in PDF format: Relationship Management in UK Higher and Further Education – An Overview (Perry, S., Corley, L., and Hollins, P 2011). Phase 2 of the JISC Relationship Management Programme is now in full swing.