How Higher Ed Can Prepare for Seasonal Shifts and Increased Call Volume

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Every higher education administrator has likely been asked if they receive summers off. Cue the laughter. Higher education never stops, and offices like financial aid, student services, and admissions work in overdrive to support the student experience—even while students are away from campus.

But how can institutions best manage the added volume of calls, chats, paperwork, and mailings associated with these busy times of the year? And how can they do so while providing the best service possible to students and their families?

Up to 90 percent of consumers say an immediate response is essential when they have a customer service question, and surveys have indicated that as much as 24 percent of student attrition can be directly attributed to poor customer service.

Providing quality service to students is critical to maintaining enrollment, but staff may need help to provide retention-driving service while peak season duties pile up. Institutions can start to mitigate and plan a solution by observing how their offices run during peak periods. Reviewing historical data can unveil trends for future staffing needs.

Reviewing your key performance indicators

A trusted higher ed contact center will automatically track all of these indicators to help institutions make data-driven decisions year after year. Even without a contact center service, institutions can measure success using these metrics.

  • Call volume - Look at the average call volume throughout the year to see when calls spike and how realistic it is to answer those calls with current staff.
  • Speed to answer - How long are students and their families waiting when they call?
  • First call resolution rate - How frequently can staff resolve a caller’s issue or question on the first answer? Consider the workload impact if calls regularly need to be escalated or returned.
  • Response accuracy rate - Misinformation can be costly. Consider if staff have the appropriate access to information about student balances and processes to give accurate answers and prevent additional calls.
  • Disposition reports (trend identification and call drivers) - Noting the reason for each call, chat, or email can illuminate patterns and offer ideas for how to help students better self-serve using a campus website, FAQ, or interactive voice recording (IVR).

Asking the right questions about current staffing levels

If staff are burnt out or overwhelmed, it can lead to dissatisfaction. Institutions can ask the following questions before bringing external support.

  • What level of additional staffing may be needed?
  • What gaps in service may exist?
  • What are the service costs and available budget?
  • For how long are service needs anticipated?
  • Are resources available to maintain a successful relationship with a service partner?
  • Does the service partner really understand the higher education space?
  • How will technology be implemented, and what is the timeline for onboarding?

Evaluating a third-party service provider for extra support

Institutions can benefit from extra support during “peak” seasons, such as late summer or add/drop periods. Supplemental hands and technology can minimize the repetitive, manual work of answering phones and chats, processing paperwork, mailing forms, and more, freeing staff for more strategic, mission-oriented work.

It provides an economical and efficient path to adding expertise, increased capabilities, and industry expertise. Contracting with the right partner not only provides extra hands to reduce the workload of existing staff but can also help overcome other challenges related to budget, onboarding, phone line and technology availability, and seasonal staffing.

To learn more about preparing staff for peak season, watch our On-Demand Webinar, Planning for peak season: Preparing higher ed staff and technologies for the months ahead. Or schedule a brief call with ECSI to discuss how CXSelect can save time while supporting the student experience.