As a means to attract and retain students, higher education institutions are beginning to look to constituent relationship management, or CRM as a potential solution and competitive advantage. Higher education vendors are developing - or have launched new systems - to support this emerging demand.
But is higher education CRM a technology or is it something else?
To address this question, let’s look to the genesis of the term. CRM originally comes from the corporate world representing customer relationship management. The “customer” has been adapted as “constituent” to more closely fit the world of higher education.
The Role of Competition ... Leading to Higher Education CRM
Corporate CRM was borne out of competition over the last 10-15 years or so. The CRM movement initially started as companies began to recognize the value of their customer relationships beyond the financial statement and balance sheet. Technology became increasingly available to better manage customer data.
More recently, CRM has morphed from a data-driven approach where companies better understand their customers to a more process-driven methodology to manage the customer lifecycle and improve the business experience.
Understanding your customers or constituents? Identifying their lifetime value to the organization? Improving the experience? This makes a lot of sense so why wouldn’t everyone – businesses and colleges and universities – want to do this.
Googling for CRM Failure- Lessons for Higher Education
The answer may be as simple as a Google search. In fact, I invite you to Google the keyword phrase “CRM failure.” The last time I checked you will find almost a half million web page references including whitepapers, research reports and articles on the topic of CRM failure.
According to Bryan Crockett at Accenture, CRM isn’t a matter of installing some software. In other words, it isn’t some great new way to blast out more communications to your prospective or current students or a new capability to measure stuff for the sake of measurement.
Drivers of CRM Success
In fact, it’s what Nicole Englebert at Datamonitor calls the “fool with a tool trap.” If you don’t know Nicole, she wrote a research report last summer on CRM for higher education where she reviewed vendors and their supporting technologies. Her point is shared with
Bryan, CRM is a strategy first and a technology second.
An effective CRM initiative requires a clear understanding of what you are trying to accomplish, the business-led outcomes it can support, and how do you drive value as well as effective execution.
Higher Education CRM May Provide a Competitive Advantage
There are new technologies available to support your relationship management initiatives. A relationship management approach may indeed provide you a competitive advantage to manage the student life cycle from prospective student to continuing learner.
Take the corporate experience to heart: start with a clear strategy and a well-crafted plan to drive your efforts. The technology will simply accrue the benefits of a disciplined approach.