Delivering better customer service and being more hospitable were two of the biggest concerns that college presidents and enrollment management leaders voiced to me over the past year.
Ten years ago if a prospective student had a really bad campus visit, or if a parent received the runaround from someone at your school, they’d vent to a few family members or friends and that was that.
Social Media has completely flipped the script. Word of mouth has exploded like never before. Its impact can be extremely beneficial for both you and your school, or it can be devastatingly negative.
Two years ago I wrote an article where I referenced a conversation I had with a guy named Bill. That conversation generated a very important question that I want you to answer for me today because your answer is even more important now than it was then.
Let me start by explaining who Bill is. He runs a stamped concrete business in the Indianapolis area, which is where I live. Bill is one of the most genuine and down to earth people I’ve ever met. When we built our house his team created our stamped concrete patio (it’s the one in the picture above).
A year or so later, Bill happened to be in the area and chose to knock on my door and thank me. I’ll get to why in a minute. Bill had just come from our new neighbors’ house across the street. After seeing our patio when they moved in, my neighbors told me that they wanted to do something similar in their backyard. Without hesitation I whipped out my cell phone, told them they needed to call or text Bill, and I gave them his number. I had done the same thing for a half dozen other neighbors before, and I’ve done the same thing multiple times since.
Bill’s knock on my door that day was to thank me for all the word-of-mouth recommendations… to date his company has created and installed 14 different patios in my subdivision.
Why did I offer up Bill’s information so quickly then, and why do I keep doing the same thing now, most recently a month ago when somebody new to the neighborhood asked about patios on our community Facebook page? The answer is easy. It’s not because Bill asked me to, and it’s not because he offered me a referral reward of some kind. It’s because so many people in today’s society don’t act like Bill. Too many people, especially those in customer service industries, only care about getting “the sale.” You never hear from them again after that point unless they need something from you of course…did I mention that Bill has stopped by twice in the past year just to catch up and ask if we’re enjoying our patio?
Here’s my question for you: How many people that barely know you and have had only minimal contact with you (like I had with Bill) would, without hesitation, recommend your school to a prospective student (or their parents) if asked about colleges?
Let me go one step further. How many of those same people would recommend you to a friend who needed help with something in your area of expertise?
Word-of-mouth is arguably the most powerful selling tool you have available. It stems naturally from an unmatched customer experience or interaction. Prospective students, just like my neighbors, are relying on others to help them make decisions. Our ongoing research shows that students will often go against what their own gut is telling them and side with other influential outside decision makers. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what is happening. It’s actually happening all across society. Just look at Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, and on and on.
So, I’ll ask the same question again in a different way. “Who’s recruiting for you when you’re not recruiting?”
How many different people do you come in contact with or pass in the halls during a school visit, college fair, or professional development conference? How about the hotel that you stay at or the restaurant where you eat? Think long and hard about that for a minute. If you don’t think investing in different relationships (not just with those in higher ed) will pay a lifetime of dividends, I’m here to tell you it does.
Your goal should be to generate positive interactions that get passed along from one person to the next, just like Bill did with me. You control the narrative that is written and communicated about you. That means more smiling, listening, and talking with passion when you discuss your school and what you do.
Start spending a couple of extra minutes and really concentrate on creating a positive relationship with this next class of prospects and everyone else around them. The same thing goes for other industry and business professionals that you come in contact with.
The personal and professional R.O.I. when you invest in great relationships is astronomical, both short term and long term. I used the word “invest” for a reason because great relationships take time and hard work. There is no shortcut!
Got a question about student recruitment, leadership, or professional/personal development? There are two different ways I can HELP YOU. You can anonymously ask me that question right here in our Reader Q & A. Or you can email me your question directly.