Ivy Tech Community College (Ind.) had a classic good news-bad news problem. The good news was that interest in the 31-campus, statewide institution was burgeoning. The bad news was that budget belt-tightening was limiting the ability of staff to tend to the growing attention needed by prospective students while also responding to the needs of current students.
“All the efforts and resources we were putting into generating exposure and interest seemed to be paying off, but if for every two callers that come in one doesn’t get answers to questions or can never get through to anybody, you have to reassess your situation and figure out how to invest to handle the demand that was coming in,” says Jeff Fanter, vice president for communications/enrollment/marketing. “We were losing people left and right.”
In seeking a solution, officials first had to choose whether to try it themselves or seek an external partner. After evaluating what it would cost in terms of space, technology, and staffing to do the work internally, says Fanter, they were left with a simple question: “Are all of these things what our core mission is as an institution of higher education?”
That led officials to turn to Blackboard Student Services, which developed the virtual Student Success/Help Center. The center’s various features are meant to vastly increase customer service for both prospective and current students.
Those features include a repository of more than 700 searchable articles on relevant topics; live, extended-hours support delivered by trained staff; and outreach to current and prospective students at important points during their engagement with the college.
According to Fanter, replacing a fragmented and understaffed student support operation with integrated, professional support—offered for a longer period during the day—had numerous benefits: wait times dropped from 19 minutes to 30 seconds, hang-up rates went from about 50 percent to under 2 percent, and overall call volume plunged 57 percent.
Further, placing the student support function with Blackboard allowed Ivy Tech staff to address more strategic concerns, such as following up during the financial aid process, aiding students in unique circumstances, and engaging prospective students directly to increase recruitment.
Incredibly, the project went live in only six months. Fanter says that having subject matter experts both inside the college and on the Blackboard project team made everything possible. “The people we were working with to get this thing to go live had experience in our area. They’ve lived in our shoes before. Many of the management that was on site were agents who had been on phones and worked with people before. There’s this real passion for wanting to help the student.
We knew we had it, but we didn’t realize how important it would be to have a partner who had it.”
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