What We Do




Who We Are








June 6

Academic Advocates: Customer Service in Higher Education


by | Jun 6, 2024 | Enrollment, Featured, Strategies

Customer service in higher education often takes a backseat to other more pressing concerns.

Yet, the truth is that every interaction with a prospective student plays a crucial role in how they view your institution.

For example, when a prospective student calls with questions about admissions or financial aid, that interaction can make or break their perception of your school. 

If they get a prompt, friendly, and helpful response, they’re more likely to feel positive and confident about their choice. 

On the flip side, a slow or indifferent response can leave them feeling undervalued and frustrated, potentially pushing them to consider other options. 

In today’s competitive higher education landscape, first impressions matter more than ever, and customer service is often the frontline of these impressions.

Neglecting customer service can lead to missed opportunities and lost trust. 

Imagine a student eagerly researching potential colleges, and they send an email to your admissions office with some questions. 

If that email sits unanswered for days, it’s not just an inconvenience—it’s a signal that your institution might not be responsive or attentive. 

This lack of engagement can be a major turn-off, leading students to feel disconnected before they even step foot on campus. 

However, by prioritizing customer service, you show prospective students that you value their interest and are committed to supporting them. 

Quick, thoughtful responses, personalized communication, and a genuine willingness to help can transform a simple inquiry into a meaningful connection.

Brett DiMarzo shows us how to improve customer service in higher education in order to drive success in enrollment and student retention. To help us understand how important customer service in higher education is, we spoke with Brett DiMarzo, Director of Graduate Enrollment Digital Strategy at Boston College

Drawing from his extensive background, including experience with the Disney Company, Brett shares valuable insights on implementing mindful and radical customer service in higher education practices.

The Importance of Customer Service in Higher Education

Customer service in higher education is often overlooked but holds transformative potential for student experiences. 

Brett emphasizes that students’ expectations are shaped by their interactions with service-oriented businesses like Amazon and Disney. 

A number of years ago, I read a book called The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore. The philosophy behind that book is how the economy has changed into this experience type of economy. 

Every interaction, whether it’s in business, retail, healthcare, or higher education, everybody that comes and interacts with people in that field are basing their experience on everything else.

An experience that somebody had ordering something on Amazon or going to a Starbucks [is the standard by which] they’re judging [every other experience]. 

For higher education, it’s no different. The students that come to us [compare] their experience interacting with the [enrollment team and other members] on your staff based on all the other experiences that they’ve had [with other brands]. 

Higher education institutions should really take this aspect very seriously, and do everything they can to make sure that the interactions and the experience [of] the student is as top quality as possible.

To meet these expectations, higher education institutions must prioritize high-quality, consistent, and responsive service throughout the entire student lifecycle.

Practical Tips for Enhancing Customer Service

In our conversation, Brett outlines five essential steps for creating a robust customer service philosophy in higher education:

1. Responsiveness

Timely responses to student inquiries are crucial. Institutions must strive to be among the first to respond to prospective students to increase the likelihood of engagement and enrollment. 

Responsiveness is crucial. There’s lots of research and data that proves and shows that if you’re one of the first to respond [to a prospective student’s inquiry], they’re one of the first ones to respond back or enroll. 

2. Consistency

Consistent communication helps build trust and maintain engagement with students throughout their journey. 

Look at how consistent you are. Go and look through all of the touch points that happen with you and your students. Map it out. 

Look at how you’re communicating with the students. What are the tools that you’re using? How often are you doing them? Map those out. 

By doing that, you’ll easily see, [the opportunities and gaps in your communications].

Whether it’s a month goes by and we don’t talk to that student, here’s an opportunity! 

Maybe we can set up a phone call to go out or a text message or one of our automated emails, or maybe we can do a social post, or whatever it is, but mapping those things out to then see where is that opportunity for us to be consistent.

3. Multiple Channels

Using various communication channels, including email, text messages, video, and social media, ensures that institutions reach students where they are most comfortable.

This multi-channel approach caters to different preferences and enhances overall engagement.

4. Evaluation

Regular evaluation of customer service practices helps identify pain points and areas for improvement. 

Brett stresses the importance of understanding the student experience from their perspective.

Identify what those pain points are. That’s important when you’re trying to create a service culture.

It’s really easy to get lost in processes and workflows, and you’re not necessarily thinking about what are the pain points [for students in our communication]? 

[Ask yourself this question:] If I’m the student, where are those pain points that I’m hitting and [how am I] trying to address those? 

5. Assessment

Consistent assessment through surveys, focus groups, and feedback mechanisms provides valuable insights into student satisfaction and areas needing attention. 

Brett highlights the importance of incorporating student feedback into service improvements, akin to practices at Disney.

Good service can only happen if you’re constantly assessing and evaluating how things are going. 

You have to do that by asking your “customers.” 

You have to ask the students, you have to have focus groups, you have to have surveys, you have to try to do everything that you can do to get as much feedback as possible.

That’s important when you’re trying to create that service culture. You need to be able to learn what’s happening in real time and what those experiences are to be able to improve and change.

Leveraging Technology for Superior Service

In today’s fast-paced world, technology plays a crucial role in enhancing customer service in higher education. 

Brett highlights that tools like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, chatbots, and automated communication platforms can significantly improve how institutions interact with students. 

By utilizing these technologies, schools can ensure they are consistently responsive and available whenever students need assistance. 

Brett puts it simply: “The technology is the key. It allows us to be able to find all of the touchpoints that we need to connect with students on their time.” 

This means that instead of waiting for office hours or struggling to get a hold of someone, students can get the information and support they need quickly and efficiently.

By leveraging technology, higher education institutions can provide superior customer service that meets the high standards students are accustomed to in other areas of their lives.

The Philosophy of Customer Service in Higher Education

Implementing a strong customer service philosophy in higher education can significantly enhance student experiences and drive institutional success. 

In our conversation, Brett lays out a road map for us with his insights and practical tips for institutions to elevate their customer service practices. 

By being responsive, consistent, multi-channel, evaluative, and constantly assessing, higher education marketers can meet and exceed student expectations.

For more insights on improving customer service in higher education, listen to our full interview with Brett DiMarzo on The Higher Ed Marketer podcast. 

Also, if you need a little hands-on guidance, we offer highly practical, customized CRM consulting for higher education institutions. 

Whether you’re using Slate, Element 451, Salesforce, or another CRM platform, our team is here to help you get the most out of your investment and create a customer service-oriented culture in your school!

Want to know more? Contact us today!

Looking for Enrollment Marketing Content that Works?

You’re in luck! We’ve curated 25 awesome ideas inspired by top higher ed institutions across the country and put them in one handy guide: 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content. 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content In this popular resource from Caylor Solutions, you’ll get…

    • 25 enrollment marketing content ideas you might never have considered before
    • Guidance on how to use each one for best results
    • Brief discussion on why they work to help you sell these ideas to your team

Get inspired.
Get enrollment results.
Get 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.
Download your copy today!

Featured image via bc.edu

Download Your Copy Today!

Fill out the following form to get instant access to our ebook, Guide to Planning an Education Website Redesign

Caylor Solutions eBook

Download Your Copy Today!

Fill out the following form to get instant access to our ebook, #Hashtags: Your Social Media Secret Weapon

Download Your Copy Today!

Fill out the following form to get instant access to our ebook, Writing for the Web: 7 Secrets to Content Marketing Success for Education Marketers

Download Your Copy Today!

Fill out the following form to get instant access to our ebook, Marketing on a Shoestring Budget.

Download Your Copy Today!

Fill out the following form to get instant access to our ebook, 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.

Looking for other higher-ed content and resources from Caylor Solutions?

Subscribe to The Higher Ed Marketer podcast today!

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts