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As ASU’s premier college of the West campus, the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences brings together the best of both a small-college experience — through close personal relationships — and a top-tier research university with cutting-edge faculty. The undergraduate and graduate degrees offered within the New College are designed to provide innovative coursework and hands-on experiences to prepare students for the social, economic, political and cultural challenges they will face in a rapidly expanding, diverse global marketplace.
In order to provide real-time accountability and enhance the Sun Devil lifecycle experience for its student body, the New College became one of ASU’s earliest adopters of Salesforce, implementing the customer relationship management (CRM) tool for its online psychology degree program in 2014 and officially transitioning on the West campus in August 2015.
“It really paints a picture of how the student is interacting with the university, how often they interact and how many points of contact they’ve had to resolve a situation,” explains Haley Chapman, assistant director of student services for the New College.
Prior to implementing Salesforce, the college was using PeopleSoft to document contact information and history for each student — the “must-knows,” according to Chapman. But she found the tool lacking in its ability to account for intangible data that is no less important.
“It’s those back-and-forth emails where you’re building rapport, the ones that maybe aren’t important in the sense of meeting academic accountability, but that create a dialogue of how the student is experiencing you,” she says. “Being able to track those conversations has been huge for us. We’ve got multiple units that interact with students, and rather than have them get ping-ponged all over the place, we now have continuity. A student who might have fallen through the cracks can’t anymore because there is a paper trail following that physical experience.”
The ability to create an electronic paper trail for prospective students, particularly those from community colleges who are looking at schools for potential transfers, has also stepped up the New College’s ability to provide positive interaction with its growing student population.
“Before, we were manually logging prospective contacts on paper or through a running Word document because we had no formal place to file the information,” Chapman says. “Now we can document that data as well as any conversations that take place with a student before they are even a formal part of ASU.”
Another aspect of Salesforce that has helped the New College improve its communication with students is the ability to utilize templates, particularly as a way to ensure the distribution of consistent and accurate information. Through template creation, student success specialists at the front desk can take ownership of commonly asked questions, resulting in more structure and efficiency for the entire staff.
“We are able to set it up so that a front desk person who isn’t in and out with students all day has the freedom and ability to take care of those concerns,” says Chapman. “Our advisors are typically just dealing with questions only they can answer, resulting in better time management.”
The college has a goal of responding to student inquiries within 24 hours — 48 hours during peak times — even if only to acknowledge that someone is working to resolve the issue. With the tool’s auditing capabilities, Chapman can hone in immediately on problem areas and provide real-time coaching on the status of a situation. She also uses Salesforce Chatter as a quick and easy way to understand what’s going on and what resources are available.
“It’s a way for the university at large to get out communication very efficiently, and people can decide what’s relevant to them,” she says. “It grants access, which addresses a huge concern that many large universities have.”
She adds, “Our advisors are getting the feel for it. In the coming year, we want to move toward a culture where people are comfortable discussing their tickets exclusively in Salesforce.”
Breaking down silos not only benefits staff; it also lifts the burden of having to navigate through multiple departments off the student. In today’s learning environment, where students are empowered to enroll or withdraw from a university right from their living room, good service is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. As a result, the New College is continuously looking for ways to transition to a more proactive model of service, reaching out to students simply to check in.
“The feedback we receive from doing that has been very positive,” says Chapman. “We’ll have students thank us for reaching out and say, ‘I do like my program, my classes are going well and I’m so glad to know you guys are looking out for me.’ That’s been the most beneficial thing is giving them a space to have that conversation with us. They can always email their advisor, but this is a public space to share experiences and that’s been really important. It’s also culture and rapport building for our unit because everyone can see one another’s tickets. It just creates that much more accountability for our service.”
The New College also has plans to add to its existing portfolio of Knowledge Base articles in 2016. With so many different features to take advantage of, Chapman says the best approach for anyone new to the CRM tool is to get in there and start using it.
“It’s so intuitive and user-friendly,” she says. “No matter what, you are probably two clicks away from getting to the right place. For people who struggle with change or are hesitant about the unknown, take the time when you’re learning to not just hear about it, but use the tool. Everyone who was stressed out about it logged in and by the end of the day felt it was no big deal.”
No big deal for operation, but a very big deal for communication.