Establishing contact with the applicant in the right way - how we should communicate with the future student by mail / messenger / phone

The closer the summer of 2022 is, the more applications employees of international departments of Russian universities will have to process. How to properly allocate working hours, what should you pay attention to and how not to become a "hostage» of WhatsApp during the active phase of the recruitment company? I will try to answer this question and give some practical tips in this article.
Communication in messengers

Naturally, I would like to start with them, since they account for half of all communications (not only with students, but also with colleagues). I will highlight one important thought in my opinion: a university should not be constantly online and in touch 24/7, but timely processing incoming requests is important. Not so long ago, during a working conference at Zoom, a colleague asked me how quickly, in my opinion, the university should respond to incoming messages, and shared a story about working with leads. The company in which her university ordered advertising to attract leads to multilingual landing pages, asked her to process all incoming applications from them very quickly and efficiently. Due to the time difference, very often they received messages at the end of the working day, and the correspondence itself could last until 1AM. At the same time, according to her feelings, this activity did not bring a breakthrough result and didn't do a favor to an employee who worked beyond measure and worried about every message. It seems natural to me, because the university, unlike a fitness club, a bank or a barbershop, offers a long-term educational service, the choice of which must be approached carefully. An applicant should not expect a prompt response to the application and choose the first one who contacted them the fastest and offered any conditions. A normal applicant understands this, so they are ready to wait for information after leaving the application at the set working time (the next or even one day later). By the way, your business account in WhatsApp can help with this, where, in addition to the logo and information about the university, you can set an official work schedule and set up standard messages for a response if you are contacted after the end of the working hours.

Having understood this, we may not worry about the fact that there are unprocessed requests in the evening. But we may worry about the fact that the appeals received the day before were ignored in the first half of the next day. Here we should make it a rule: in the first half of the day we respond to incoming messages and work with applications that were to be given any answer or information. And in the second half, we start processing incoming applications from new applicants. Perhaps, such a simple rule would help to have time to process them all and not worry after the end of working hours that something is not finished.

Communication by email

The most classic way of communicating with the university, sometimes, causes a lot of trouble. Especially if the incoming request is not structured, carries little information (consists of one simple question) and has no return contacts (except the sender's email). In this case, the correspondence can grow into a long chain of letters that do not bring much specifics. One of the solutions is to set up mail template messages for different levels of education or groups of programs with attached files, which will contain a request for the applicant to tell about themself in more detail (a short set of questions: country/phone number/institution of graduation/which field of study is interesting for them), as well as a kind of roadmap that they should consistently do (without the participation of an employee of the international department). In my opinion, it is best to reduce any correspondence to a request for a contact phone number and a subsequent call, since a 5-7-minute conversation will be more efficient than 2-3 days you would spend on correspondence by mail, and immediately give the applicant an understanding of what they should do, and you will understand how to work with them.

Communication by phone

I have already written about tools that allow you to make phone communication with your company's customers more convenient. We have figured out what IP telephony is, how to make good scripts for different cases of calls, so I advise you to look for them in previous issues of EEMagazine. I just want to remind you that an applicant who called the university or left an application and is waiting for a call does not owe anything to the organization itself. In fact, we need to show empathy and interest in them, advise on admission issues and try to explain as clearly as possible what they will need to do. The main thing is to make it a rule that the consultation should not turn into a conversation longer than 20 or 30 minutes. Usually, all issues can be resolved much faster, so we should value our own working time.

See you in the next issues of Education Export Magazine and good luck at work!
Nikita Strelchuk is the Director for Academic Relations of Education Export Center. Graduated from one of the leading Russian universities in the field of Management and is specialized in managing projects. His main professional interest is entrepreneurial approach to the work of academic institutions.