Universities in Australia, Wales and Sweden best in world at handling enquiries
A global mystery shopper study conducted with over 100 higher education institutions has revealed the extent to which a negative enquiry experience impacts the decision-making of prospective students.
The findings of the Enquiry Experience Tracker 2022, published today in a summary report by Edified, highlight the scale of lost enrolment opportunities for universities around the world.
Edified’s Enquiry Experience Tracker is an annual study developed in partnership with student conversion specialists UniQuest. It sees mystery shoppers pose as prospective students – the majority international – and place enquiries with universities via multiple channels. Institutions are assessed on a range of criteria, including findability, responsiveness, clarity and personalisation.
For the first time, the 2022 study saw universities participate worldwide, with 107 institutions in total from the UK, Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The results reveal that a huge nine in 10 prospective students are likely to drop off if they have a negative experience after enquiring. In contrast, eight in 10 of those who had a positive experience said they would be ‘very likely’ to continue exploring the institution.
Overall, one in three felt negative about the university they enquired with following the experience.
When it comes to the global leader board, higher education institutions in Australia, Wales and Sweden are leading the pack in how well they handle enquiries, while North America and Ireland lag behind.
The UK received an average Enquiry Experience Score that was just one point higher than the global average.* University Alliance and MillionPlus universities performed slightly better than Russell Group institutions in the UK.
The results highlight clear improvement opportunities for higher education institutions. The level of unresponsiveness remains high. Globally, one in five enquiries went unanswered, and only half of responses answered all questions asked by mystery shoppers. For the UK, unanswered queries increase to one in four. Swedish universities were the most responsive globally, closely followed by Wales.
Just over one quarter of all enquiry responses globally were perceived by mystery shoppers as “cold”, and by far the weakest area for almost all institutions was persuasiveness, with most missing out on opportunities to sell themselves.
Globally, the worst enquiry service was delivered via phone and WeChat. Mobile messaging platforms were the least common enquiry channel offered, which according to UniQuest, represents a big area of potential opportunity. UniQuest data shows that WhatsApp is a top converting channel when it is used, with students who engage via WhatsApp or live chat being three times more likely to convert from offer to enrolment.
Commenting on the results, Elissa Newall, Partner at Edified and Project Director of the Enquiry Experience Tracker, says:
“Incoming enquiries are a great opportunity for institutions to make a good impression. But the tracker results show the opposite effect in too many instances. It’s not just unresponsiveness that’s an issue, but tone and effectiveness too. Many mystery shoppers reported a lack of warmth and felt that universities treated them in a transactional way. Very few universities used the opportunity to showcase their strengths or add value beyond what the student asked for – all things that can make an institution stand out.”
Rachel Fletcher, co-founder and CEO of UniQuest, adds:
“We understand the resource pressures universities are facing, but those institutions that invest in delivering a good enquiry experience will reap the benefit. Students who have a good enquiry experience convert from offer to enrolment at twice the rate of others. In addition to the timeliness and quality of their communications, institutions should consider the blend of enquiry channels they offer and whether this aligns with student preferences. Students like mobile messaging, for example, but very few offer this.”
London Metropolitan University was voted as the student favourite in the UK, with responses rated as the most impactful of all the UK institutions evaluated.
Gary Davies, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at London Metropolitan University, says:
“Participating in the Enquiry Experience Tracker is a brilliant benchmarking opportunity to see how we compare to other institutions globally. We recognise the importance of delivering a good enquiry experience and were thrilled to be named as student favourite in the UK. It’s testament to the hard work of our recruitment and enquiries teams over the past year.”
Notes to editors:
*The Enquiry Experience Score is based on 41 assessment criteria that reflect today’s standard for effective student engagement.
The scoring methodology has been developed by Edified’s digital communication experts and is informed by data from over 1.7 million student journeys managed by UniQuest. Scores are out of 100.
Mystery shopping for the Enquiry Experience Tracker was conducted globally between April and June 2022.
Hannah Dawson / Paddy Slade at Galibier PR