2021 A Level Results Day has been and gone and, as always, this day marked the beginning of the busiest period on a higher education institution’s calendar – clearing. According to UCAS, 435,430 UK university applicants were placed through clearing on Results Day alone. A further 52,000 placements have been allocated in the days since.
Universities face the struggle of sorting through a great number of clearing applications from students whose results were either better or worse than they expected. This usually requires a lot of time receiving phone calls, with a huge cost to the organisation in terms of human capital, and many basic contact centres could simply become overwhelmed. How did your organisation handle clearing this year? Were your staff equipped with all the tools and resources they needed in order to deal with this unprecedented annual influx of communication? In many instances, as is the case every year, the answer will be no. Many organisations struggle to cope with the flood of enquiries received over multiple channels, and potential students who are unable to get through may well choose to go elsewhere.
Whether your organisation felt that this year’s clearing process was successful, or not so successful, there is always room for improvement to be made ahead of next year.
Why Is Clearing So Important?
You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Clearing may well be the first touchpoint a student has with your institution. They might have never considered you prior to accessing your clearing hotline that day. Think about what you want their first experience with you to be – stressful or straightforward? As the market for higher education becomes increasingly competitive year on year, the clearing process has become more important than ever.
No HE institution wants clearing to be something that they merely “cope” with every year – it should be something that they excel at. Furthermore, no institution wants their clearing team to be filled with anxiety and concern every year as this important day moves ever nearer.
As we mentioned earlier, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to clearing. With that in mind, we have compiled our top tips on how to ensure a smoother clearing process next year.
Minimise Human Error
Human error is inevitable and, in high-pressure situations like those presented by clearing, it becomes all the more likely. For this reason, a successful clearing process will include a strong focus on minimising this level of human error. One way to achieve this is by incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) into the contact centre. A chatbot, for example, can be programmed to answer each question, and filter and divert each point of contact, consistently and correctly, negating the risk of human error at this stage.
Ease the Stress on Staff
As we mentioned, no organisation wants its staff to feel stressed, especially when this stress might lead to important errors being made. AI can help out here, too. When a student applies through clearing, their application, query or request can be filtered by any number of topics, such as their results, the degree they’re interested in, or the nature of their enquiry. An application to study English could be swiftly diverted to the relevant department before any human has had to look at it. Similarly, a bank of “frequently asked questions”, when armed with their answers, would mean that the chatbot could respond to basic questions and action simple requests without a member of staff at hand, thus freeing up that member of staff to work on other projects and further easing the pressure of an overwhelming workload.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Sitting on hold for hours is never a positive experience and it may lead to a prospective student simply hanging up and going elsewhere. Having a chatbot loaded with the answers to a number of FAQs, as mentioned above, would mean that students could have a number of their initial questions answered while they wait, which will always be favoured over the tedium of listening to hold music for minutes on end.
Responding to Demand for Other Means of Communication
Today’s undergraduate level adults perhaps aren’t as inclined to pick up the phone as previous generations and institutions must consider this when designing their clearing process, potentially allowing for the incorporation of other channels. The modern student may prefer to manage their clearing enquiry through Facebook or WhatsApp and the ability to do so will likely cause them to look favourably on your institution when the time comes for decisions to be made.
Further 4C Resources
4C Strategies is made up of a team of clearing technology experts. If you’d like to read some of our previous articles on this subject, here are some extra resources that you may find useful:
Seeking Advice from the Experts
If you are looking for advice on how your institution’s clearing process might be improved in the future, contact the experts at 4C Strategies today on 01858 438938, or email email@example.com.