Phone Calls Too Impersonal for Today’s Prospects?

I taught two classes at Champlain College this semester, both of which wrapped up last week. For one of the classes, an advanced course for seniors called Internet Issues and Strategies, students had to write a final paper/case study about an organization using technology in an innovative way….and wouldn’t you know it but one of my students, Marissa Bentivoglio, did her paper on Champlain’s online recruiting efforts. She worked in the admissions office throughout college and offers a very unique perspective. Consider the following quotes from the paper:

In the past, Student Ambassadors have made phone calls to prospective students informing them of upcoming deadlines for admission and encouraging them to attend future events happening at Champlain; this can be seen as a form of telemarketing for the college. These calling projects are no longer conducted by the Student Ambassadors, as there concerns by the Student Ambassadors that the phone calls were too invasive and not ever effective.

Prospective students use the HUB (Champlain’s prospective student social network) to get their questions answered about the process of applying to Champlain. [Graduate student, and HUB contributor, David Lindquist] sees the HUB as an alternative to phone calls or emails. “For some reason, this generation is less comfortable making phone calls, and emails have become too impersonal. By utilizing social networking, the personal feel is still there because you are communicating via profiles while also allowing for the secure feeling of electronic communications over voice communications.”

I think this represents a profound shift, and one that is not going to be understood by your Directors and VPs. In my days as an admissions counselor, it was thought that a phone call was the most effective, personal form of communication and that students would take that any day over an impersonal communication on the web. The web would NEVER have been described as having a more “secure feeling” than a one-on-one conversation.

Do you agree with these quotes? Why or why not? If you agree, how would you convince your boss that online is the right way to go? Leave a comment!

Thanks Marissa, for letting me use your quotes! She was one of the stars of the class - hire this girl if you have the chance! I’m hoping to have Marissa do a guest post in the future, after she’s come down from the stress of finals. Be on the lookout for it!

Photo: kira_elizabeth

14 Responses to “Phone Calls Too Impersonal for Today’s Prospects?”

  1. Says:

    I don’t necessarily agree with the quotes. We have had a communications center running for the last year and a half with current students calling prospects. We have gotten nothing but positive responses from both the prospective students and the current student callers.

    • Says:

      Billy, there would be times when a phone call would generate a great conversation with the student. It’s great that you are seeing phone calls as a successful strategy for your organization.

  2. Says:

    I completely agree. I’m 31, so a good 10-12 years older than most of today’s incoming freshmen, and even I much prefer using the internet to communicate. I despise using the phone for nearly all forms of communication, except with very close family. I don’t have quite the negative feelings about email as the students mentioned in the article, but for me, nearly any form of digital communication is better than picking up the phone and calling them, or (even worse) getting a call from someone.

  3. Says:

    This is definitely great food for thought.

    I recently had the opportunity to make phone calls to students admitted to my graduate program. The phone calls were really well-received. In fact, I was super surprised by how excited these students were to get a cold phone call from an alumna since my phone number surely would’ve shown up as “unknown”.

    But it is totally worth pointing out that the students I dialed were 28, which is also my age. Had these admitted students been 18, they might have taken these calls very differently, which is just to say that student recruitment at the graduate level might be a totally different ball game!!!

  4. Says:

    This really depends on the students you are marketing to, for instance I do recruiting and marketing for a graduate school with it’s major population being working adults. Social media would not work for them, they like having the a person to speak to and not impersonal touch social media creates. For the undergraduate population also the “now” generation I do perceive this to be more effective. As to how to convince the adminstration? Simply with numbers showing which method is more effective, use a unique landing page and see how many hits you get from sending a status update out…track and report!

  5. Says:

    Scotts must all think alike. I’m also 31 and I agree with Mr. Lawson above that telephone is the absolute worst way to communicate with me if you want a positive reaction. A phone call is, by definition, an interruption.

    I’m in PR, not admissions, but in dealing with student workers, I’ve found that the only way to get a quick response from most of them is to send a Facebook message. Neither e-mail nor phone messages are very effective. If you actually get them on the phone rather than leaving a message, the conversation is almost always awkward-even for students with whom I have friendly banter and/or long conversations on a regular basis. It just feels strange via phone.

    So yes, I agree. Save the phone calls for students you can’t get ahold of in other ways. Better yet, at some point in the recruitment process, ask the individual student how they want to be contacted.

    • Says:

      Scott, I think the idea of asking students how they would like to be contacted is an excellent idea! At Champlain, we have a personal information sheet that visitors fill out and we ask where they learned about Champlain, so this would be a great question to add to that form.

      • Says:

        The office I work in is in charge of all on-campus printing (brochures, posters, etc.) and we also do grad announcements, high-quality documents for student presentations, etc. We’ve started asking students how they’d like to be contacted when their order is ready.
        Some students like getting a call, but now that we’ve started offering text message notification (free using Google Voice), a lot of students have started using that.
        It’s a great idea to give them the option to choose their contact method.

  6. Says:

    I work at a university as the the social media specialist. Right now, all of our admin reps are using Facebook to reach potential students and they LOVE it. They are getting essay’s through Facebook, holding chats, and much more. They are getting a better response from the students this way.

    At this university we also have an online degree admin rep team. The students they are dealing with are much older usually and our test with Facebook for them wasn’t as successful. That could be because they just weren’t as good at using it or the reason they gave- adults just weren’t as comfortable with it.

  7. Says:

    I agree with these qoutes

  8. Says:

    Thank you for including my work in your post, Head of Marketing ! I’m happy it was able to start a discussion.

  9. Says:

    We actually do a little of both at Butler University so I can not say that I completely agree or disagree with either statement.

    Ideally, we like our admission counselors to call admitted students. They do so most of the time except when they are traveling or are just too busy to be able to make the calls themselves. As for prospective students, we definitely still utilize our student ambassadors for phone calls. We feel that they strongly project what being a Butler student is all about.

    In addition, we use social media along with phone calls and emails to inform our students (admitted and prospective) about upcoming events, deadlines and other news. We want to be personal while still giving them the chance to respond in a community setting (such as Facebook). After all, community is what Butler University is all about.

    Something else that we have found extremely helpful is our 9am -9pm chat. Students and parents can hop on the chat anytime between the hours of 9am to 9pm (Monday - Thursday) and 9am to 5pm (Friday) and speak with one of our current students.

    The article is mostly about the students, but we can’t forget the parents. This is why we still use email, print and phone. We see that they respond better to traditional mediums while their students are responding to us via Twitter, Facebook, Ning, YouTube, etc.

  10. Says:

    I don’t disagree that the times are a-changin’ and we will definitely need to make this shift someday. However, in the interim we must find a way to connect with the majority in the most effective way possible. It is surely easier to publish one piece of content and direct students to it on the web. But if they aren’t checking their email (because they don’t like to) or if they aren’t answering their phones (because it’s not personal anymore), how do I inform them of where to go find info on the web? The addition of linked Facebook and Twitter images is great, but I feel there is still a necessary game of phone tag for the immediate future.

  11. Says:

    I am much older than the majority of people posting here(50), but regardless of age, I assume that you have a relationship with the people that you are interacting with. What about asking them for their prefered method of communication. It might make for more work, but it’s all about driving customers(sales, ROI, etc.), right.