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It’s About the User Experience

My daughter will be attending college this fall. We’ve been suffering through ACTs, SATs, college fairs, campus visits, and poorly constructed admissions websites for the past two years. Most of our admissions interactions have done achieved little more than raising my blood pressure.

What I’ve found, along with other friends enduring the same drudgery, is that too many universities have taken their eyes off the branding ball. Websites are slow and cumbersome, and telephone systems drive me into an endless vortex of IVR prompts. And content? One university site had information about a six-year physical therapy program…which was discontinued three years ago.

These institutions need a constant infusion of students and tuition payments to keep the doors open, the lights on, and professors paid. But what if recruits and parents are turned off by an abysmal user experience?

Universities are businesses. They’re offering a premium product in a highly competitive industry at an astronomical price. They have the potential to build decades-long relationships, spanning generations of families. And ongoing contributions from those brand-loyal consumers are what fund university coffers and endowments. The financial return on just one admission can be a windfall…depending on how that relationship is attracted, nurtured, and maintained.

Imagine a scenario in which our fictional ABC University has an exceptional user experience. Our student and her parents peruse the school’s website for information on majors, scholarship opportunities, financial aid, housing, club activities, books, and social media links connecting them to potential classmates. She applies to the university and is accepted. When she has questions, the service desk representative knows what parts of the site she has navigated, where she is in the admissions process, who she has requested for a roomie, and has a knowledge database that can help answer virtually any question. Our student video chats with an admissions officer who helps answer questions about her intended major. And during her tenure at ABC University, she has seamless experiences registering for classes, finding grades, attending online courses, and keeping up with her club activities. Fast-forward 10 years, after our student is an established professional. She can keep up on what’s new on campus. Oh, and she can make a contribution to help fund the new recreation center being built.

This is how technology is helping businesses – and universities – build stronger brands. This is the potential behind consumer loyalty. This is the power of an exceptional user experience.

Businesses and universities…the time is now. Loyal customers are begging to be found. The impressions you make today will impact revenue streams for years to come.

Tim Condron is president and creative director of Sparked Imaginations. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of any other entity, business, client or employer.

© 2014 Timothy J. Condron

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