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7 ways to improve your Clearing process for next year

Was your Clearing process not quite as smooth as you’d like? Don’t wait until next year to address it, start now!

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when we talk about Clearing? Stressful? The busiest day of the year? Phones jammed and bits of paper flying about everywhere? Doing the best you can to help put worried students’ minds at rest?

Whether your Clearing process went well, or not so well, it’s probably fair to say there are always improvements that can be made. Now is the time to start putting those wheels in motion, when it’s still fresh in mind and you can pinpoint where those paint points lie.

We get it. We’ve worked to help our university partners through the challenges of Clearing for over seven years now and we also know that it’s the busiest day of the year in higher education. Ucas predicted Clearing to be “much more competitive this year”, and with record grades and fewer places available, that’s proven to be true. The Guardian reports that some institutions in England are offering medical students £10,000 to study elsewhere, such is demand.

Meanwhile, you have important recruitment targets to hit and students have higher expectations than ever before…

Clearing process

Why should you change your Clearing process?

Well, you only have one chance to make a first impression.

Clearing may very well be the very first touchpoint that students have with your institution. They might have never considered your university before they access your Clearing hotline on the day itself. So what do you want that first impression to be? Chaotic and confusing, or straightforward and stress-free? We’re assuming the latter, right?

No one wants to just cope with Clearing. No one wants to under-deliver for potential applicants. And no one wants it to be a day that your staff dread. What you want – and what your institution and prospective students need – is a great system that delivers. One that cuts down on workloads, tracks data, supports staff, and, most importantly, makes the prospective student experience as smooth, seamless, and engaging as possible. Right?

The right technology solution can help you turn your Clearing calls into actual conversions, making sure you exceed the expectations of your prospective applicants at every step.

“The Clearing campaign was a big success for us. Gecko technology was able to remove manual intervention throughout the day and make everyone’s lives a lot easier.”
Megan McFarlane,
Enquiry & Conversions Manager, University of Aberdeen

7 ways Gecko can solve your Clearing pain points

Problem 1) Human errors with data

Clearing is full-on. And when you have lots of your staff in a room (or even more challenging, at home) with call after call coming in, it’s not surprising that mistakes can get made. You’re gathering vital information over the phone – names, email addresses, UCAS ID numbers – but there’s always a margin for error. And if there is a mistake, it’s not something always easily fixed.

So what is the solution? Well, instead of relying on a verbal data inputting process, why not put your prospects in charge of their process and enable them to self-serve?

What you’re doing now…

Relying on manual inputting into your system

What you could be doing…

It’s all about forms. With a simple form set up on your Clearing home page, students can input their own data rather than phoning up the Clearing hotline. Firstly, this means there’s less space for manual error. But the even more exciting thing is that the whole process can be automated from that point, with either an automatic yes, no, or ‘academic review needed’ email triggered as soon as they complete the form.

Problem 2) A lack of resource for the Clearing hotline

Some university staff members relish the buzz of Clearing. For others, however, it can be stressful. No one wants to be that person who has to tell a prospective student on the other end of the line that their grades aren’t good enough to secure a place. It’s a lot of pressure on staff and it means that you might get less volunteers than you’d like on the day.

Adding a few vital pieces of technology into your Clearing process can take the pressure off your staff so that they have more support and don’t feel like the ‘bad guy’.

What you’re doing now…

Having staff manage those difficult conversations 

What you could be doing…

Let the tech do it for you! Set up a script for every single one of your calls so that your staff feel supported in what they’re saying – especially if they’ve not done it before. Asking staff to make decisions on the phone can also be stressful. A better option is to trigger an email directly after the call which will notify the student whether it’s a yes or a no.

Problem 3) Outsourcing to manage demand

Everyone within the university directorate tends to be asked to get involved in Clearing – the recruitment team, faculty members, and a lot of student ambassadors. However, because of the high demand on the day, and noting our point above, teams might also find themselves having to outsource to a third party to manage incoming calls.

Is this necessarily the best way? No. Not only is it expensive, but you’re also asking people who don’t necessarily know your university to be the face of your brand on such an important day.

What you’re doing now…

Trusting third parties with your prospects

What you could be doing…

Using an intelligent chatbot. Yes, really. Training people takes time and you won’t necessarily get a read on whether they represented your institution well. A chatbot means you can come at the day with a two-pronged approach. The bot can deliver a slick digital experience that will get vital information to enquiries – fast – while your staff can focus on providing the human touch. Just think of it as a virtual member of your team!

Problem 4) Bottlenecks in your system

When was the last time Gen Z picked up the phone and called someone? We’ll wait. Calling is often the main means of communication during Clearing, but should it be? Of course, there’s always going to be a need for calls (especially if parents are the ones making them) but there’s also value in diversifying your platforms to ease bottlenecks at peak times.

Not only is having prospects stuck on hold a bad experience, but we all know Generation Z is communicating using other platforms anyway. So why not use them?

What you’re doing now…

Expecting prospective students to pick up the phone

What you could be doing…

Enable students to communicate using the platforms they currently use with live chat. Facebook, WhatsApps, and messenger are where they are – so that’s where you need to be!

Problem 5) Prospects having a poor experience

OK, so we’re still talking about the Clearing hotline. Having prospects stuck in call queues is not ideal and may result in students simply giving up and trying elsewhere. You’re probably not the only university they’re contacting, and if you’re not delivering a good Clearing experience it’s likely that someone else will be. That’s why technology is key.

Adding a chatbot to your Clearing homepage means it can answer any queries students have while they wait to speak to a human. That beats listening to bad music on hold!

What you’re doing now…

Leaving prospects on hold

What you could be doing…

Engaging your prospects while they wait. You can train your bot to be able to handle all those frontline enquiries. The bot can process their entire application by directing them to a form (like we mentioned in point 1) above) or it can simply engage with them until a member of the Clearing team becomes available. A much better experience all round!

Problem 6) Having to manually notify academic staff

Some courses need academic input before a decision can be made. This is especially true for art and design subjects that require a portfolio review as part of the process, although some institutions need sign-off on every applicant. However, having to manually notify the appropriate academic each time an application comes in is slow and time-consuming.

If you system you’re currently using isn’t particularly user-friendly then you may also have to manage conversations with academic staff who aren’t receptive to it.

What you’re doing now…

Relying on manual steps in your process

What you could be doing…

Automating. Instead of relying on manual processes in your system, you can set up workflows that take prospects through the system depending on whether they meet the criteria at each step. The end-to-end process can be completely automated, with emails being sent to academics as and when they need to review applications. Easy!

Problem 7) Managing questions about closed courses

Finally, we all know that some courses often aren’t available through Clearing. Places in super-competitive courses like Medicine and Dentistry are usually taken months in advance of A-Level results day but somehow, no matter how many times you think you’ve pointed it out on your website and include it in your comms, students still phone up and ask.

We live in a time of immediacy. People don’t want to have to hunt down answers. Wouldn’t it be easier that instead of asking them to mine through your website, you enable them to self-serve and find out for themselves? It’s quicker, easier, and way less stressful.

What you’re doing now…

Asking students to do the hard work themselves

What you could be doing…

Make it a lot easier for them by using a chatbot on your Clearing webpage. Build your bot to answer all of those questions and you’ll free up your team to take other calls from students who want to apply for courses that actually have spaces available.

Hopefully, we’ve got you thinking about a few ways you can create a better Clearing experience for your prospects. Still not sure? Here’s what one of our customers had to say…

“The Clearing campaign was a big success for us”

Megan McFarlane, Enquiry & Conversions Manager at the University of Aberdeen

“Last year I took on the task of arranging a follow-up call to every clearing offer holder from an academic in their chosen subject area. At the University of Aberdeen we offer over 500 undergraduate degree programmes, and throughout the A level results day we field around 1500 calls, making around 300 offers of admission on the first day alone. In order to make this slick, automated and accurate, I knew we had to use Gecko.

“We used Gecko to ensure that, with the click of a button, the details of every single offer holder would land in the inbox of the academic who had been briefed and trained to make the phone call to the student. With a few more clicks we’d send and receive personalised communications to the offer holder and gather rich feedback on the call.

“The Clearing campaign was a big success for us. Gecko technology was able to remove manual intervention throughout the day and make everyone’s lives a lot easier. We have since surveyed our converted students who have told us that the academic call contributed to their decision to choose the University of Aberdeen. A real win!”

Clearing FAQs

How do I know I can trust Gecko with Clearing?

We’ve gone through the Clearing process with our customers over a number of years, and we typically see a three-fold increase in usage on the day than we would see on any other busy day throughout the year. We are well prepared and know what to expect!

How does the Gecko development team prepare for Clearing?

At Gecko, our products are built on a Scalable Serverless Architecture. This means that we are able to quickly scale and adapt for high traffic events such as Clearing.

What customer support from Gecko will be available?

Our Customer Success team will be on hand to help through every step of the Clearing process. The team provides support and assistance to our customers in the run-up to Clearing and rigorously load-testing the system to ensure everything is working smoothly.

The CS team at Gecko are also on-hand throughout the day, all the way from 6 am to midnight, to provide extended support and to manage any real-time issues.

Finally, they’ve also put together this helpful Clearing webinar with all the latest tips and tricks to create a seamless student experience. Watch it on-demand, anytime!

Want to ensure that your next Clearing is as smooth a process as possible? Get in touch to find out more today!