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Case Study

California University of Pennsylvania moves from a manual call process to an automated one to increase conversions and create a sense of belonging

How California University of Pennsylvania utilized Gecko call campaigns to make students feel like they belong...

California University of Pennsylvania moves from a manual call process to an automated one to increase conversions and create a sense of belonging

Gen Z may be the most digitally-native and connected generation yet, but they still value personalized approaches more than ever. Ensuring your recruitment strategies are agile, customizable, and meet the expectations and momentum of Gen Z in terms of technology is crucial.

When done correctly, phone calls to prospective students and parents can be a core piece of your recruitment strategy. They can strengthen relationships with prospects as well as create a sense of belonging.

“Gecko has enabled us to increase our outreach and student engagement. It's all about relationship-building with prospective students and making them feel that this university is authentic and cares about them as a person, as opposed to a number.”
Toni Hartley
Director of Communications and Education Pathways

Powering up phone calls to prospective students

California University of Pennsylvania have been running call campaigns with Gecko since January 2018. Their call campaign team is composed of seven student telecounselors who work eight hours a week individually.

Their core purpose is to engage with prospective students and their families. The school wanted to use Gecko for call campaigns to increase their conversion rates and encourage students to complete several steps on their journey to enrollment.

Toni explains, “Our goal when it comes to our call campaigns is to increase interest, boost attendance and build relationships. We want to get more students on campus so we’re calling them to remind them about upcoming events such as open houses, campus visits, orientation, and welcome weekend. We want prospects to be interested in Cal U. We also do outreach to get students to complete and submit their applications and FAFSAs, which determines their eligibility for student financial aid.”

“Phone calls offer a ton of value and are a clear sign in the student’s mind that the school is serious about them.”

What were their biggest pain points?

1. Manual processes that were slow and painstaking for the student workers

Before Gecko, the process was a lot more manual, with students using paper scripts and Excel spreadsheets. The calling team had to phone prospective students by looking up names and numbers on a spreadsheet on one screen, dial the call on the office phone, and type summaries of the interaction in the spreadsheet before making the next call. These steps were very tedious and took up a lot of time.

2. Standing out from the competition in a challenging market

Figures from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRC) show that overall college enrollment fell to 16.9 million students this spring, down more than 600,000 students from a year ago, and so circumstances are definitely challenging. Toni explained, “The available number of traditional students is declining through 2032. There are fewer students to attract so we are definitely in competition with everybody.”

In addition to enrollment numbers being down nationwide, there’s also an ongoing campaign about the value of a college education and whether you need to attend college to have a career. Schools are also fighting a great deal of uncertainty due to the pandemic. “Every institution across the country is suffering the same challenges so we need to use every possible option we can to engage with students to stand out from the competition.”

How Gecko solved those pain points

1. Segmentation to create a sense of belonging

Using Gecko, Cal U has created specific campaigns where the telecounselors are calling prospective students from their hometowns. This allowed the current students at Cal U to bond with prospective students in a more personal way, mentor them, and be part of the recruitment process by bringing them onto campus.

“The telecounselors know how they want to communicate with prospects. The peer-to-peer conversations are more meaningful and allow the prospective students to ask questions candidly. These call campaigns are helping students feel like they belong here.”

2. Call scripts that enable a more personalized experience

Gecko call scripts also enable Cal U to be more detailed and complex than they were when they were using a paper process. The scripts create a deeper and more personalized call experience and structure so the calls to prospective students are more streamlined.

“We can apply the logic which is driven based on the responses in the script. This allows the telecounselors to ask specific questions based on what the caller said. Some of our scripts are very basic and some are more involved, depending on what our call to action might be.”

3. Follow-up emails to communicate complex information

By using Gecko’s email functionality, Cal U is able to send automated follow-up communications to the prospects. This allows them to be specific when delivering complex information. Cal U is able to view delivery and open rates of these emails and they afford the recipient the opportunity to reply, which keeps the dialogue going.

“If we are communicating the steps that prospects need to take to complete the FAFSA, which is for financial aid, we need to give applicants our school code and how to get to it. Follow-up emails are the best way to do that.”

4. Call outcomes that create structure and support

Gecko has created consistency for the team at Cal U. Before Gecko, student telecounselors were just making notes in a spreadsheet, but they didn’t have a list of outcomes to follow. Gecko’s call outcomes have streamlined the process, allowing certain choices for the telecounselor to choose from. This has made it easier for the telecounselors to do their job.

“The students who moved from the old process to the Gecko platform were thrilled. Gecko made it so much easier for them to do their job. It increased not only their motivation but also their efficiency and output.

“I forget how prehistoric it was, the way they used to do things. Gecko has taken our student workers from being callers to telecounselors, which is a notable change in both title and responsibility”

Gecko works hand in hand with Slate

Gecko, and specifically the way it works hand in hand with Slate, has also been a big part of tracking the effectiveness of the call campaigns and highlighting every interaction with the student. It shows us the student’s communication timeline in chronological order which allows anyone viewing the timeline to see all forms of outreach and engagement with the student.  This better prepares someone to be more knowledgeable when reaching out.

Toni Hartley told us more… “The robust nature of Gecko allows us to perform our outreach professionally, efficiently, and effectively. In each student record in Slate is a timeline. This timeline shows every email that we sent out, every call and every text. This is extremely informative and beneficial in looking at prospect behavior and knowing the prospect before engaging.

“We appreciate and have grown accustomed to the robust nature of Gecko and how it serves us so well in our outreach. Without Gecko, we wouldn’t be able to use the student telecounselors in the way that we do, and we wouldn’t be able to build the scripts the way we want. The fact that we can send automatic emails based on conditions in Gecko is really important to us.

“We also rely on Gecko forms for a variety of purposes. We can even use Gecko to pre-text those we are calling to let them know to expect our call to increase conversations over missed opportunities to chat. Gecko complements what we’re doing, but allows us to do it in a more robust way.”

Toni Hartley
The robust nature of Gecko allows us to perform our outreach professionally, efficiently, and effectively.
Toni Hartley
Director of Communications and Education Pathways