Secret Shopping Your University’s Admissions Process and People

How to do a Secret Shop University Secret Shopping

In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, institutions are continually looking for new methods to enhance their student experience right from the very first interaction – the admissions process. 

Why your university needs to do a secret shop

Secret shopping is one remarkable tool not yet mainstream in the educational sector but holds significant potential. 

Don’t let potential areas of improvement in your admissions process remain unseen.

University Secret Shopping

Through a secret shop, colleges and universities can gain invaluable insights into the efficiency and effectiveness of their admissions process in order to improve it and increase their enrollment conversion rate.

Colleges and universities are more dependent on tuition revenue than ever before, so universities and colleges must consider secret shopping their admissions process to help fine-tune the enrollment experience. 

A seamless admissions process isn’t merely about filling seats; it’s about laying the groundwork for a successful and enriching educational journey for the students, thus fostering a reputation of excellence and student-centricity for the institution.

Let's Discuss Your Secret Shopping Project

What is Secret Shopping?

Let’s understand what secret shopping entails. Often used in the retail and hospitality sectors, secret shopping involves individuals mimicking the role of customers to evaluate the quality of service. 

Applying this concept to universities, a secret shopper would experience the admissions process as a prospective student would, carefully noting various aspects contributing to the overall experience.

Key Benefits:

  • Objective Insight: By bringing in external perspectives, universities can avoid the tunnel vision that often occurs when evaluating their processes internally.

  • Enhanced Student Experience: Universities get to understand students’ real-life experiences, enabling them to streamline processes for better student satisfaction and increased conversion rates. Be able to remove the friction points in the enrollment journey.

  • Competitive Advantage: Identifying and fixing gaps in the admission process can give a university a significant edge over competitors, enhancing its reputation and attractiveness to potential students.

  • Reduce Costs: Universities spend millions of dollars in employee payroll and marketing dollars to launch new branding campaigns. The Admissions arm must perform at its best to make those branding dollars effective. A great branding campaign may not overcome a poor enrollment experience, so those dollars would be wasted. 

The Current Landscape of University Admissions

To comprehend the significance of secret shopping in higher education, it’s vital to grasp the current state of admissions. Typically, the process involves a series of interactions and experiences ranging from initial inquiries to enrollment. 

These phases are often complex and multifaceted, involving different departments and touchpoints.

The Case for Secret Shopping in University Admissions

Discovering Unseen Flaws

An institution might be unaware of several glitches and bottlenecks in its admissions process. A secret shopper, with a fresh set of eyes, can spot issues that might be overlooked by internal teams. 

They can provide detailed feedback about every step of the process, helping to identify areas for improvement.

Holistic Analysis

Secret shoppers conduct a full-spectrum analysis, covering all facets of the admissions process, including online inquiries, response times, website usability, and the quality of conversations. This comprehensive approach ensures that every student’s experience is scrutinized and optimized.

Creating Seamless Transitions

Often, the transition from one phase of the admission process to another can be a source of friction. Secret shoppers can help identify these points of friction and suggest solutions to create smoother transitions, thus enhancing the overall student experience.

Partnering with an External Agency

Why is it Necessary?

  • Objective Evaluation: An external agency can provide an unbiased viewpoint, which helps in a fair and honest evaluation of the existing processes. An external partner will not have to navigate internal politics and will be able to provide an honest assessment. 

  • Expertise: These agencies usually have experts who are well-versed in analyzing and optimizing customer journeys, a skill set that can be beneficial in refining the admissions process.

  • Shopping Competitors: Consider shopping your main set of competitors to help you create a benchmark to review your Admissions team against. If you hear a certain competitor or two often wins out enrollments over your institution, this is your chance to discover why. 

What to Look for in an Agency:

  • Experience in the Educational Sector: While secret shopping is a common practice in other industries, it requires a different approach in the education sector. An agency with experience in educational secret shopping would be better equipped to undertake a meaningful analysis.

  • Customized Solutions: Every institution is unique, and the secret shopping program needs to be tailored to fit the specific needs and goals of the college, university, or training academy.

  • Comprehensive Reporting: A useful secret shopping program should culminate in a detailed report that not only identifies issues but also suggests actionable solutions.

Implementing Changes Based on Feedback

The ultimate goal of secret shopping is to improve the student experience to improve your enrollment conversions rates. If your secret shop is done right, you should be able to implement changes based on the feedback and insights gathered. This phase is crucial and actionable feedback. 

Steps to Consider:

  • Collaboration: Collaborate with various departments involved in the admissions process to discuss the findings and suggestions from the secret shopping exercise.

  • Prioritization: Identify and prioritize the areas that require immediate attention and those that can be addressed in the long term.

  • Action Plans: Develop detailed action plans to address identified issues with clear timelines and responsibilities.

  • Monitoring Progress: Regularly monitor the progress of implementation and make necessary adjustments based on the outcomes.

  • Feedback Loop: Create a feedback loop with internal departments to continuously refine the process based on real-time experiences. You may find that you need to create new admissions support materials to aid in your enrollment experience. Does your institution need digital brochures? 

What’s Next? 

Running a secret shopping can be an enrollment game-changer. As the old saying goes, “You can’t fix what you are not aware is broken.” It’s vital to employ the expertise of a seasoned agency to guide you through this journey. 

With Ellison Ellery, you gain a partner with a rich history of providing insightful and transformative solutions to educational institutions. 

Let's Discuss Your Secret Shopping Project

Why Hire Ellison Ellery for Your Secret Shopping Partner?

  • In-Depth Experience in the Educational Sector: Ellison Ellery brings over 20 years of experience in the educational sector, having successfully guided numerous institutions in revamping their admission processes.

  • Custom-Tailored Strategies: At Ellison Ellery, we understand that each institution has unique challenges and strengths. We specialize in crafting strategies tailored to your needs and goals, ensuring optimal results.

  • Renee is Your To Go Expert: While Ellison Ellery is a full-service higher education agency, Renee is the one who does these shops. She applies her 20 years of higher education experience to these shops to uncover many insights and provide actionable recommendations. She will help you navigate the complexities of the admissions journey and provide recommendations on how to improve the process. With a keen eye for detail, she will meticulously analyze every facet of your process to unearth potential improvements.

  • Data-Driven Insights: In an age where data is king, Ellison Ellery prides itself on offering data-driven insights that help your institution make informed decisions. Our analytical approach ensures that the strategies implemented are grounded in factual data, promising higher success rates.

  • Holistic Approach: At Ellison Ellery, we believe in a holistic approach, where we not only identify gaps but also offer actionable solutions that encompass all aspects of the admissions process. This ensures a seamless and enhanced experience for prospective students.

  • Partnership and Collaboration: Choosing Ellison Ellery means embarking on a collaborative journey. We work closely with your teams, fostering a partnership that aims at achieving shared goals and elevating the student experience to new heights.

By collaborating with Ellison Ellery, you’re not just opting for a service but investing in a brighter future for your institution. 

Let Ellison Ellery be your guiding light in revolutionizing your admissions process, setting a benchmark in the industry, and ensuring your institution is a first choice for prospective students. It’s time to take a bold step towards a seamless, efficient, and student-friendly admissions process with Ellison Ellery.

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Picture of Renee Seltzer

Renee Seltzer

Renee Seltzer is founder and CEO of Ellison Ellery Marketing & Growth Agency and has spent over 20 years helping companies grow their revenue. As a cross-functional marketing executive with extensive experience crafting messaging that compels and campaigns that convert, Renee understands marketing at its core and can deliver actionable solutions for every marketing or sales hang-up.

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