How To Make Calls More Productive

September 28th, 2009 by Bob Longmire Leave a reply »

StudentPhoneCallTalk to an admissions counselor about some of their phone calls to prospective students and you might see some eyeballs rolling back into heads. Talk to some prospective students about some of the phone calls they get from admissions counselors and you might see some eyeballs rolling back into heads. Sound like a disconnect between students and counselors when talking by phone? You bet. It happens all the time. There is a fix, though – something that can make the conversation richer and more helpful for both the student and counselor.

The key lies in an interruption of the pattern that is commonly practiced by counselors and expected by students.

A little foundation: in a recent co-sponsored study we conducted for participating colleges about communicating with prospective students we asked students to tell us which methods they find most and least helpful in how colleges communicate with them. That survey question, by the way, was open-ended to elicit the qualitative insight that proves so valuable.

So, what did we find?

We recorded a large number of students who said telephone calls from admissions counselors were among the “most helpful” methods that colleges use to communicate with them. We recorded an equal number who said it was among the “least helpful” methods. What gives? You could speculate that there are simply some students who prefer phone calls and others who don’t. A review of the qualitative data suggests something different.

Here is a sampling of responses from students who say phone calls are among the LEAST helpful methods:

“I can’t remember everything they tell me.”
“It gets overwhelming.”
“I can’t comprehend everything they say about their college.”
“Unless I ask for more information, the call gets really boring.”

Here is a sampling of responses from students who say phone calls are among the MOST helpful methods:

“I like telephone calls b/c you can ask questions.”
“I can get out what I need and ask questions.”
“Phone calls allow me to ask my own questions and make the experience more personalized.”
“Personal calls because you can ask questions.”

You can see the difference. For the bad calls, the information flow is clearly college-to-student. So many admissions counselors have been conditioned – whether through explicit training or by some self-perception – that they should communicate ALL of the features and benefits of the institution. For the good calls, on the other hand, the flow is clearly student-to-college. Students ask questions. And they ask questions. And they ask more questions. Asking questions means they are intellectually and emotionally involved in the conversation. That level of involvement gives you a great chance of building a bond that will yield enrollment.

When Longmire and Company visits campuses to conduct Interactive Training Workshops for counselors, we focus on the tools and techniques that counselors must use to put students in a frame of mind to open up and ask questions. This includes proper use of close-end and open-end questioning, as well as asking open-minded questions that spark dialogue from otherwise non-verbal prospects.

I can guarantee one thing. A prospective student will engage, comprehend and remember any conversation that hits them at an emotional level. That’s the goal. Every conversation should be measured on that basis.

Copyright Longmire and Company, Inc.