Clearing - A Tale of Two Cities (part 2 of 2)

5th Nov, 2015
Read time: 3 minutes

By Terry Gray, Account Manager (Education)

For this part of this blog series I'll be looking at the challenges that led another university to engage with us, their requirements and the solution that we arrived at together.

In part 1 we looked at a university that wanted a solution which could be used for Clearing, but also by other departments all year round. For this we deployed a virtualized ContactCentre solution. In this part we shall be discussing something very different…

The real challenge with Clearing for some institutions is how to provide a large scale contact centre solution for only a short period. This university had been wrestling with that particular challenge for some time and had spoken to various suppliers. The requirements were technically challenging, but the commercial challenges were more significant. How to provide a large scale, completely hosted contact centre for the period of Clearing only.

The initial requirements included:

  • A completely hosted solution
  • Capacity for hundreds of call handlers and queuing positions
  • A fully resilient solution
  • No call queuing on-site for first or second line calls
  • Ability to send calls anywhere in case of evacuation
  • Live real-time reporting
  • Provision of the service for Clearing and training only.

The system is activated with limited capacity for testing and training in July, then ramped up to full capacity before Clearing. The system is then left active for a period of time so that all of the comprehensive reporting data can be gathered, before being switched off until next year.

One interesting challenge was how to inform the first line call handlers of the status of the academic queue they need to transfer to. For this we added a simple traffic light to indicate the queue activity in real-time which is yet another example of how the smallest of changes can make a big difference to both the call handler's and student's experience.

The results were impressive.

  • 37% more calls answered
  • 3× agent capacity
  • Agents in control
  • Overall a great student experience
  • 20% more offers out to students
  • 92% fewer abandoned calls
  • ZERO busy tone

The university took more calls by 12pm than they did all day last year and the average time to answer was less than 10 seconds.

So if you're looking at how to improve your customer/student experience for Clearing next year, here are our top tips to consider:
Consider the process - Answering calls quickly is only the first step. How can the process of identifying the student, confirming results and transferring to an academic be improved? Would an overall reporting picture which includes confirmations, finance and accommodation be useful? Try to imagine your ideal Clearing process and share that with us.
Do not compromise - Customers often compromise on their requirements because a supplier will tell them what they want is not possible. If any supplier cannot meet your requirements, find another supplier.
Consider Disaster Recovery - Should the unthinkable happen and your location or technology becomes unusable, you have to be able to move and provide alternative solutions.
Capacity is everything - Additional capacity reduces wait time. It also reduces busy tone, or in some cases removes it altogether. When students are calling multiple institutions at the same time, who answers first can make all the difference.
Data is crucial - Many universities know they have a large number of abandoned calls during Clearing but do not know how many are repeat callers. End-to-end unified reporting can provide a complete picture of demand and help you to identify areas for improvement. Would it be helpful if you had the numbers of prospective students who have already been identified as eligible, but abandoned whilst queuing for an academic?
Time is precious - When thinking about how long you need the service for, consider staff training before Clearing and data gathering afterwards. Also, it is vitally important that you start talking to your suppliers as soon as possible so that you can start to plan Clearing together.

If you would like to discuss your requirements for Clearing 2016 then please fill in your details to the right and we will give you a call.

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