Aspiring Students Express Discontent with University Inquiry Services on Social Media, Global Survey Reveals

Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 05:40 pm

A comprehensive global mystery shopping study, encompassing over 120 higher education institutions, has unveiled disheartening statistics, with only 1 in 5 prospective students reporting a positive experience when inquiring about colleges and universities through social media channels.

Mystery shoppers have uncovered alarming trends, as up to a third of institutions fail to respond to enquiries made via Instagram and Facebook, either leaving students hanging without a response or redirecting them to submit their inquiries through email.

These global findings, unveiled in the Enquiry Experience Tracker 2023 summary report by Edified, underscore the substantial missed enrollment opportunities universities worldwide are currently facing.

Edified’s Enquiry Experience Tracker, an annual research initiative developed in collaboration with student conversion experts UniQuest, employs undercover mystery shoppers who pose as prospective domestic and international students. They initiate inquiries through various channels, evaluating the experience based on factors like responsiveness, relevance, personalisation, and impact.

For the first time in 2023, the study assessed Instagram/Facebook and referral websites as enquiry channels, in addition to the channels examined in previous years, such as email, enquiry forms, live chat, and peer-to-peer tools.

The research covered 128 institutions across the globe, including approximately one-third of all UK universities, over half of Australian and New Zealand universities, and more than a third of higher education providers in Canada’s British Columbia and Ontario provinces.

The results are concerning, revealing that poor enquiry experiences act as a deterrent for prospective students. Approximately 40% of institutions assessed in the study received negative ratings from more than half of the mystery shoppers due to subpar service. Furthermore, when students had a negative experience, a staggering 93% stated they would not further engage with the respective institution.

In terms of global performance, Scottish universities have outshone their competitors, securing the top average score. Responses from Scottish universities were deemed the friendliest and most trustworthy worldwide, with three-quarters of them surpassing the global average score.

The highest-performing institution globally was Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand. Universities in Australia and New Zealand consistently received high ratings from mystery shoppers, with six out of the top 10 scoring institutions hailing from the ANZ region.

In comparison, the UK received an average Enquiry Experience Score just one point above the global average, while Canada fell one point below it.

These results underscore clear areas for improvement for higher education institutions. One in four inquiries go unanswered, half of the responses fail to address all the students’ questions, and only half of institutions globally follow up on leads.

While over 90% of students indicated they trusted the information they received, only four in 10 felt that the replies were warm or approachable. Most institutions struggled in the area of persuasiveness, missing opportunities to effectively market themselves.

Despite these challenges, some institutions have made significant progress. A quarter of institutions improved their ratings from ‘below world average’ to ‘above world average’ in the past year. Fanshawe College in Canada earned recognition as the ‘most improved’ institution globally.

Elissa Newall, Partner at Edified and Project Director of the Enquiry Experience Tracker, commented on the results, emphasising the high expectations of students for prompt and personalised service through their preferred channels. She stressed that ignoring messages on social media or redirecting students to email is no longer acceptable, as institutions have only one chance to make a good first impression.

Rachel Fletcher, co-founder and CEO of UniQuest, highlighted the significance of responsiveness in retaining prospective students and converting them into enrollees. She urged institutions to invest in improving the enquiry experience in the increasingly competitive recruitment landscape.

Fanshawe College in Canada, recognised as the most improved institution, expressed pride in its commitment to delivering exceptional customer service to student enquiries and the importance of benchmarking their services globally through the Enquiry Experience Tracker.

For a complete list of Enquiry Experience Tracker award winners, please visit the provided link. A visual summary of the key findings from 2023 is also available here.

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