Stefan Stinean, Founder, inteleagent.io
International student recruitment challenges can make it difficult for you as an education agent to find students. But once you find them, you definitely don’t want to lose them. Learning about international student retention challenges and how to address them can attract more international students to your education agency, help you keep them, and ultimately increase commission revenue.
Education agents have exciting careers, but with that excitement comes challenges. Imagine the effort you put in to your international student recruitment strategy, and finally getting a student that wants you to help him with his application for a course at one of your partner education providers. You’re half-way through the enrollment process, and your student decides to appoint another education agency to assist him through the process. You are left with your eyes in the sun asking yourself… whyyyy?! You not only lost the student, but without the student, there’s no commission, and if you haven’t charged for your consultancy services so far, there’s no revenue.
Student retention – 4 tips for education agents
The problem you have is called a “student retention problem” and the first step in addressing it is acknowledging it. This problem can happen at either your side of the process, or on your client education institution’s side. Here are 4 common reasons you lose your students to other education agencies and practical strategies you can implement straight away to address them.
1. Your education agency has a poor on-boarding process
Imagine the student comes to you and asks you what are the steps you’ll follow in order to get him from point A where he is right now, to point Z where he starts his course, and you have no idea what to say. Worse, you start mumbling something so it gives him the impression you know what you are talking about, but you actually have no idea. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. If you don’t have a plan to get the student from start to finish, you have a poor “on-boarding process” for your student.
Solution: Implement an on-boarding process for your education agency. This means you wont be winging it when a student drops in to your office, rather you will have a proper plan to move your student and his application through a pipeline you designed.
You should have an off-boarding plan as well. This means, once the student is outside your pipeline, you are still able to keep in touch with him and potentially get more business from him.
This example of an on-boarding / off-boarding process looks like a pipeline that your student applications go through from start to finish. You can take this process and implement it in an application management software (CRM) specifically designed for education agents. If your current CRM doesn’t offer a pipeline view of your applications journey, try Inteleagent. With Inteleagent you can customize the pipeline your applications travel through and implement tasks that need to be ticked off at every stage, before the application moves forward.
2. Your education agency’s service offer is poor
International students are internet savvy. If you were able to attract a student you are most likely not the only education agency offer he researched. Say you are an education agency that offers consultancy services that assist students to enroll in a course and apply for a student visa. Imagine there’s a student looking at your agency’s offer, and considering another education agency that offers what you offer, plus:
- student health insurance
- accommodation location
- CV building assistance
- bank account opening assistance
- tax file number application assistance
- local SIM cards
Who do you think the student will choose out of your education agency’s offer and your competitor’s offer? ….. Yes, you are correct!
Solution: Make sure you develop your education agency by offering additional services apart from your core offering. This will attract international students and you can use the additional services to keep in touch with the student through his overseas study journey.
Get in touch with local businesses that offer accommodation services, health insurance, SIM cards, etc… and sign an agreement with them to resell their services. You will be able to grow your revenue, as well as leverage these services to build a positive relationship with your student. It all helps to improve student retention.
3. Poor alignment between expectations and reality
Say your student goes through your application processing pipeline and starts the program with your education institution partner. At this stage of the journey you don’t have much control over what your student goes through. This means that, at any stage of your student’s studying journey, he can drop off the program, find another agent and start a new program. The result? You lost your commission (or part of the commission) and your revenue is down. What can you do to address this issue?
Solution: The best approach to this one is to screen your potential student the best you can and make sure his expectations are met on the ground. If the student is looking for high level quality education, make sure the education provider you quote aligns with these expectations. The way we do it is through an assessment checklist we have developed with our education agency.
4. Your education agency has a reputation problem
Your reputation is key in dealing with international students. The best marketing strategy in this industry is word-of-mouth. If your agency lacks a strong reputation in the market, you are working from a point of disadvantage. Students will almost always choose an education agency that has been recommended by his friends rather than a random one they found online. But how do you build a reputation especially in the online environment these days?
Solution: Make sure you have a student review system in place and every time you off-board a student, you ask for a review. You can easily do this by sending the student an email asking for a review with your favourite review service. There are plenty out there such as Google Reviews, Facebook Reviews or AgentBee. AgentBee has an education agency membership program that can increase your ratings with students, and show your commitment to professionalism and transparency.
Look for education agency associations you can become a member of. This will increase your profile. Make sure you have an industry certification such as QEAC – Qualified Education Agent Certification, or an ICEF Trained Agent Counsellors (ITAC) certification.
These are some of the practical things you can do to lift your education agency profile and address the international student retention problem.
Another step you can take is to use an application management software in your education agency. This will help you track your applications and make sure none of them fall through cracks. It will also ensure you keep track of your commission invoices and keep your education institution partners accountable.
There are plenty of software examples out there but make sure you use one that is specifically designed for education agencies, such as Inteleagent. Inteleagent has a clean user interface with features that you will actually use in your day-to-day operations. In summary, detecting these risks early in your education agency life can make all the difference between success and failure. Consider them early in your education agency’s journey and mitigate the risk.