Victoria University of Wellington is one of seven public universities in New Zealand. Based in Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island, the university has four campuses in that nation, and one in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses across eight faculties, including law, architecture and design, science, engineering, education, arts and humanities, business and commerce, and graduate research. The university has 21,000 students—18,000 local students and 3,000 international students from 10 countries.
Victoria University of Wellington wanted to grow its international student population, specifically for postgraduate courses. To achieve this goal, the university needed to efficiently manage hundreds of inquiries from potential and international students. It implemented a suite of Oracle RightNow products to establish a single, cloud-based student management system to improve the speed and quality of responses to student inquiries, and better plan and execute new marketing strategies to recruit more international students.
The university can now respond to 560 student inquiries per week, each within one to two days, compared to four to six days previously. It has also reduced the number of inquiries it has to respond to by 25%, by establishing knowledge pages to provide students with searchable information online. More targeted recruitment campaigns have enabled the university to increase the international student conversion rate by 32%—from 37% in 2005, to 49% in 2011.
A large proportion of Victoria University of Wellington’s international student population was sourced from local high schools. However, numbers of locally-sourced international students dropped, the university launched a new enrollment strategy to directly recruit students from overseas markets.
To support the strategy, the university needed to update its international student office systems and processes to meet an expected increase in the number of inquiries. It also needed to introduce new communication platforms to better engage prospective students and manage the complete student life cycle. In 2005, it implemented Oracle RightNow App Builder Custom Objects Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow CX Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow Dynamic Agent Desktop Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow Knowledge Foundation Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow Web Self Service Cloud Service, and Oracle RightNow Outreach Cloud Service, to build a cloud-based student management system, and enable the rollout of new recruitment initiatives.
“The Oracle RightNow cloud-based solution allows performing day-to-day office tasks more efficiently by eliminating manually intensive paper processes,” said Charles Brooks, emarketing coordinator, Victoria University of Wellington. “We have been able to reinvest the administration savings in new recruitment projects to grow our international student numbers.”
The university’s conversation with overseas prospective students typically begins electronically, since because of phone costs or time-zone differences. Prospective students can look for information in the university’s Oracle RightNow-powered self-service knowledge base, which contains details on courses, university regulations, and fees and financing.
These pages provide students with much of the general information they need, reducing the number of student inquiries the university has to respond to by 25%. This means staff can dedicate more time to providing tailored responses to specific inquiries.
The Oracle RightNow student management system enables staff to monitor and manage 100 inquiries per day, which are received in person or via e-mail through a centralized platform. By automating manually intensive paper tasks, such as processing paper-based forms, mailing international prospectuses and offer packs, and filing and record sharing, staff can now respond to 560 inquiries per week, across 20 general subject areas, without the need for a dedicated contact team to respond to course-specific questions. These inquiries are responded to within one to two days, compared to four to six days previously.
As a result, the university’s international student office has maintained a steady international student headcount since 2005, despite a rise in the number of global education suppliers. It has also reduced the number of temporary staff hired during peak recruitment periods.
When searching for information, prospects can opt-in to the Victoria University of Wellington’s e-mail program, which is also powered by Oracle RightNow’s opportunity-tracking, sales functionality. Once a prospect is entered into the Oracle RightNow database, every interaction with that prospect is tracked. Over time, the university learns more about the prospect and can monitor where he or she is at in the decision-making process.
This allows the university to deliver highly targeted information to each and every prospect as appropriate, given the prospect’s interests and attributes. For example, a prospective undergraduate engineering student from India, making an initial inquiry receives very different information than a prospective postgraduate business student from Denmark, who has to make a final decision within two weeks.
Oracle RightNow also gives Victoria University of Wellington complete flexibility to mix-and-match content to create highly individualized messages that touch on each prospect’s likely concerns. A message may combine information about curriculum, housing, and financial aid if the Oracle RightNow database indicates that those issues could impact the prospect’s decision.
In addition, Oracle RightNow enables the university to trigger messages, based on any number of conditions. It can broadcast a message to all prospective law students simultaneously or send customized reminders to students whose applications are late submitting specific information about their chosen program of study.
Victoria University of Wellington can now generate as many as 34,000 customized marketing e-mails per year to up to 10,000 prospective students in more than110 countries, including the US, Malaysia, and China.
“Using the Oracle RightNow system’s e-mail customization feature, we can create and send targeted e-mails to a particular market or age group according to region, category, or topic, such as for housing availability, student life, and post-graduation work opportunities,” said Brooks. “We achieved a 50% e-mail open rate and 15% click-through rate on customized e-mails.”
The university has also halved its overall bulk e-mail activity, concentrating effort instead on interactive and digital communication, such as online tools and social media, to better engage with potential students.
“By being able to customize the type of e-mails we send, we have reduced the amount of bulk e-mail, which often goes unread,” said Brooks. “We can now see what types of e-mails are being read by person and region.
“Our biggest objective in e-marketing isn’t to send out a lot of messages,” he said. “It’s to send out the best possible message at the best possible time to everyone who is considering coming here. With Oracle RightNow, our only limitation to achieving this objective is in how wisely we can define rules and content for our messages. The system can do anything we want it to do.”
Using the Oracle RightNow system to develop more targeted recruitment campaigns has enabled Victoria University of Wellington to achieve its objective of attracting more students from overseas.
“By diversifying our markets and refining our recruitment strategies, we’ve increased the international student conversion rate by 32%—from 37% in 2005 to 49% in 2011,” said Brooks.”
The Oracle RightNow platform has enabled the university to execute new marketing strategies using social communication tools and to tailor its recruitment campaigns to suit specific markets.
“We attend overseas university and career fairs to talk about the courses and opportunities our university offers,” said Brooks. “However, they are costly and require a lot of time away from the office. With the new system, we’ve automated a lot of our marketing processes and developed new communication tools, such as our online degree planner, to drive our recruitment marketing without physically being in a particular country.
“The Oracle RightNow system represents a significant investment for the university, but the benefits it has delivered are unparalleled,” said Brooks. “We have reduced staffing, the need for outsourced marketing, and international mail costs.
“More importantly, we were able to implement significant innovations—such as mixing and matching content to create highly individualized messages to prospective students—without growing our operational budgets,” he said.
Victoria University of Wellington considered a number of solutions, including Salesforce.com, but it decided on Oracle RightNow, as it provides a flexible, cloud-based solution, suitable for the education market.
“Oracle was the right choice, as it allows us to grow and customize our student management system to meet our changing needs,” said Brooks. “We are close to achieving our international recruitment goals and are providing quality service to current and prospective international students—and Oracle has helped us to do this.”
Victoria University of Wellington engaged Oracle Partner Datam (now the CX Applications and Consulting business within New Zealand Post) to implement the Oracle RightNow platform. Over a three-year period, starting at the end of 2004, the two organizations implemented Oracle RightNow App Builder Custom Objects Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow CX Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow Dynamic Agent Desktop Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow Knowledge Foundation Cloud Service, Oracle RightNow Web Self Service Cloud Service, and Oracle RightNow Outreach Cloud Service.
Oracle RightNow CX Cloud Service was the first to be implemented and went live at the beginning of 2005. In the same year the university launched Oracle RightNow Outreach Cloud Service and Oracle RightNow Knowledge Foundation Cloud Service to support the marketing function. In 2007, it leveraged RightNow’s opportunity tracking sales functionality to manage international admissions, and most recently implemented Oracle RightNow App Builder Custom Objects Cloud Service to customize customer services and processes.
All projects to date have been delivered on time and to budget.
Datam provided Victoria University of Wellington with implementation support, consultation, and training. The university has partnered with Datam New Zealand since 2005.
“Datam provided us with the expertise and support we needed to develop a flexible student management system,” said Brooks. “It is experienced in implementing large-scale, cloud-based projects, and is an essential business partner.”