6 Questions Colleges Need To Ask When Hiring An Answering Service

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We’re heading into that time of year when admissions paperwork is flying and phones are ringing non-stop at colleges and universities. It can be a stressful time for both administrative staff and students, which is why clear communication is so important. To manage the increased workload, more and more colleges and universities are turning to live answering services. In fact, one college partnered with us after they realized students were being put on hold for an average of 45 minutes!

If you work in higher education and are considering partnering with an answering service, be aware that not all call centers are staffed to handle a surge in call volume. And not all call centers properly train their representatives to handle sensitive issues related to college students and staff. In order to find the best answering service for your school, be sure to ask these six questions:

  1. Are the call representatives trained to understand Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)? You may be surprised how many call centers don’t know what FERPA is, so make sure this is the first question you ask. This is critical to protect your students’ confidentiality and your school’s liability. Also, ask how often the representatives are trained on FERPA regulations. 
  2. Are callers greeted by voicemail, or by a live agent? One of the main reasons colleges have such long hold times is because they have an automated greeting system that’s too complex or isn’t set up correctly. When students or parents call, they should either be greeted quickly by a live person, or be prompted by a clear and limited menu of options that address which issue or department they are calling about. This will ensure that the caller is directed to the right department so that their calls can be answered faster. 
  3. What level of technology does the answering service have? This should include asking about how many lines the answering service has and if they have enough staff to manage overflow call volume during peak times. Ask what their disaster recovery and contingency plans are, and if they are backed up by multiple networks. 
  4. How will they interface with student records? Operators will answer calls with the name of your college and act as an extension of your administrative staff, so students usually aren’t even aware they’re not speaking to someone off-campus. Operators should be able to remotely access your college’s system in order to view student records to inform a student about what needs to be completed for admissions or graduation. 
  5. Can they cover other administrative tasks? Is the answering serviceable to schedule college campus visits for prospective students or schedule review meetings for current students and professors? Ask what they are able to assist your staff with aside from answering calls. 
  6. Do they offer express messaging? An automated mass notification system known as express messaging can be incredibly useful for sending students and staff everything from emergency alerts to non-urgent reminders about events or deadlines. With just one message and one click, administrators reach students instantly through text, email, or automated calls to keep them safe, informed, and connected.

Day or night, outsourcing a college’s administrative calls ensures that prospective and current students and their families are attended to promptly and professionally, 24/7. This frees up the staff’s time and attention to manage applications, student records, and attend to walk-in visitors.

How calls are managed reflects on the reputation of a school. The professional agents at Voice Link of Columbus, Inc. have been rigorously trained on FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations and can provide live answering services that exceed your expectations. Request information online or call us at (800) 262-2799 for a free consultation.