Would You Spy on Your Admissions Staff?

When I was a young boy I was in Cub Scouts, the precursor to Boy Scouts. One session we made homemade periscopes, manufactured from cardboard boxes and a couple small rectangular mirrors. The periscopes were painted inside and out in flat black paint. I was now in possession of a three foot long instrument of stealth. A flat black spying machine just like the sub commanders used in the movie Das Boot.

What’s an eight year old Cub Scout to do?…use the darn thing, of course.

After finishing our periscopes at the Cub Scout meeting, Brett Forster, Brian Ticehurst and I were itching to test our prowess as newly minted Cub Scout Spies. It was dark on the way home and we happened upon a lit window belonging to a house which belonged to a woman named Miss Anderson, the local matron librarian.

Brett, Brian and I looked at one another half in horror, half in unbridled excitement as the thought of spying on Miss A washed into our collective consciousness.. We found an opportunity to use our periscopes! Yet we knew at some level, spying on someones room (bedroom as it turns out) was just plain wrong….yet…the window beckoned, like Medusa, like a Car Crash, we knew we just had to look.

So we did….

The good news, the periscopes were effective.  The bad news Miss Anderson could best be described from an eight year olds eyes as one of the Scary Clowns that make young kids cry at parades. She had this big hair net thing on and white scary cold cream on her bloated face. She was draped in a very short clothing thing with leopard spots, big fluffy slippers supporting hairy, fleshy legs. She was twirling around to what I’d realized many years later was Led Zeppelin, making her second chin wiggle around like a St Bernard.

Again, like a car accident or your favorite episode of Gilligan’s Island, we were transfixed and had to watch.

Of course, looking at this situation through her eyes, one might see a different perspective. She was getting jiggy with Robert Plant and Stairway to Heaven and then in a moment of jagged interruption, fixated on three little black squares, unevenly bobbing and weaving at the base of her window. I guess her realization that she was being viewed by three unknown assailants caused her to scream (think Fire Engine).
Bad luck for me…her next door neighbor Mr. Bereshinsky responded to the wail. Coming to Miss A’s defense, he slammed me into the turf, trying out his best Hulk Hogan full Nelson.

Needless to say, the next 24 hours (and few weeks) were full of discomfort and sadness for me. The Cub Scout Leader, took spiteful joy in letting my Mom know I was the only kid ever suspended from the Wolf Pack Burnaby Cub Scout Troop. Ouch.

A Cautionary Tale Regarding Mystery Shopping
This cautionary tale has been shared to warn those in Admissions Management, Mystery Shopping is spying, it sucks, but you have to do it, you have to look.  If you don’t spy on your admissions staff,  you won’t know their weaknesses and you will be losing money. On balance when it comes to mystery shopping, spying pays.

Let me explain…

What is a Mystery Shop?
Professional shoppers contact a school by phone, in person, via internet portals and your website, pretending to be students. The shoppers observe the sales process and analyze the results. Results are posted on a ‘best practices survey’ so you can compare how your reps did compared to the best practices you are striving for. In holding Admissions Reps accountable, one can improve through trial and error the performance of your team, translating to a quick lift in revenue…

Measure everything that Moves
A core tenet in business centers around a term called key performance indicators or KPI’s. Within all business activity KPI’s give a clue to management on the overall health of a business sector. Example for admissions, KPI’s would include how quickly reps respond to an internet lead, does a rep invite the prospective student for a tour of the school or formal presentation. A poor KPI in either of these two areas, can give clues toward under achieving revenue performance and an opportunity to quickly make course corrections, thus maximizing performance.

The Last Accountable Frontier – Sales Management
Based on the hundreds of Mystery Shops we’ve conducted in recent past, we know a couple of things. Best practices for a rep contacting an internet lead should be within a few minutes. Our mystery shops tell us the average is in fact 1.5 business days with 40% of reps not contacting our mystery shopper ‘at all’. How many millions of dollars are being left on the table?

We also know if a rep gets together with a new prospect on the phone he or she should ask a prospect to come in for an interview/tour 100% of the time. Why then based on our Mystery Shops 42% do not? If you have 100 people phoning your school in a month, that’s the equivalent of flushing 42 leads down the toilet.

Manage Processes not People
Admissions reps don’t like being shopped because they don’t like being called out, being held to account. Can you blame them? The key to making this mystery shop process a positive exercise is to use the insights gained to manage the admissions processes, not the people. Start by working with the group on improving the KPI’s, not the individual. (Unless you have a culture where it is safe )

Create a Brain Trust of Innovation with the Mystery Shop
The bi-product from the insights gained from a mystery shop is the shared innovation your rep team can bring together. When focusing on KPI’s you do not have to be an Admissions wizard, you just have to focus on the few good habits that stack success in ones favor.

Bi-product Increase Revenues by up to 20%
What if you can get reps to simply ‘ask’ prospects to come for a tour 85% of the time instead of the 62% average? That’s a big lift in revenue if the conversion rates hold…

Mystery Shops are an excellent management tool to help reps improve conversion rates. Finally, a tool to hold reps to account in terms of their discipline and work habits. Spying with integrity equals Mystery Shopping…

Gregg Meiklejohn is president of Enrollment Resources Inc. A performance improvement company, specializing in Education Marketing. For more information on Mystery Shopping call 250-391-9494.