Charles Sturt University (CSU) is preparing for the final leg of its customer relationship management (CRM) upgrade covering marketing and student recruitment.

The university has been implementing Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement as its core CRM in a phased approach over the last 18 months in partnership with KPMG.

“One of our short-term objectives is to build more of a 360-degree view of our students, whether they are a student studying by distance or an on-campus student,” CSU project director Phil Roy said.

A holistic approach to student engagement wasn’t available on the university’s legacy CRM solution and was complicated by the huge geographic spread of 10 campuses across regional NSW and significant cohort of online-only students.

“We’re very diverse in terms of our geography as well as our modes of study.

“We’re naturally a deliverer of online education so we’ve been doing online education for a long time now, and that’s part of our DNA, part of our nature.”

Roy said the gradual introduction of Dynamics 365 over the past 18 months has helped improve the way the university engages with students and made it easier for students to seek support with their studies.

“At the moment, the work that we’ve done supports campaigning and communications around admissions, and the engagement of students, then through to things like orientation when a student comes to the university.

“It makes it more efficient for us to provide that support for students and hence improve their experience that they’re getting from the university,” he said.

The elements that were already in place when the COVID-19 pandemic forced universities around the country to temporarily close campuses helped students get instant advice about how their courses or timetables might be affected.

Roy said this will be further complemented by the “next and final phase” of student recruitment, completing the marketing and engagement upgrades.

The main CRM project has been complemented by working with KPMG to develop a series of Power Apps to better show information that can be used to help students.

“One Power App for example, displays financial information; another displays a students on campus residential status,” he said.

“We can look at their history as a student, what mode of study they’re in, of course the program that they’re studying, whether they live up on campus or not. All those things, staff would have to look up different systems to find in the past.”

Data from these Power Apps has been added to Dynamics 365 dashboards used by staff to produce better quality advice when students seek help, however, future iterations could be automated through the use of artificial intelligence-powered chatbots, Roy added.

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