Reducing friction for international student recruitment with unified communications

Two weeks ago I explained why Lync and Skype are joined together, and some examples of how it will be useful in education. In a nutshell, it allows you (and your external users) to connect conversations between your own Lync system and consumer Skype users – typically the kind of software students and future students use at home, outside of the institution.

Here’s one simple example of how you can make your student recruitment process friendlier by enabling the connection, and how you can reduce the online friction for your future international students.

Online retailers talk about reducing ‘online friction’ all the time – the myriad small steps that stand in the way between the consumer and the moment they commit to buy online – it could be the unfriendly online store, or their poor search experience, or the need for them to actually speak to somebody before they can order. In student recruitment too, this is pretty important in an environment where there’s plenty of competition between universities/TAFEs for international students, and where the smallest barriers could change your international student revenue by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Using Skype/Lync federation to recruit students

Here’s a typical university recruitment website for international student recruitment. At some point, where the future student has done enough online research, they get to a point where they will want to speak with somebody. And this page is a typical ‘Contact Us’ page today. It basically encourages students to send an email, or phone.

When they click the ‘Phone’ link, it typically gives them a telephone number for an international phone call – so for every international student, it introduces two barriers. Firstly there’s a cost implication for an international phone call (even if the student is using Skype); and secondly there’s a break in their buying journey – they have to leave their laptop and head to a phone.

I don’t think it’s fanciful that a student would be put off a university simply because of a $5 phone call – there are plenty of examples of businesses where small cost barriers, like a delivery charge, have caused large numbers of customers to swap to an alternative supplier even once they are a long way down their buying journey.


As well as being a barrier for the student, the implication for the university could well be that there’s an immediate barrier to connections with students, and a risk to the international student recruitment chain. The student may have to switch devices from computer to phone, creating a break in the recruitment chain. If it is even only 1 in 200 people who give up because of it, that could have an implication of a hundred international students less enrolling further down the line, and loss of millions of dollars of revenue.

How can you improve the recruitment experience for a student using Skype?

Example of a 'Contact Us' page with a Skype Chat buttonWith federation between Lync and Skype, it is possible to change the workflow dramatically, and make it much easier. Simply adding a Skype “Call” button means it’s a single click to launch Skype and connect a free call via Skype to the specified user. And a Skype Call button on the website is either one, or 11, lines of code, so it’s not a major issue for IT to implement, but a massive gain for creating a frictionless experience for student (and staff) communications:

  • For student recruitment, it removes the drop out from forcing them to change device
  • It demonstrate your institution’s open-ness and connectivity
  • Allow the calls to come in through Lync federation, so that it can be connected through to your other systems (eg to redirect calls, move to conference calls, check availability etc)
  • You can integrate it to your other systems, for example your student recruitment CRM, so that you can track your contacts.

Example of a 'Contact Us' page with a Skype Chat buttonGoing one step further, adding a Skype “Chat” button allows you to improve the experience further:

  • Agents can deal with more than one incoming chat at a time
  • The instant messenger chat window can be converted to a call easily
  • All contacts are recorded in your archive, and are searchable
  • The chat can be stored into your CRM record for that student, so that they next time they speak to an advisor, they don’t need to repeat everything from the start
  • Just like the example above, it works the way students already do, rather than forcing them to use your own systems and processes.

Allowing future students to speak to you in their native language

Going a step further, you could use the Lync simultaneous translation system to allow conversations with international students (or for staff working on international projects) where each user chats in their own language – and the system handles the translation – like the example below.

Demonstration of Lync chat translationAnd perhaps in the future, you can have the same translation for voice conversations! The Microsoft Research team have already demonstrated real-time voice translation too, so this could be something implemented further down the line – either voice to text (with translation) or voice to voice. You can see the example of what’s possible demonstrated by Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer in November last year on the Next at Microsoft blog

Learn MoreLearn more about what’s possible with Lync and Skype joined together