Low marks for college call handlers

The quality of training for university employees was called into question this week after undercover researchers found staff failed to respond properly to calls from prospective students.

The researchers – posing as ideal postgraduate students – found half their calls did not even trigger the offer of a prospectus.

The exercise was carried out by recruitment advertising agency the Scott Edgar Group. It primed three researchers to ring the same 100 universities in August asking for information on a business or management style course. They wanted the answer to seven basic questions, such as course content, cost and duration.

Each was presented as a perfect postgraduate student. They had decent degrees, good professional experience and were offering to pay for their course.

But only half the calls resulted in the member of staff offering to send a prospectus to the caller.

One in 13 of the attempts met the response “call back later”. Only a fifth of calls led to an offer of help to research the enquiry and only 7.3 per cent rated a very good verdict on a scale ranging from very good to very poor.

Research manager Tim Rotchell said, “Researchers felt they were talking to temps or even students and weren’t given the web site even though universities are spending a lot of money setting them up.”

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