University of Melbourne

Salesforce helps us understand where each person is at in their journey with us and to provide them with digital communications that are aligned to their interests and what they want from the university.”

Brendan Cooling | Director of Digital Strategy and Channels

University of Melbourne digitises student life and uplifts engagement

The University of Melbourne is ranked as the top university in Australia and number 31 in the world1. The depth and breadth of the university’s curriculum and its groundbreaking research are part of what helps to set it apart and equip graduates to become well-rounded and skilled professionals.

As part of its vision, the University of Melbourne aims to contribute to society through the transformative impact of education and research and this is supported by its ten year strategy. This strategy, “Advancing Melbourne”, is focused on five key themes: place, community, education, discovery, and global. The  university’s digital transformation with Salesforce supports innovation in several of these areas and underpins a more personalised experience for students, teachers, and alumni.

“OneCRM” breaks down silos

As with most universities of its size, the University of Melbourne has a number of different departments and faculties and, before Salesforce, its data was siloed in several CRMs. It was difficult to track each stakeholders’ journey and even more difficult to provide them with a unified experience. The university launched its OneCRM project to solve these issues and consolidate its data onto one CRM.

“A common challenge for organisations and in particular universities, is the many relationships we have with our stakeholders,” said Brendan Cooling, Director of Digital Strategy and Channels at University of Melbourne. “We have staff and students who are involved in teaching and learning as well as research;  our extended global Alumni Network many of whom return to study; and other examples where we’re interacting with individuals— internal and external to our organisation—at multiple levels.

“Salesforce helps us understand where each person is at in their journey with us and to provide them with digital communications that are aligned to their interests and what they want from the university,” said Cooling.

Open days go digital

One of the first areas Salesforce has been deployed is across the university’s teaching and learning domain where COVID-19 and associated restrictions created an urgent need for digital transformation. For example, with current and prospective students unable to gather on campus, the university needed to rethink its engagement strategies and provide them with new ways to connect.

One particular area of concern for the university was how to manage its annual open days which provide potential students with a glimpse of what life is like as a student on campus. Knowing that an in-person event was not an option for 2020, the university decided to host digital open days using Experience Cloud.

The planning and design of the event took just eight weeks and included integration between Salesforce, Zoom, Squiz, and the university’s event booking system to provide a seamless experience for participants from end-to-end. The digital open days included more than 300 on-demand videos as well as a virtual tour of all seven campuses to help students get a feel for the campus and to learn more about their study options and life as a student at the university.

The University of Melbourne used Marketing Cloud to promote the event through email as well as digital advertising and, for the first time, it was able to get detailed analytics on campaign performance relating to event attendance and engagement. This was in addition to traditional web analytics. 

The University of Melbourne was also able to tailor communication to prospective students and help give them more confidence in their decision to apply. Approximately 15,000 students participated on the day and in the weeks following. Now, the university will be able to measure how many of these apply for admission, allowing it to fully measure the impact and effectiveness of marketing.

Another key benefit of the digital open days was the ability to reach those who do not or cannot  normally attend the annual event in person—either due to location or a dislike or anxiety about such events. The post-event survey results also revealed that many enjoyed the digital format. Undergraduate NPS for the event increased 10 per cent year-on-year with participants viewing the events as catering well to their core needs for course and career outcome information. There was also a slight increase amongst those who said the event helped them to determine the university was the right place for them.

“Part of our appeal is our beautiful campus in one of the world’s most livable cities and through our digital open days we were able to showcase that to students everywhere and provide a more inclusive experience,” said Belinda Day, Teaching and Learning Domain Lead, OneCRM Program at the University of Melbourne.

A new sense of place

To support current students, the University of Melbourne has launched the my.uniLife app. The app was built and published to the Apple App Store and Google Play using Experience Cloud and Mobile Publisher, and includes features like assigned chat groups to help create a sense of place and belonging. It also guides students through the onboarding process with personalised onboarding checklists and information.

The app was rolled out at the beginning of 2020 to around 10,000 new students and has been valuable in helping them form connections despite being physically separated from peers. For example, the app enables students to connect to a mentor and small group of peers as part of the university’s Melbourne Peer Mentor Program.

The app also lets students connect to an academic mentor who is there to help them navigate the university experience. There has been active usage of the app to date and it will be extended to approximately 9,000 more students in 2021.

“While it’s hoped most will return to campus post COVID-19, we’ve used this time to accelerate our transformation and are seeing the benefits of digital in augmenting the physical experience of our students,” said Cooling.

Personalised engagement for all

The University of Melbourne is building on these benefits and using Salesforce to transform how it engages with all stakeholders, including prospective students and alumni. It is establishing a new communications preference and account centre with Marketing Cloud which will ultimately allow stakeholders to manage their communications on a more granular level. This will provide stakeholders with more control over the messages they receive in terms of areas of interest and channels of communication. Ultimately, this will mean communications to the university’s constituents are more relevant and more useful.

The university is now in the early stages of building and automating communication journeys, including an onboarding journey for new undergraduate students. Creating these journeys is an ambitious task given the number of different departments and channels each individual may interact with, but the university is seeing some efficiencies already.

According to Day, Salesforce has also allowed the university to harmonise communication and ensure consistency of emails and other messages sent out. “We’re now able to apply best practice in terms of design and delivery of communication so that everything we send out looks good on any device. We also have more accurate reporting to understand enagemement and measure ROI.”

Another area where the university is seeing the benefits of Salesforce is in the research and enterprise domain where it has rolled out Sales Cloud and Salesforce integration with Microsoft® Outlook®. This has helped to streamline communication with research partners and provide management with a central view of partners and their interactions with the university.

Salesforce will be rolled out to additional student support teams in 2021 and alumni management will go live late this year which will allow for more targeted engagement with this important group and complete the end-to-end view of a student's life cycle.

The OneCRM project is a significant transformation operationally and culturally, and Day said that it has driven the need for internal realignment. 

“We’ve really had to step out of our silos to focus on our stakeholders and work together to provide them with what they want, when they want it. Having a 360 degree view of our stakeholders supports that alignment and is helping us transform from the outside in,” said Day.

 Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021

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