Campus Visit Talk: Jennifer McLendon and University of North Texas

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Each month the Experience Team from TargetX will share with you a Campus Visit Tip or Trend and Talk. All of the “three T’s” are designed to give you a bit of insight into the work we do, the people we work with and the places we pull our inspiration from. Here is this month’s “Talk”.

This month’s featured Talk is with:
Jennifer McLendon
Visitor Experience Manager
University of North Texas, Campus Visit Client since 2008

Q: How did you work to create change within your campus visit?

I’ve been the Visitor Experience Manager for my alma mater, the University of North Texas, for over 11 years now. During that time the number of campus guests has more than doubled to roughly 20,000 visitors each year and I have grown our campus visit team from 13 Eagle Ambassadors to 22. One thing that makes our campus visit a success is that I am constantly looking for ways to mix things up. This is where TargetX comes in.

I first heard of Jeff Kallay, VP of Consulting,  when I attended a webinar back in 2007. He had out-of-the-box ideas and forward thinking that I was immediately drawn to. I knew we needed to get him on campus. It took a little bit of convincing because there was nothing blatantly “wrong” with our existing campus visit, but I knew we could make things better. We were finally able to bring Jeff to campus for a Campus Visit Audit in 2008 and that’s when the real changes began.

Initially our tour guide to visitor ratio was 1:30. This made it impossible for Eagle Ambassadors to really connect to prospective students even though our goal was to provide a personal experience. Jeff was brutally honest with us and made it clear, we had to make a choice — either “go Disney” with the visit or accept that we would be leading a Texas sized cattle heard through campus every day. We chose to “go Disney”.

After his audit we added electric trams to our campus visits in order to show off the perimeter of our 900 acre campus and keep the walking portion of the tour to the heart of campus. While our tours are still about two hours long, guests are able to see more of campus than ever before, and the size of the tram helps us limit the tour to a maximum of 12.

Another change we created was a shift away from Saturday visits. While we still offer tours Monday-Saturday 51 weeks a year, we cut back on the number of tours offered on Saturdays and added evening tours on Thursdays and Fridays instead. The yield rates for Saturday guests are lower than for those students who want to attend your school badly enough to take a day off from school (and parents off of work) to visit during the week.

Q: What outcomes have those changes generated?

We have happier guests and happier Eagle Ambassadors. While we are still not “Disney” enough by my standards, we are making tremendous strides in delivering an authentic, customized UNT experience to each of our guests.

The electric trams are a huge hit and eliminate our number one complaint, “Too much walking”. They also allow prospective students to leave their mark by signing the roof of the tram at the end of the tour. The smaller tour groups enable our Eagle Ambassadors to really focus on the 3-4 prospective students on their tour and customize each section of the tour to meet the needs of those students.

Our evening tours have been well received too, especially the tours that end at our Friday night pep rallies on game weekends. In addition, morale is higher among the Eagle Ambassadors because everyone would much rather stay a little later on a week night than come into work on a Saturday.

While the changes inspired by Jeff have improved our campus visit, there is still work to be done. We had Jeff and Emily Welsh, Director of Client Experience, visit our campus again this fall and we are looking forward to creating even more changes in the near future!

Q: Tell us a story about an experience outside of higher education that you loved or that continues to inspire you.

I have to say that an experience I had at Disneyland (shocking, I know) really opened my eyes to what we should be doing for each of our guests. On a visit to Disneyland with my three year old daughter we spent the majority of our time in the Fantasyland section of the park. To our dismay, the Snow White ride was closed.

Now, I’m sure you’ve all had some part of your campus closed for various reasons and you’ve had to explain that to your guests. What impressed me about this experience was how Disneyland decided to address the ride closure. They could have just posted a sign with the information, but that’s not the Disney way. Instead, there was a friendly gentleman in full Fantasyland costume standing at the entrance of the ride explaining over and over to everyone who approached why the ride was closed, when it would reopen and apologizing for the inconvenience on behalf of the park. But it didn’t stop there. He was also handing out Disneyland buttons to all the children who approached. We left with a souvenir and a happy little princess.

In our work with guests, it is more convenient to take the easy way out and just “post a sign”. But this Disney experience really made me stop and think about how we deal with inconveniences and still make our guests feel welcomed and valued.

 

TargetX Campus Visit Consultants have worked with hundreds of colleges and universities to make their campus visits memorable, authentic, and effective. They blog regularly about their experiences within the campus visit and the greater business community.

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