• September 22, 2010
  • By Juan Martinez, Editorial Assistant, CRM magazine

Learning a Valuable Lesson

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Even an education services provider sometimes needs to wise up. That’s what Becker Professional Education (BPE) did in 2006, when the Illinois-based company decided to document and improve its service processes. 

A division of nationwide educational firm DeVry since 1996, BPE caters to professionals in accounting, finance, and project management, offering review courses for the certified public accountant and chartered financial analyst exams. More than 400,000 people have turned to BPE for exam review and continuing professional education since the company’s founding in 1957, but Peter Serrate, BPE’s vice president of central services, says that, when he arrived in 2005, Becker needed a little schooling of its own. 

“We had a pretty poor customer service environment, to say the least,” Serrate recalls. “We weren’t very highly regarded. We needed a way to hold people accountable and to [improve] any particular service [we offered] to the student.” In fact, BPE had no real service tool at all: Representatives were using regular email, which meant the company couldn’t track what they were doing. Emails went unanswered. More than half of the customer service tickets were taking longer than 24 hours to resolve. 

Fortunately, Serrate had someone to crib notes off of. A sister division of BPE’s, DeVry Online University, had recently implemented a case management tool from RightNow Technologies, and Serrate eagerly followed suit. “We wanted a way of tracking service requests and we wanted to hold our student service reps accountable by measuring their turnaround time,” he explains. “Before RightNow, there was no way of tracking any of that.” 

Flash-forward to the present day: BPE has improved its same-day ticket response rate to approximately 97 percent. Also, the three-to-one ratio of service incidents to completed registrations has been drastically reduced: Today, it’s dropped to a one-to-one ratio. 

By 2009, the success in service inspired Serrate to expand the reach of CRM to sales and marketing. Up until then, he says, “when we took care of a student we couldn’t track what was happening with that student…. We also never tracked who [the student] called on, what the opportunity was, what the potential pipeline opportunity was. We had none of that because it was all done on spreadsheets.”

When a salesperson conducts a workshop at a university or financial institution, the resulting leads might call into BPE’s contact center, but the salesperson (and her supervisors) would have had little idea how many workshop students actually became sales. Now, BPE’s sales force is accountable. The company also has new metrics at its disposal: the ability to track a sales rep’s number of customer visits, cold calls, added contacts, workshops, and seminars. 

Another benefit: a shorter orientation period for new sales reps. Previously, when a salesperson left, his replacement would have a long ramp-up time—starting from scratch, with no lead information at his fingertips. Now, the information from the previous sales rep’s territory is already in the tool and can be used to help new reps immediately contact individuals and follow up on pre-existing accounts and opportunities. “That didn’t exist before,” Serrate says, “because in many cases that spreadsheet would leave with the salesperson.” 

Serrate calls the addition of a marketing tool a no-brainer. Prior to having RightNow in place, Becker’s campaigns were handled by a third-party marketing company. BPE would funnel all its leads on a spreadsheet to the marketing company, which then sent out email blasts and other marketing materials. Armed with RightNow’s capabilities, Serrate says, bringing the marketing tasks in-house made perfect sense, enabling BPE to have “cradle-to-grave information about that student within one database.” As a result, BPE will save more than $200,000 annually. 

Becker can also use its marketing database to email students and follow up on future opportunities. “We used to do a lot of paper mailing,” Serrate says. “RightNow has helped us to reduce that to the point where it’s negligible. Most if not all of our marketing campaigns are via email. That has contributed significant savings.” 

As if the internal improvements in case management, sales, and marketing weren’t justification enough, BPE’s decision to implement RightNow is also getting credit for one very visible customer-facing stat: a huge spike in the company’s Net Promoter score, a popular industry stat that reflects the portion of a company’s customer base that says it’s willing to recommend that company to other people. The first time BPE polled its clients, using the RightNow marketing solution’s survey tool, the resulting score was around 30. Since then, the score has risen to 46.

Serrate says BPE still has room for improvement, and that it continues to educate and prepare itself for future tests. Just like its customers. 


With RightNow Technologies’ marketing and sales tools, Becker Professional Education has:

  • eliminated third-party marketing—a $200,000 annual expense;
  • improved its Net Promoter score by 16 points, from 30 to 46;
  • achieved a compound annual growth rate of between 20 percent and 25 percent;
  • eliminated paper mailing, reducing costs by 50 percent in 2009–2010, compared to the previous year; and
  • eliminated silos between its service, sales, and marketing teams.

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