VoIP Means Revenue
- By Joseph C. Panettieri
Surprise: Voice over IP can bolster university revenue five ways.
DEPLOYING VOICE OVER IP (VoIP) technology primarily
to save money? You should be turning your attention to
revenue growth. Sure, VoIP can help your university and its
constituencies bypass long-distance toll charges. But
today’s VoIP applications can help your university strengthen
annual giving, student enrollment, tuition payment, and
other services that bolster your bottom line.
VoIP Answers the Call
Education may be behind on the latest telecom trends, but
corporate America has discovered VoIP’s promise. More
than 75 percent of large US businesses have deployed
VoIP somewhere within their networks, according to Heavy
Reading, which tracks technology deployments. By the close of 2006, that figure will climb
to almost 90 percent, the site reports. What’s more, nearly
75 percent of companies that embrace VoIP are
extremely satisfied with it, according to Gartner analysts.
But can VoIP earn high grades on college campuses?
Absolutely. Today, VoIP’s major shortcomings have been
widely addressed. The latest VoIP solutions—from Cisco
Systems, 3Com, and
other major providers—address power, quality of service
(QoS) issues, and reliability concerns. I’m not suggesting
that VoIP is simple to master. But there are now hundreds
of consulting firms—and thousands of certified VoIP integrators—
who stand ready to assist your deployments.
5 Revenue Opportunities
Some institutions, Dartmouth College (NH) for one,
embraced VoIP when their traditional telecom infrastructures
faced end-of-life support issues. Merging voice traffic
onto data networks—and eliminating separate telecom
infrastructures—certainly simplifies overall IT management.
But the business case for VoIP d'esn’t end there. Indeed,
there are at least five very compelling financial reasons to
adopt VoIP within your university.
- VoIP can empower your Office of Admissions. Imagine
that incoming phone calls are linked to your student and
applicant databases. Suddenly, your admissions staff automatically
has applicant information at their fingertips. No
more searching for lost files. No more frustrated callers
placed on hold. Instead, applicants can be impressed with
the timely answers they receive—and perhaps more
inclined to choose your university over a rival institution.
- VoIP can drastically improve your registration and
financial aid services. Here again, incoming phone calls
can automatically access specific student records residing
in a customer relationship management (CRM) application
or relational database. D'es the student
have an outstanding balance?
Have all the proper financial aid forms
been filed? These and other questions
are easily answered when VoIP systems
are tightly integrated with backend
- VoIP is an ideal system for all
dorm rooms. When cell phones flooded
the market, universities saw their
long distance revenues dry up. Now,
VoIP provides a new platform that may
allow you to charge for integrated digital
services. Students in your dorms
can now use VoIP infrastructures to
order movies or music on demand. And
while many students are testing Skype and other free video
services, there are certainly revenue
opportunities for videoconferencing
services over the long haul.
- VoIP will ultimately integrate with your students’ cell phones. By 2007, roughly 31 percent of large businesses
will deploy wireless VoIP handsets, according to
Infonetics Research, and the adoption
rates may be even higher on college campuses. Those
wireless VoIP handsets, in turn, will increasingly include
cell phone capabilities. The impact of such devices could
be incredible: When in a dorm room or on your college
campus, approved handsets would automatically “discover”
your wireless VoIP infrastructure. That means that student
cell phones can become “smart” network devices that
access revenue-generating services, such as your campus’s
- Finally, VoIP provides fertile ground for your Office
of Development to increase revenues. Too often, development
staffers solicit donations from alumni and friends of
the university—without having timely information at their
fingertips. They wonder: Has the prospect given to the university
before? How frequently? What is his/her spouse’s
name? Has the university president personally thanked this
donor previously? This information typically lives in personal
contact databases, stored on a PC or notebook
computer. Bad move! If development office turnover
occurs, much of that “personal” knowledge about donors
walks out the door—forever. Equally troubling, the data
could be lost if a PC fails or a notebook gets lost.
In stark contrast, a centralized system ensures that your
university maintains ownership of all donor data. Here, a
CRM system tied to your VoIP infrastructure empowers
your Office of Development with information that allows
those staffers to personalize conversations with alumni and
friends of the university.
And the Caveats Are
Of course, these five revenue opportunities carry with them
a few admonitions. In particular, you need to ensure that
VoIP systems and related CRM applications are properly
secured, and don’t violate privacy regulations. You must also
ensure that certain database fields—such as student health
records—aren’t exposed to non-approved users. But short
of the basic “look before your leap” advisories, VoIP is a
technology whose time has most assuredly come.
Have you already made the leap? If VoIP has unlocked
new revenue opportunities for you, we’d like to hear your
story. Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.