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VoIP Means Revenue

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

TelecommunicationsEducation 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 applications.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 online bookstore.
  5. 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 [email protected].

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