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A new report, released today, suggests using a customer service management system, or CRM, can help historically Black colleges and universities better serve students.

The majority of companies with at least 10 employees use a CRM, a software system to manage communication with customers, but fewer than half of colleges and universities use one, according to the report. The report describes the progress of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Digital Transformation initiative, or HBCU Dx, a project in which a group of HBCUs employed one of two CRM models with help from the Partnership for Education Advancement, an organization focused on advancing social mobility among HBCU students. Whiteboard Advisors, a consulting firm, was commissioned by the organization to produce the report, which evaluates the project through interviews with staff members at six of the HBCUs.

The goal of the initiative is “enabling colleges to use the same technology that reminds individuals when they’ve left items in an online shopping cart or that it’s time for an eye exam or haircut to help students complete applications, navigate financial aid or sign up for housing,” the report says.

Six institutions implemented the first model, focused on recruitment and admissions, and four institutions later implemented the second model, which incorporated lessons learned from the first model and also focused on student success and fundraising. The Partnership for Education Advancement covered two years of start-up costs, help with data integration and training and support.

The report predicts the CRMs will save HBCUs time and costs by removing duplicative tools, boosting revenue through increased enrollment and allowing lean staffs to use their time more efficiently. For example, at Alabama State University, employees reported the CRM helps them process applications faster and improves communication between departments. The report also offers recommendations, based on interviews at the institutions, on how to improve the CRM implementation process at HBCUs in the future, including embedding IT professionals in admissions offices to help overcome hurdles and speed up the process, offering ongoing CRM training to employees, and conducting a funding analysis to strategize how institutions can continue to afford the software.