UCAS shows universities and businesses how to use Facebook for real customer engagement

17 August 2012 By Northern Lights

UCAS shows universities and businesses how to use Facebook for real customer engagement image

A’ Level results are out.  Great excitement for some, disappointment for others – and uncertainty for large numbers.  Will their university of choice still accept them if they just missed a grade?

 The hard work has started at both UCAS and in universities – answering thousands of queries and helping students through clearing. 

Most businesses and education organisations have peaks of activity, when they know they will be inundated with phone calls and emails. 

If you want a shining example of how to anticipate and manage a peak using social media, here is a great case study.  Look at the Facebook page of UCAS.

 Here are some of the ingredients that look so good

 1.       Personality behind the team

They have named the team of five who are answering queries.  No-one wants to feel they are contacting a faceless organisation and not sure who will answer their questions.

Here they have not only named the team but also posted a photo.  They look helpful and professional – but also friendly.  You know real people will take your questions seriously.


 2.       Anticipate and address customer questions

No matter how many advice emails you send out, or how many helpful tips you put on your website, you know you will still get a dozen basic questions every year.


UCAS have anticipated the most frequently asked questions and done short video clips to answer these.   The video clip  is of John explaining why a student’s Track might not be updated.






 3.       Tell people when you will be there

UCAS has extended its working times, but the team still needs to sleep!  They let people know when they are signing out and in, in a really friendly way “We’re closed from 20:00 tonight until 07:00 tomorrow but you can still use Track overnight. See you in the morning!”

Then in the morning they let people know they are catching up with overnight queries “Morning! We are here are until 8pm tonight – we’re going through your queries from last night and will get back to you soon”


 4.       Friendly management of the system

A few comments help those online to remember to log out and in turn help manage traffic to their website!

“If you’ve been accepted, congratulations! We’d appreciate it if you log out of Track so that others can log in and check their status”

5.       Speedy response

The queries are being answered easily within the hour, many within 20 minutes or less.  Once you set up a system like this, people do expect an immediate answer.  That’s the downside of social media – it has an immediacy about it and raises expectations.

But UCAS is definitely keeping up here!

 6.       Personal answers

The quality of replies is really great.  Even when they don’t know all the answers, the team give the best answer they can, admit if they don’t know the answer, direct people to the place that will have answer and give their phone numbers if they need more detal. 

They are responding to very specific queries with very specific replies – there is nothing standardised in the replies (or at least it doesn’t come over that way if they are!)

Last year, UCAS won the ‘Most Effective Use of Social Media’ award at the 2011 Customer contact Association Excellence awards.  The award was for the launch of the UCAS Connect website, bringing together their social media platforms on what students should do in different circumstances.

Can’t help feeling that once the dust has settled, the UCAS team will rightly be entering an award for their Facebook service.

Looking at this process, it confirms again how closely linked are social media and customer service activities these days.  Where should ownership of services such as this sit within a business?  Are universities gearing up to this level on their clearing queries – and more to the point, should they?

Author Image

Written by Northern Lights


  • Victoria it’s great that you’ve highlighted a good example of using social media as part of excellent customer service. More companies and organisatons should understand that social media has a huge part to play in effective communication and the customer experience.

    I’m just about to embark on the UCAS bandwagon as my 17 year old daughter starts planning her university applications.

  • An excellent example. I am fed up of people – young and old – being dismissive of social media …. Based on these are stories they read in the media. You have to be in it it win it!

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