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It might seem a bit farfetched, that your own agents, the ones you have selected, reference checked and trained could be damaging your global brand reputation.


But in the same way positive comments from your agents influence a prospective student to apply or accept an offer, negative comments from your agents have the power reduce applications and damage your global brand reputation.


While it's reasonable to expect your agents to recommend your university to every prospective student they meet, mathematically it's simply not possible. Most agents represent up to 30 different universities and simply can't recommend them all, to all the prospective students they meet.

We refer to the gap between expectation and actual recommendation as the agent recommendation gap.





In our experience the agent recommendation gap is significant, with 70% of agents typically

recommending a competitor university ahead of your university.


When 70% of your agents recommend a competitor, they will be justifying their recommendation with proof points to support why your competitor is a better choice than your institution and in so doing inadvertently damaging your global brand reputation.


Given agents assist over 80% of international students to apply and enrol to most institutions, their recommendation is critically important to improving your global brand reputation.


So how do you find out what your agents are saying about your institution










Agent-University recommendation gap
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Agent mystery shopping research enables you to identify which of your agents are recommending you and why, and which agents are recommending a competitor institution and why.


Armed with this knowledge you are able to understand what actions to take to improve the level of recommendation your institution receives and improve your global brand reputation.


Too often the value proposition is unclear for agents as to why your institution would be a better choice for the prospective student than your competitors. Answering this question is further complicated by the different needs and interests of students from different countries. Relying on generic slogans and a list of facts, isn't going to gain the interest of the agent or the student and isn't going to create a strong global brand reputation.

Is the reason why an international student should prefer to study at your institution (rather than a competitor) engagingly communicated on one page of your website?

Even when you have a compelling value proposition for students based on your career outcomes, reputation, teaching quality, location, cost and welcoming culture, there may well be other issues holding the agents back from recommending your institution. Your application process could be too complicated, unpredictable or take too long, students may be looking for a scholarship or an accomodation guarantee. Typically the key issues and actions vary by country to reflect cultural differences and the strength of the relationship between the institution and the agent.


With agents assisting over 80% of international students enrol in universities, their influence on prospective students should not be under-estimated. Undertaking agent mystery shopping research, enables organisations to understand what happens in student counselling sessions throughout the year, checking for agent recommendation, proof point communication and competitor activities.


To learn more about our agent mystery shopping research, and how we can help you ensure your agents are complying to your code of conduct, contact me today!

Free Guide to Agent Mystery Shopping

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John Chatterton works collaboratively with organisations to develop tailored growth solutions using cross-category learnings.

Transforming organisations from product push to customer pull by placing customers at the heart of the decision making process and building brands tha tresonte with their target market and engage in a personalised way.

You can reach him at