A tale as old as time…

For a prospective student, University Clearing is one of the most important stages of their educational career.

Unfortunately, it’s got a bad rep. What should be a seamless experience is often chaotic and action-packed – a white-knuckle ride more akin to a Michael Bay movie.

Despite the years of neverending call queues, frustrated parents, and anxious students, there is a way to create a smooth and stress-free Clearing for all.

But to reach our happy ending, we need to evaluate the story.

Enter Emma and Tim…

Curtains for Emma?

Picture this: it’s August 19th, 2022, A Level results day in the UK. Over fifty thousand students have entered Clearing – the highest number in over 10 years. It’s a time of high stress for students, and no small feat for the agents trying to field anxious calls as they aim to reach the best possible solution for all parties.

For hopeful student Emma, it’s the moment she’s been dreading. She nervously pries open the crisp, brown envelope that’s just been handed to her.  As she unfolds the paper inside she scans the document for those precious few letters.

These letters will somehow convey two years of late-night cramming sessions and copious amounts of sugar-free Red Bull. In bold, she finds the grades ‘ABC’. Good, but not the grades she needed for her top pick University. In fact, they won’t even guarantee her a place with her backup option.

While Emma flits between hope and despair, Tim is rushing to work…

Tim sets the scene

Fresh off of two weeks of annual leave, Tim tries to slip into the office undetected. He only has a few minutes left to log in, but the takeaway double shot latte that made him late will help cushion the inevitable Clearing call fatigue.

He plonks himself down at his desk, scattering a packet of biscuits amongst his weary-eyed colleagues (sugar is another Clearing non-negotiable).

On this results day, as the clock hits 07:59, the team offers each other one last determined glance before each pressing the big red ‘Available’ button.

Audition time for Emma

Emma is transfixed, with a vice-like grip on her results paper. She knows that her only chance for a place at her dream University is now through Clearing.

She’s heard the horror stories; The hour-long waits, the dropped calls, websites crashing, the agent who has a recurring role in her nightmares, smugly announcing: ‘Sorry, the last spot has just gone. Better luck next year.’ Emma feels her mobile buzz in her pocket.

She takes it out to see breaking news notifications on her lock screen: ‘Average A Level results reach a record low’. She now knows she won’t be the only one competing for a place through Clearing. All of a sudden, determination grabs hold.

Emma calls her mum, dad and sister, asking them to ring on her behalf to increase her chances of speaking with an agent and securing her spot. Her best friend Saira had told her that it’s just like trying to get Glastonbury tickets. The more calls you make, the better your chances.

While her family scramble to join calling queues, Emma decides to log onto the UCAS website to try her luck there. She’s shocked to find that the online process appears to be rather straightforward. She immediately spots a ‘Clearing Plus’ option that offers her matches for courses similar to the ones she had previously chosen. Maybe all isn’t lost.

Of the 50 matches based on her original choices, she clicks ‘interested’ on four of them. One of them looks really good, so she tries calling as well.

Rather than waiting in the queue, she’s delighted to see a callback option. She opts for the callback and texts Saira to see how she’s finding the process.

Emma: ‘How’s it going, Sair? ❤️’

Saira: ‘On hold for over an hour but can’t get thru 😥

Tim’s Total Recall

Back in the office, Tim has realised that a new system has been installed while he was on annual leave. He vaguely remembers an email about it but must’ve been in holiday mode.

The whole team has received training on the new platform, and Tim’s is scheduled for that afternoon. ‘Surely they can’t lose me from the phones for the afternoon on results day?!’ Tim exclaims. His boss walks by and pats him on the shoulder, explaining that it’s all in hand.

Tim takes a sip of coffee and comfortably finishes his first call. Surprisingly, the new system is incredibly intuitive and much more modern. He’s able to check the new webchat and email functions, steering students to the most relevant specialist.

He spots a callback request from a hopeful candidate named Emma. After selecting the best agent to handle Emma’s query, he drops her request into a short call queue, together with Emma’s query details and course ambitions.

As he exits ‘Wrap up’ and drops back into ‘Available’, Tim notices an unfamiliar calm vibe throughout the office. He’s also picked up how relieved the students appear to be, as they admit the queueing time was much shorter than they’d feared.


It’s Emma’s call

Ten minutes after submitting her request, Emma feels her phone buzzing again. She assumes it’s a stressed Saira and is shocked to see a new number across her screen. She’s delighted to discover it’s her callback request being fulfilled.

The friendly agent puts Emma at ease, explaining that she has Emma’s grades and course details and would like to ask her a few simple questions. The specialist is pleased to reveal that a spot is available, but it’s not Emma’s first choice University. Feeling much more confident with the process, Emma says she’ll think about it. Once the call has ended, she texts Saira.

Emma: ‘Omg – I’ve been offered a place!’

Saira: ‘Whaaa?🤯 Which number did you call? I’m still on hold!’

Before she accepts the offer, Emma believes she may still have a chance with her first choice uni. She’s prepared to sit on hold for hours if that’s what it takes. After Googling the University to find the right phone number, she sees an option for webchat and decides to try her luck.

The ‘meet cute’

Tim has spent the morning delivering the happy news to multiple students across all of the system’s platforms.

He’s also been able to comfortably make his way through that grande latte and a few biscuits. He’s been busy, but not as overwhelmed as he has been in previous years.

All of a sudden, a new webchat message pops up on his screen. Sure enough, it’s Emma. Tim already has all of her information to hand, it came up on the screen once he’d opened the chat. They exchange a few messages about Emma’s situation and she explains her dream University scenario.

Tim emails her some documents he thinks will help and puts her in a callback queue with the University, informing her how long the wait is expected to be.

He realises he can confirm all of this information again via WhatsApp, with regular waiting time updates also enabled to reassure her that she doesn’t need to sit on hold for hours. While Emma waits, she messages Saira:

Emma: ‘Have you tried webchat or requesting a callback?

Saira: ‘Just checked online – the uni I want doesn’t do it 👎🏽

Emma’s phone starts ringing, it’s that callback she’s been waiting for. She eagerly accepts and is greeted by a course specialist. The agent has sight of every part of the conversation held that morning, so there’s no need to re-ask questions.

It’s not long before Emma hears the words she’s been hoping for ‘we can offer you a place on this course.’

Is this The Greatest Show?

Back on the calling floor, Tim is typing up notes. He realises he hasn’t dealt with any calls from stressed parents or siblings. That email he’d skim read week ago regarding this new software had promised a smoother ride, but he’d heard it all before.

Feeling satisfied that he’s helped so many people, he logs off to begin training. With this new software in place, Tim has had a more efficient day with less stress, happier colleagues and students. The dashboard is glowing a rewarding shade of green.

Clearing can be action-packed, but it doesn’t have to be a drama. With the right solution in place, teams can work more productively, using software that promotes better wellbeing. This technology can also assist with team attrition by helping you ditch outdated solutions – the real villain in this Clearing contact center story.

Help students secure their dream placements with ease and let your teams get on with what they do best. Contact our specialists to find out how you can call ‘Cut!’ on outdated Clearing tropes before results day 2023.