How AECC Global maintained international student engagement during COVID-19

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Rapidly adopting digital communication and collaboration technologies has been vital to the survival of many SMEs during the pandemic. Now, as we start to navigate the new world COVID-19 has created, businesses are moving out of crisis mode and looking to implement a sustainable model of digital acceleration.

Reginald Siingh knows the importance of taking a long-term view to digital solutions all too well. Siingh is the head of global digital operations and marketing innovation at AECC Global, an organisation headquartered in Australia that connects thousands of students around the globe with the right universities and programs via education and visa guidance. 

According to Siingh, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique set of challenges to AECC Global, challenges that were felt acutely in the prime study destination of Australia where an impenetrable border and stop-start lockdowns became an ongoing reality.

“The events of 2020 led a lot of current and prospective students around the globe to experience feelings of displacement. 

“With physical university attendance off the cards for the foreseeable future, these students required efficient answers to their questions, and increased access to learning and training services,” Siingh says.

“While managing this change without a disruption to our operations, we also had to move our 500 staff across 35 global offices to a work-from-home model.”

These challenges became the catalyst for AECC Global to adopt a unified, cloud-based solution to connect its employees with students. After trialling several other platforms, AECC Global decided on the Avaya Cloud Office (ACO) system. 

ACO is a cloud-based communication solution that integrates with hundreds of business applications. Since launching in 2020, ACO has offered Australian businesses a single, centralised app for calls, meetings, collaboration, file sharing and more. 

Siingh says the solution has been a good fit for AECC Global since day one.

“International student services were one of the most disrupted sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic, but, in large part due to Avaya, our student engagement was not compromised during this time,” Siingh says.

“Our teams implemented and configured ACO in a couple of days, and the change for our staff has been seamless. This was crucial when transitioning a largely non-technical global workforce to a work-from-home environment.”

How digital acceleration led to seamless integration

AECC Global has carved out an enviable position in the highly competitive market of educational recruitment consulting. To date, the organisation has placed around 45,000 students with suitable tertiary programs. 

Siingh says the organisation made significant digital investments before COVID-19 to improve the experience for current and prospective students, but the pandemic accelerated these changes. 

“AECC Global has traditionally been a very face-to-face driven organisation.”

In fact, before the pandemic AECC Global had been relying heavily on traditional telephony and a patchwork of local systems around the globe.

“As a result of the pandemic we had to move our digital plans forward, digitising our entire office network in months, not years.

“The result of this acceleration has been better outcomes for our staff and students. By unifying our global offices with a cloud-based telephony provider, we have enabled our team to communicate with students all over the world, across different devices and at a lower cost.

“We have also ensured cleaner integration with our CRM systems. Our global teams can now share customer engagement data across countries to improve the experience for all. 

“For example, we can look at how our larger markets such as India and the Philippines are onboarding staff and measuring the quality of their service, and seamlessly leverage these insights for our teams in burgeoning markets such as Australia.”

For Avaya’s Asia-Pacific team engagement solutions lead Jeremy Paton, AECC’s tale of rapid transformation is a familiar narrative. 

“The pandemic certainly accelerated the adoption of digital solutions as soon as lockdown became imminent,” says Paton.

But not all companies have been as pragmatic. In the initial race to set up remote working arrangements last year, many SMEs adopted the first digital tools they came across.

This flurry of technology investment enabled employees to quickly switch to a work from home model, however Paton says it’s important to ensure the platform you choose will meet your needs in the long term. 

“Anecdotally, local companies that are yet to step beyond stop-gap measures are noticing a slowdown in work rate and outcomes across their operations”, says Paton.

For tech to flourish, don’t ignore this step

Siingh also provided a pearl of wisdom for SMEs seeking a sustainable digital acceleration strategy: put your people first. 

“Successful adoption of technology within teams is a people problem as much as it is a technology problem”, says Siingh. 

“It removes complexity from our daily processes so that workers can stay productive and connected without needing to use dozens of different systems to do their jobs.”

If you think you’ve provided enough training, Siingh urges businesses to think again.

“Always remember in the first instance the importance of training, support and more training for your team,” says Siingh. 

“If your people are empowered to use technology it is only then that the value of the technology itself can be realised.”

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