The use case for higher ed live chat

As technological advances allow for fundamental shifts in the communication landscape, tools like live chat are changing the way institutions interact with their respective audiences.

Due to mainstream adoption, chat technology uses are evolving. (And ever-increasing.) Even now, chat components are used in applications that wouldn’t have been possible five years ago.

More and more organisations in both public and private sectors, then, are taking advantage of live chat functionality in their communication strategies. And higher education institutions are not excluded.

Here’s a closer look at high ed live chat and its benefits.

What is live chat?

Live chat refers to software that builds real-time chat functionality into websites and other digital real estate. (Such as, for example, an embedded live chat component inside an application.)  

Live chat can come in a few different forms:

·       Faux live chat (i.e., a standalone chatbot)

This will appear as a live chat pop-up on a website. Though it mimics the look of a live chat box, a standalone chatbot can only deliver pre-written, canned responses. For any website visitor clicking into the chat window, there is no real person on the other end.

These types of live chat offerings certainly have their uses, and provide certain benefits. (Such as out of hours support.) However, they can also result in a largely frustrating user experience when employed incorrectly.

·       A chatbot (i.e., a chatbot-led conversation with human support available)

One step up from the standalone chatbot is the integrated chatbot. Here, the chatbot will drive the conversation – asking routing questions, answering basic FAQ, directing to relevant resources, etc.

In this instance, though, a human is also available for any needed handovers. The chatbot is a handy part of the help team, rather than apart from it.

·       Traditional live chat

This form of chat is most true to its name. It is chat functionality that connects two people and allows them to converse via live, messaged conversation. This type of live chat conventionally yields the best user experience, but also requires the most manpower.

·       AI live chat (i.e., an NLP chatbot)

AI chatbots are perhaps the least-polished but fastest-growing type of live chat on the market today. AI chat tools are “taught” how to respond to people by simulating human conversation. To do this, they use highly complex algorithms, machine learning capabilities, and stored data from previous chats. Over time, they then learn how to converse with human chat partners in ways that can seem natural.

While currently limited in scope and ability, AI chat tools are receiving a strong developmental push and are increasing in ability and potential each year.

Ways that higher ed live chat creates benefits

When leveraged effectively, live chat can create significant benefits for higher ed institutions. It can, for example, contribute to the following outcomes:

·       Boost traditional marketing and recruitment success

Today, recruitment and student body composition are massively important topics.  Higher ed institutions are held to important standards regarding who attends them. So, every higher ed institution is looking for better ways to control and propel their recruiting efforts. They’re seeking to get the best fits and the right people on campus each academic year.

Here, higher ed live chat functionality allows questions to be answered immediately. This can leave a favourable impression with website visitors, creating “sticky” impressions that help schools stand out amongst a field of options. A quick, friendly chat can make a student’s initial glance more personable and personal.

·       Foster connections with current students

Higher ed live chat doesn’t have to be limited to the front page of a school website. What if it were implemented in the student or staff backend portal? Used to create virtual open offices with professors? Built into a strategy for facilitating peer-to-peer support?

Live chat functionality can provide a useful and unique communication channel that creates benefits for students and other stakeholders alike. And these more innovative use cases are ones that many higher ed institutions aren’t yet implementing.

·       Reduce workload on higher-ed employees

Higher ed live chat tools can answer basic queries automatically. In turn, this frees up the staff time that was formerly spent on fielding simple questions. Employees can then spend that time on other, trickier, responsibilities. Especially in areas such as marketing and recruitment, live chat tools can automate tedious tasks and allow employees more time for the more complex aspects of their roles.

·       Strengthen recruitment of nontraditional students

The students entering a higher education landscape are diversifying. This spread includes the various demographic differences across high school graduates. Plus, it covers people across a wide range of ages returning to school or attending for the first time after working careers.

This diversification is particularly prevalent in career paths like education or nursing. (I.e., options that include a number of avenues for career advancement or growth by earning additional degrees.)

In recruiting nontraditional student populations, higher ed institutions must think outside the box. They have to employ methods that help their programs stand out. And higher ed live chat can be an effective tool to do this.

·       Allow for better tracking and measurement

Using higher ed live chat tools can allow for more comprehensive recordkeeping, goal tracking, and metrics management. Live chats can save transcripts of conversations. This is useful data that can be analysed for training and upskilling purposes.

Plus, chats can contribute statistics for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of recruitment or marketing teams. (Statistics that wouldn’t otherwise be available.) They can provide helpful information about how website visitors act and operate. Collecting more data than less can inform better decision-making. And, ultimately, this can only contribute to more effective processes.

Higher ed live chat

Live chat isn’t just for ecommerce websites. Nor, for that matter, is it just for websites. And it’s high time for higher ed institutions to consider implementing a form of live chat on their website or in other parts of their online ecosystem.

Author bio

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of Fortune 500 companies within a wide range of industries including information technology, healthcare, and AI. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs in the technology and healthcare space.