Chatbots: A Self-Service Mechanism for Driving Student Engagement

Gen Z students have a different standard than the generations that came before them for how they want to receive information from their schools. First, everything is electronic now, whereas when their parents attended college, all information came through the post office, student handbooks, or telephone calls during normal business hours. In today’s digital world, these information delivery mechanisms have disappeared like handwritten term papers.

Modern student expectations about communications have been transformed by experiences with banks and e-commerce businesses. Students want access to information when it’s convenient for them, not when it’s convenient for the college. Additionally, trying to find the right phone number to get a question answered can be a time-consuming chore and, frankly, annoying for students who use their iPhone as an app machine, not a phone.

What App?

To deliver a better consumer experience to the students, schools need to drive student engagement and satisfaction by meeting students where they are: online. Institutions are doing this through chatbots.

Think about the questions that every new student may have before they step on campus. “Do I have a homeroom?” “What is my advisor’s name?” “Where’s the nearest dining hall?” “What happens if I don’t like a class?” “What happens if I don’t like my roommate?” “Where is the best place to take a date on a Friday night?” “Who serves the best coffee in town?” “Is it too late to apply for financial aid?”

These are relatively common questions that many students have. For some of these questions, a student may inherently know who to ask to get an answer. Conversely, it may be difficult to identify who knows the answer to some questions. On another level, students may find some questions too embarrassing to ask an administrator. Other questions may appear too mundane to ask anyone in authority.

Fortunately, many of today’s students are incredibly comfortable using their phones to find the answers to these questions, which is where a chatbot comes in. A chatbot can act as a good concierge. A well-programmed chatbot can answer most students’ basic questions. If the chatbot doesn’t know the answer, it can easily and quickly direct a student to the person who does have the answer. This streamlined experience can lead to higher resolution rates and increased satisfaction.

Even better, chatbots are open 24/7. They are ready whenever a student has a question. For example, if a student is sitting in a class that might be over- or underwhelming, they may immediately want to know how to drop the course. In this case, the chatbot is there for them. Or, if a student suddenly realizes that they are having financial problems, the student can learn from a chatbot how to apply for financial aid.

After interacting with other organizations, today’s students have come to expect instant answers to relatively complex questions. With a chatbot, institutions can deliver a service that improves student engagement and experiences.

A chatbot powered by artificial intelligence can also review previous conversations and virtually grow smarter and more useful over time. On the backend, more engagement with a chatbot allows institutions to receive more data about the questions that students commonly ask, allowing them to develop and deploy modified services to better meet students’ needs. This built-in feedback loop helps institutions increase student satisfaction.

What They Want When They Want It

By offering online self-service pathways to answer common questions, institutions can eliminate bottlenecks from manual processes and remain “open” for support 24/7/365. As everyone knows, common questions can be hard to answer. But what does not need to be hard is knowing where to find the answers. By making chatbots available to students whenever they have questions for whatever questions they have, institutions can deepen their relationships with students, increase satisfaction, and improve retention.

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