Back in our first post on student-centric communication, we discussed how communication bakes into student engagement like eggs in a cake: it holds connections intact and binds outcomes across the entire student life cycle. 

Thus far we’ve addressed how colleges can better join the conversation by listening and nudging students towards outcomes. Another key recipe for student-centric engagement involves paving a path of least resistance for all parties involved. By encouraging proactive connections between students and staff, colleges can significantly reduce pieces of friction that steer students away from answers instead of guiding them closer.

Reducing student friction

Questions are a byproduct of student progress, but answers only help when students can find them. Having to hunt for specifics on a college’s website, getting stuck on hold or perplexed by department directories, and sifting through a sea of impersonal and spammy emails have all become legitimate reasons why students aren’t successfully addressing vital concerns and needs.

Mobile messaging tells a different story for student engagement – it has (by far) the highest opt-in rate of any communication channel. In stark contrast to calls and emails, students open 98% their texts in the first five minutes. While texting is a great way to nudge and support students because it captures their attention immediately, conversational AI paves an even smoother path by placing on-demand resources at students’ fingertips (literally).

Instead of seeking information about orientation, tuition, transcripts, or immunizations in a handful of locations, enrolling students can rely on their virtual assistant to present every checkpoint in one spot and provide immediate answers.

Texting with college students

Students naturally appreciate on-demand assistance, and in some instances they’ve come to expect it. In traditional outreach, the timing for real-time conversation doesn’t always fit for both sides. Administrators often struggle to reach students because those students aren’t engaging between the hours of 9-5. So when a student reaches out with a message at 8 pm, the momentum of the conversation gets lost by the time a staff member responds the following day. Having a virtual assistant who can address questions around the clock removes this barrier so that students can get answers when they need them, wherever they are.

fun chatbot conversation with students

Adding a little fun and personality to the mix can be just as important as answering students’ questions because it fosters an ongoing connection.  Colleges can help foster this connection by building a bot that takes on the persona of their mascot. A Mascot Bot’s ability to understand slang and abbreviations through natural language processing (NLP), and even crack a joke or add an emoji, invites students to keep the tone they’re accustomed to using. The AI’s ability to remember previous parts of the conversation further fosters this connection because it allows students to pick up the conversation right where they left off.

Reducing staff friction

Staff face similar points of friction in their best efforts to provide timely and accessible student support. Inbound calls, emails, and texts posing thousands of frequently asked questions have made it difficult for staff to identify and support the students in need of the most help. In an effort to reach every student, staff have to pivot across communication channels when some efforts stick and others don’t, and in many instances, they lack the analytics to know which campaigns and efforts have been most effective.

With conversational AI at their disposal, staff become superheroes. They can navigate thousands of conversations at once and leverage data to offer more deliberate, informed support. Outreach is no longer a guessing game, as they have a much clearer idea of which students need help and how to get their attention. Since messaging elicits more responses than all other communication channels, staff can effectively dig into campaigns to measure which messages are engaging students, which wording has higher conversion rates, and which campaigns yield the best ROI.

Just as mobile messaging reaches students on their own turf, our email-to-chat feature does the same for staff. When a student sends a message that the bot can’t answer, it’s redirected right to a staff member’s email where, in one click, their response is redirected back to the student’s messaging thread.

This allows both sides to easily connect without pivoting away from preferred methods of communication and without a risk of losing the thread. It also makes it easier for students and staff to connect over the phone or in person by offering a reliable appointment-setting feature, should the student wish to schedule a meeting.

Paving a more fulfilling path

In all of these instances, reducing the friction involved in communication has an empowering effort for both students and staff. It motivates both sides to focus on what’s most important and leads a more fulfilling experience. Students proactively seek answers through a fun, seamless platform, while a supercharged staff can deliver its greatest impact through more meaningful support. Early adopters who are willing to embrace student-centric tools to pave a path of least resistance will stand out as the institutions students wish to attend staff hope to work at.