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Transform your college admissions team with a bot

Welcome to part 2 of our series of posts looking at the rise of bots in communications. We previously looked at what bots are, what they do and how they’re currently being used in other industries such as finance and healthcare. This post – as the title suggests – narrows our focus to how bots can be used in Higher Education to drive admissions success and dives into specific use cases to achieve this.

Why use bots in higher education?

The university and college admissions landscape is becoming more challenging. Institutions are facing growing competition from online courses, apprenticeships and other universities, not just within their own country, but globally. Perceived high-levels of tuition fees are making students think more carefully about where they want to invest in their education or if they want to invest in it at all. With growing numbers of entry-level jobs and bedroom businesses an attractive low-cost option for young and ambitious minds, universities need to work ever harder to convince students they are worth the investment.

As well as recruitment marketing, brand and profile building initiatives, institutions are turning to technology to get the edge on the competition when it comes to student admissions. This makes sense. Universities and colleges predominantly cater for the iGeneration. A whole demographic of digital natives who not only want to communicate through multi-channel digital means, but expect it from brands, businesses, organizations and institutions. By approaching student engagement, experience and marketing with a digital-first mind-set, Higher Education organizations can more effectively manage their admissions process, provide a better, more enriched experience, improve efficiency and help drive down costs.

How bots can transform student admissions

The argument for the use of bots to transform the admissions experience for both staff and students is strong but what are the specific situations they can be used in? Here are some examples

1. Provide accurate student information 24/7

Picture yourself as a student researching the plethora of university options available to you. The process is time consuming, complex and can often be overwhelming. A simple incident like visiting a uni’s website and not being able to find the information you need (such as a prospectus or fee structure) when you need it (now), might quickly turn you off. Now imagine going onto a website, searching for admissions details then being proactively asked by a chatbot whether or not you need a specific faculty’s prospectus. You indicate you do and you’re interested in the law faculty whereupon the chatbot sends the right prospectus straight to your preferred email address. It’s a win-win scenario. The student gets the right information immediately and you are able to collect their contact details. And you can deal with thousands of similar enquiries and requests simultaneously without any strain on your admission team who can focus on higher impact activity.

2. Capture student leads

This scenario is similar to the web interaction above but can be further streamlined if the conversation takes place via a messaging platform such as Facebook. When a student sends a Facebook message asking for information, you can pull their name and email address automatically for them to simply confirm. Your bots can then send them whatever they need straight away rather than waiting for staff to become available. Not only do you provide the student with the information they need but their details are then synched with your CRM allowing you to track whether these interactions influence your enrollment metrics, just like you’ll already be doing with channels such as direct mail. It also allows you to run automations like any other channel, for example segment that student into an email campaign for all students that have completed an enquiry form.

3. Support students

Chatbots and admission staff can work hand-in-hand to provide a quick and convenient experience for students. For example, in response to a student looking for information for financial aid, the bot can send a link to the appropriate webpage. If they then ask a question the bot is unable to answer, such as the status of their transcript, the bot can ask whether the student wants to speak to a human. If they indicate they do, the bot can inform them their query has been passed to the team and someone will be in touch shortly.

This type of co-working scenario between human and bot is really effective especially during times when there are high volumes of enquiries and requests. It takes pressure off staff to manage every single message that floods their inbox and gives students access to exactly what they need immediately.

4. Host open days and campus tours

Another situation where you can really make a big impact with bots is during open days or campus tours. If a student texts asking where to go for lunch for instance, your bot could fire back times, places, location maps and WiFi codes helping students feel comfortable and less stressed during their visit.

These are just a few scenarios in which Higher Education can capitalize on bot tech to enhance both staff and student experiences. Bots can be trained to handle or help with almost any specific task or scenario so they offer your admissions team almost unfettered potential. And the benefits of bots don’t just stop at a better experience. By letting bots do the leg work in certain situations, you can automatically capture large amounts of personalized data to power future communications; automate time consuming processes and ultimately save time and money by optimizing your admissions machine

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