The Role of Chatbots for Universities and Colleges

Many of today’s students have grown up with technology literally at their fingertips. As a result, they’re adept at communicating through a personal device any time of day. A prospective student could be browsing your website in the middle of the night and suddenly have questions that, if answered while you have their attention, could determine whether they apply to your institution. But if no one is awake to answer, you risk losing their interest altogether.

Enter one of the latest trends in communication technology: the chatbot.

When implemented effectively, chatbots create an opportunity for universities to improve their communication with both current and prospective students by providing quick and easy access to information. This communication tool can also enhance the student experience while simultaneously gathering valuable data for institutions to better understand students’ pain points and concerns.

Fully leveraging this technology requires an understanding of how chatbots work, as well as the role of chatbots in higher education and the kinds of data chatbots can gather.

What Is a Chatbot?

If you’ve surfed the web, shopped online, or tried to contact customer support through a company’s webpage, you’ve likely at least seen a chatbot. You can usually find a chatbot through the little messaging icon typically found in the lower right of your screen. With one click on that icon, you can ask a question any time of day or night and get an immediate response.

How Do Chatbots Work?

Companies use chatbots as a messaging service to provide immediate responses to commonly asked questions. One of the latest AI tools to trend in the tech industry, chatbots are programmed software that can engage in conversation with users without a human’s help.

Chatbots rely on machine learning for the most part, but there are different versions that vary in functionality and response capabilities. The two main types are “rule-based” (also known as “simple”) and AI. 

Rule-based versions rely on situational knowledge and create responses using predetermined conversational paths. You’ve probably seen this when a chatbot poses a question and provides multiple-choice response options. They stick to a script because they can’t understand the nuances of human conversation. However, they can be personalized and optimized in many ways. For example, brands can create different response versions so that if a user asks the same question twice, they get a more tailored experience. 

AI chatbots are capable of quite a bit more. The biggest differentiator is their natural language processing (NLP) capability. Paired with AI and machine learning, NLP allows the chatbot to operate similarly to a real customer service representative. AI chatbots are “trained” to understand human intent and sentiment in order to deliver the most appropriate response. They’re essentially created to collect and use data to inform their decisions. They learn about the customers they interact with and use that knowledge to improve the service experience. 

Whether you choose a simple bot or an AI-based bot, your users will be grateful for the instant responses from your always-on customer service team.

Using Chatbots in Higher Education

According to a recent HubSpot report, 90% of users think it’s important to receive an immediate response when interacting with customer service. More importantly, 37% of users likely won’t even return to a website that’s missing live chat, according to Emarketer data cited by Tech Jury. That’s well over a quarter of your prospective students.

These statistics point to a great opportunity for higher-ed institutions to improve communication with website visitors. In addition to helping colleges and universities meet this demographic’s needs, chatbots enable institutions to:

  • Provide support 24/7
  • Shorten response times
  • Gather and monitor data
  • Improve student satisfaction
  • Automate tasks

Benefits of Chatbots for Students

Due to their ability to respond to students’ questions any time of day or night, university chatbots naturally improve access to information for current and prospective students. Many higher-ed institutions using chatbots have found that students appreciate the ease that comes with chatbots, finding them less difficult and more satisfying than standard search.

Benefits of Chatbots for Universities

Chatbots for universities can improve access to information for higher-ed admissions offices by collecting data gathered through their digital conversations.

Demographic and psychographic data: Chatbots give colleges and universities a better idea of who is applying to and attending their schools. Their conversations allow institutions to gather and analyze data such as the ages, learning goals, and backgrounds of prospective students, as well as gain insight into individual interests and hobbies. Institutions can then leverage this information in their marketing to prospective students.

Funnel analysis information: Data gathered through chatbot conversations with prospective students can help institutions identify points in the admissions process where students may be dropping out of the funnel. It may also allow schools to identify which students dropped out of the enrollment process and why.

Student pain points: University chatbots generate valuable student data for institutions to evaluate and analyze, ultimately allowing universities to identify pain points that decision-makers can use to make campuswide improvements. These improvements can, in turn, increase student satisfaction.

Common student questions: Chatbot conversations allow institutions to examine questions or concerns that commonly surface through the messaging tool. Institutions can use this information to develop and deliver responses to the student population more efficiently.

Improving Student Engagement in Higher Ed

Installing a chatbot on your institution’s website opens the door to engagement opportunities that enable you to boost your brand, become more visible to prospective students, and disseminate information any hour of the day. Keeping up with tech trends isn’t always easy, but chatbots are a relatively low-maintenance tool that can pack a powerful communication punch for your institution.

Archer Education’s team of digital marketing experts is here to help you meet your enrollment goals. Our education technology team can help you optimize your website and integrate cutting-edge tools such as AI chatbots and attribution tracking to create a personalized experience for current and prospective students.

Please contact us or visit us if you have any questions or would like to discuss how we can support you.