Gen Z has grown up with texting and instant messaging at the core of their social interactions. Today’s students use digital platforms for almost everything: They pay each other back with Venmo instead of cash; they order takeout via UberEats without talking to anyone on the phone; they even get prescribed medication online from Nurx and Hims without visiting a doctor in person.
This level of convenience has become a basic expectation for students. So, why isn’t your higher education institution taking an online-first approach to student engagement?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses leaned into technology to meet their consumer’s expectations in this new reality. As this digital transformation continues, students of all generations have further embraced online channels as their first points of contact when they need to communicate with a company or institution.
Help Students Overcome Communication Barriers
Beyond just their communication preferences, students choose digital interactions for a variety of reasons. Those who need the most guidance often face the greatest challenges when it comes to getting the support they need. For example, balancing school assignments, multiple jobs, and caregiving responsibilities can make it nearly impossible for some students to find time for phone calls or face-to-face meetings. The slow-paced, back-and-forth nature of email communication is too inefficient for these students who need quick answers in order to move forward in their journey and balance their education with their lives outside of the classroom.
The way colleges and universities engage with students is often as important as the message itself. The fact that students respond to text messages four times more frequently than email demonstrates why it’s important to meet students on their preferred digital channels. Live chat is a channel today’s students are familiar with and comfortable using. When students come to your website in search of answers, they expect to be able to connect with your institution in the way that works best for them.
Students may be uncomfortable discussing their higher education needs over the phone. Many Gen Z students find phone conversations to be anxiety-inducing — generating fears of rejection or disapproval. Taking those interactions to a more approachable channel helps put students at ease, which encourages them to initiate conversations they wouldn’t feel comfortable having over the phone. Live chat gives students the opportunity to engage with your team in a safe space.
Make Student Accessibility a Priority
Students with accessibility challenges may also prefer the clarity and pace of digital communications. For individuals with language barriers or physical limitations like hearing impairments, making phone calls or meeting face-to-face isn’t always a viable option. Real-time, web-based communication is a much more accessible and equitable first point of contact for these students. Because live chat is powered by your team, you can provide your students with the one-on-one support they need to keep moving forward — on their terms.
Increase Meaningful Student Interactions
Even the most basic interactions with students have the potential to drive positive outcomes — but these require dedicated staff time. To prioritize meaningful engagement, it may be necessary to free up your staff by reallocating their workload. For example, your department may spend much of their week answering repetitive questions about admissions deadlines, FAFSA applications, or other required paperwork. Adding live chat to your website can increase your staff’s capacity by giving them a way to answer standard student questions in just seconds — without interrupting their workflow.
Though the majority of simple questions can be answered quickly through live chat, sometimes conversations can turn complex fast. Your staff knows best when to escalate the discussion to a phone call, an in-person meeting, or a follow-up email. When your team is away from their desks, they can even set up customized away messages on live chat to capture information about students who visit your site after work hours, and follow up with them at the right time.
Develop a Student-Centric Approach
The best student engagement strategies plans put an emphasis on thoughtfully and intentionally driving positive student outcomes. By adding live chat to your website, you’re positioning your students as the top priority in your communications process. Making connections more convenient and less disruptive for your students has an additional benefit for your team, too. Your staff can easily take turns responding to students on a schedule that works best for everyone. By sharing live chat across your entire department, you can more easily coordinate your student engagement efforts.
Get Started With Live Chat
Are you interested in providing real-time, personalized support for your students right on your website? Sign up for Mainstay’s Live Chat, today — and have your live chat window up and running on your institution’s website as soon as tomorrow!