The people behind Behavioral Intelligence: Teaching colleges how to bring student engagement to life

Sam DeFlitch

December 10, 2021

At Mainstay, we’re pretty proud of the behaviorally intelligent solutions we offer to colleges and businesses — but our technology wouldn’t be nearly as effective without a bit of human genius behind it. We may be a little biased, but we’re confident that our team is the best at what they do: Using chatbots to have meaningful conversations that guide people toward a more fulfilling life. 

In this series, we’re shining the spotlight on our teams to give you a peek into the daily work, cool factor (yup, we kick it with Gen Z every day), and expertise that Mainstay’s people bring to the table.

Cecilia Maldonado loves her job. Even before she starts to describe her work, she’s got a big smile on her face — and there’s joy in her voice as she begins to discuss her experiences working with Mainstay’s partner institutions. “I’m really passionate about collaborating with partners,” Cecilia says. “Building relationships is central to my work — and at the end of the day, my goal is to help colleges and universities support their students.” 

As a senior manager on the Partner Success team, Cecilia ensures colleges and universities are able to take full advantage of Mainstay’s Student Engagement Platform to achieve their admissions, enrollment, and retention goals. The platform makes it easy for schools to have meaningful conversations with students at scale using a very familiar form of communication (especially for Gen Z): Text messaging. Our platform connects schools with their students via behaviorally intelligent chatbots that send messages, empathetic nudges, check-ins, and surveys. That’s where Cecilia and her team come into the picture.

“The most important part of my job is helping partners make full use of our technology, so they can communicate effectively with their students. Basically, the core of my job is to help partners narrow down their goals, and then determine how they can best use our Platform to achieve those goals,” Cecilia says. “I help partners identify their most pressing student engagement challenges. Based on that, I help them develop strategic ways to use their chatbots to encourage students to take action.” 

Cecilia and the Partner Success team provide colleges and universities with sustained support, from onboarding to script development. Writing impactful text messaging scripts that can be automated and used for conversations delivered by a chatbot — including answers to questions, nudges, and check-ins — is central to driving meaningful student engagement. The Partner Success team trains partners to use every single aspect of Mainstay’s platform, such as developing a communication strategy and uploading student contact information. During onboarding and throughout the entire support process, the team keeps each partner’s objectives at the forefront — ensuring schools are able to use the platform to meet their specific student engagement goals.

Supercharging student conversations with Behavioral Intelligence

Your students have lots of questions — and that’s a good thing! Asking questions is actually pretty central to the experience of being a college student — and it can be a key indicator of student engagement. Providing your students with answers that are accurate, empathetic, and relevant to their current situation is a sure-fire way to build trust with them. When students trust you, you can start to build meaningful relationships with them and encourage them to take actions that will help them succeed long term.

Finding ways to encourage students to take those steps may feel daunting at first — but at Mainstay, it’s our superpower. We’ve cracked the code to supercharging student engagement, and we call it Behavioral Intelligence. It’s a method for helping students identify and achieve their goals through conversations — but in order to be truly effective, these conversations need to combine three key ingredients: Accurate information (IQ), empathy (EQ), and contextual relevance (CQ). 

IQ is critical to ensure your students have access to the information they need to succeed — but it’s not just what you say to your students. It’s how you say it that makes all the difference. The best response (whether it’s an answer to a question, a friendly check-in, a timely nudge, or even a quick survey) must also be empathetic (EQ) and consider the context (CQ) in which the student is receiving it. Because EQ and CQ are uniquely human traits, it takes a spark of human inspiration to infuse messages with these characteristics. That’s where Cecilia and the Partner Success team really shine. The entire team are experts at teaching higher education staff how to develop messages that combine all three components of Behavioral Intelligence, and they draw on their expertise as they train Mainstay’s partners how to write scripts for their chatbots.

As she coaches Mainstay’s partners to develop the best messages for their students, Cecilia constantly emphasizes the importance of a behaviorally intelligent response: The best message for the situation delivered at the right time on the right channel. “We are really good at teaching our partners how students react to certain types of messages,” Cecilia says. “It’s so important to remember to support your students, especially when they are struggling. Sending an empathetic nudge like ‘You can do this!’ can make all the difference to a student.” This approach demonstrates genuine care for their well-being, which also helps strengthen their relationship with the school — and it’s proven to drive positive outcomes.

Engaging students with the right message — or gif — to spark meaningful relationships

Cecilia and her team are, above all, great teachers. They’re experts at guiding partners as they develop text messaging campaigns that support student engagement. A big part of crafting conversations that stick the landing with students — messages that really resonate with them and encourage them to take positive action — is identifying the right tone of voice for the school’s bot.  “Tone is so important,” Cecilia emphasizes. “When you find the right tone, you can build that into conversations. So, a large part of my work is collaborating with partners to help them determine the best tone for their students.”

Every higher education institution may define student engagement slightly differently based on the makeup of their student populations. That means every school’s bot should have a unique voice that their students will relate to. In order to provide the best guidance to partners who need to develop their chatbot’s tone of voice, Cecilia prioritizes understanding the needs, goals, expectations, and interests of the school’s student population. Based on this information, she helps them shape their scripts with specific and consistent language — and the devil is in the details. “Developing the right tone even involves thinking about things like the amount of gifs you send,” Cecilia says. “If your student population is largely adult learners, you should probably take a straightforward approach and cut back on the emojis. But if you’ve got a large population of Gen Z learners, it’s important to meet them where their interests are. If they’re excited about sports and campus events, your bot should be excited about these things, too. It’s all about being relatable while delivering on what students need — and delighting them with a surprise every once in a while. That’s how strong relationships are formed.”

Ultimately, Cecilia notes, it’s important to remember that students have vibrant lives and pressing concerns outside of their classroom learning. Whether they’re excited about a football game or anxious about their ability to access financial aid, it’s crucial to recognize and address student needs and concerns. That’s the key to building strong relationships and encouraging students to take meaningful actions toward success. 

Become a student engagement expert with Mainstay’s Partner Success team

Mainstay makes it easy to guide your students toward long-term success with accurate, empathetic, and contextually relevant conversations. Our Partner Success team is dedicated to teaching innovators in higher education how to use Mainstay’s Student Engagement Platform to automatically deliver personalized text messages at the right moments.

Request an interactive demo today to learn how your school can boost student engagement and support your students throughout their entire college journey — one conversation at a time.

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Sign up for your personalized demo to find out how Mainstay makes it easy to spark conversations with your employees and guide them toward positive results.

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Mainstay’s behaviorally intelligent chatbots make it easy to engage with employees on the channels they prefer to use:

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Get a guided tour of Mainstay’s Engagement Platform

Mainstay’s Engagement Platform uses Behavioral Intelligence to help schools and businesses build meaningful relationships, optimize insights, and drive action.

Sign up for your personalized demo to find out how Mainstay makes it easy to spark conversations with your students or employees and guide them toward positive results.

Channels

Instant support — anytime, anywhere

Mainstay’s behaviorally intelligent chatbots make it easy to engage with students and employees on the channels they prefer to use:

SMS text messaging

Live chat

Web chat

Social media

Let's talk