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How Are Universities Using Live Chat to Support Student Engagement?


As much as we may hate to admit it, times have changed – dramatically. Yet many of the ways in which universities connect with students (and potential would-be students), especially during an opportunity such as Clearing, are now archaic practises. It’s time to update.

A decade ago, student ‘to-be’s’ would prepare by buying a fancy notebook, a plethora of pens, pencils and erasers and a few overpriced study books. Today, they instead purchase the latest top-quality laptop, make notes on their mobile phones, share files digitally and purchase e-books to read online. And so, it’s important that universities are connecting with students and would-be students using methods that they’re familiar with.

The use of technology to connect with people is nothing new – especially considering Google has been around since 1998! Yet still, few universities implement new practices for effective student engagement. Live chat, however is helping both marketing and admissions teams do just that. It’s an alternative to the more traditional phone and email enquiries, providing a quicker and more informal way to communicate but also, one that the generation leaving school today are far more comfortable with. Research tells us 77% of students expect to receive important information via text (Medium, 2017).  It’s obvious when said aloud, but solving the riddle of what changes you should be implementing to combat this and boost student engagement can be difficult.

Natasha Cresswell, Admissions & Enquiries Manager for the University of Gloucestershire, found that live chat allowed for longer and more meaningful conversations.

People are more comfortable expressing themselves on live chat, much more so than they are by phone, and as a result they ask all manner of questions.

The University of Gloucestershire had been using a live chat service for a few years and it proved highly successful in the way that it allowed them to interact with students. But with the EU GDPR becoming the minimum standard for the use of customer data, they needed a more robust platform that could  guarantee how and when collected data would be used – something their live chat service couldn’t do. So, they implemented our Meet & Engage Live Chat Events Platform to use the 1-2-1 chat functionality for in-bound clearing enquiries.

Natasha explains;

the technology is easy and intuitive to use and it allowed us to limit the number of multiple conversations. This was hugely beneficial when staffing levels were down as it meant we could switch to a lower number to suit the team without affecting the end user.

Each day, Natasha had three or four members of the team covering the 1-2-1 live chat, ramping up to fourteen and fifteen during peak periods. Because pop-up alerts notified the team when a new question came through, they could easily get on with their other responsibilities. The other key benefit for Natasha was the audit trail of the conversation which can be accessed at any time,  “particularly key when offers have been made via the system”. If a student came back on a separate occasion, the team member responding to the new query had sight of the previous dialogue.

Another university to have utilised the Meet & Engage live chat platform during clearing is the University of Leicester. They hosted group chats in the lead-up to, and after A-level results day aimed at key influencers, in this case teachers and advisers. The group chats were marketed as a way for influencers to ask any questions on behalf of their pupils. Its success was proved when an offer was made during the chat as a result of the additional information a teacher was able to provide on behalf of their student.

Right now, we’re in a constant state of innovation. Fail to keep up, and you’ll soon be left behind. Live engagement is one such innovation that more and more universities are implementing in order to stay ahead of the curve and really maximise their student engagement efforts both, right now and ready in time for Clearing next year.

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