It’s live! Access exclusive 2024 live chat benchmark data & see how well your team is performing.

Get the data

How to Improve Student Support Services

Meeting Sky-High Expectations in Higher Education

How to Improve Student Support Services featured image

Today’s students are CX-indulged.

Thanks to technology, Gen Z (born 1997-2012) have grown up surrounded by first-class customer experience, enjoying exceptional levels of convenience, speed, and personalization. From Amazon’s same day delivery to UberEat’s seamless takeaway offering, no demographic has ever had it so good.

While this is great for Gen Z, it may not be such welcoming news for universities and colleges. Being accustomed to such high levels of CX, students now expect the same support from every organization they interact with – and higher education doesn’t escape this.

With such lofty CX expectations, schools must improve student support services to meet these expectations. Without doing so, they risk damaging every stage of the student lifecycle, from admissions to graduation rates. On the other hand, by matching these expectations and providing the support that students now demand, schools can improve everything from increasing student engagement, through to satisfaction and drop-out rates.

This article will explore how to improve student support services, examining student expectations and how higher education can meet these demands with digital channels.


blog background image

Students’ sky-high expectations

When it comes to support expectations, students hold a high bar. With technology at their fingertips, they have become accustomed to seamless digital experiences and so expect this same experience from customer service in higher education. Here are the 4 top expectations Gen Z have when it comes to support:

  1. Speed – 71% believe that CX can be drastically improved by quick responses
  2. Convenience – 74% of Gen Z say convenience is more important than brand
  3. Personalization: 61% of Gen Z expect their needs to be anticipated
  4. Helpfulness: 77% of Gen Z expect their unique needs and expectations to be understood.
How to Improve Student Support Services
blog background image

The support expectation gap

Students’ high expectations have exposed gaps in the student support service capabilities of many universities and colleges.

  • Students cannot get support quickly with basic phone or email support
  • Students are limited to office hours and/or waiting for long periods for reply
  • Students have to use inconvenient channels to get support
  • Support staff are overwhelmed with manual processes needed to support student inquiry volume
  • Support staff are not trained adequately to manage support tools
  • Security is compromised with inadequate support systems in place.

Most higher education institutions recognize some, if not all, of the above, in their own operations, and realize they are failing to provide the support that students expect. In an Academic Impression’s survey, only 8% of higher education professionals from 79 colleges and universities graded their institution’s student support with an ‘A’. So what are the key ways to improve higher education customer service?

blog background image

How can higher education meet student support expectations?

When asking how to improve student support services, you must begin by understanding how students interact. Gen Z are undoubtedly digital-first, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are also digital-first when it comes to student support service. To provide students with the support they demand, schools must prioritize digital communication channels. But before we dig into the benefits of digital support, it’s important to note the role of telephone within this.

Across every age demographic, and especially Gen Z, there is a move away from phone support and towards digital communication. In fact, 60% of Gen Z say that they ‘hate calling people’. This is in part due to the desire for convenience. Phone is a notoriously high-friction channel, forcing callers to be put on long hold times and repeatedly passed between agents.

How to Improve Student Support Services

In our latest higher education student survey, we asked current students what the most important support factors were to them. Digital communication was ranked highest, as the data shows below.

what is the most important support factor to you?

Here are the key digital channels and technology that schools must offer to meet support expectations:

  • Live chat
  • Chatbots
  • Social media
  • Omnichannel

1. Students expect: Fast & convenient support

The solution: Live chat

71% of 16-24 year-olds believe that CX can be drastically improved by quick responses.

Live chat is the most popular support channel for students, followed by email. The speed at which students can ask a question and get a fast answer is key to the popularity of live chat for students. Students have grown up in a digital world that has created a desire for instant gratification, and this has seeped into student support services. The instancy of live chat messaging caters to this behavioral expectation better than any other channel.

Grown up surrounded by technology and spending 74% of their free time online, live chat is also an incredibly convenient channel for students to reach out via.

“Our students are mostly 17, 18 or 19 years old, and they naturally find live chat very easy to use. It’s also very quick for them – they can hop on a chat, ask us a question, and have their answer in a minute – all from their mobile device. It’s the perfect channel to help us engage with them and give them the support they need.”

Derek Gaucher, Coordinator of IT Solutions, Dawson College

Read the full storyDawson College Holds Virtual Open House with Live Chat & Video Engagement

To improve speed further, you can integrate a knowledge base within the live chat solution. This allows the agent to quickly search for the information they need within the console, without needing to switch screens or platforms. AI-powered virtual assistants take this a step further. By monitoring live chat conversations in real-time, these AI tools automatically find and provide answers for the agent to send. This reduces (or even eliminates) the time spent looking for information, as well as typing out the answer.

The need for speed is driving students away from phone (and even email in some cases), and towards the instancy of live chat.

2. Students expect: Immediate, 24/7 response

The solution: Chatbots

99% of students think it’s at least somewhat important for schools to offer 24/7 support.

Live chat in higher ed is the best channel to connect with students, but few schools can afford to provide this support 24/7. So, what can you do to be there for those students, night owls, and weekend academics who want to connect with you out of your typical customer service hours?

AI chatbots are the perfect answer to this expectation. When your team is offline, a chatbot can step in to answer students’ questions – all without any human supervision. Chatbots that are powered by AI can manage even more queries as they are able to understand intent, enabling them to respond to more types of questions, more effectively. Better still, students are open to using bots. In our higher education survey, 95% of students said they are at least somewhat open to receiving support from a chatbot.

“The bot has allowed us to not only effectively manage the increase in chat volume, but it’s also saved us a considerable amount of money by not having to hire a lot more agents.”

Richard Branson, COO of Tangerine

Read the full story: Comm100  Chatbot Resolves 91% of Assigned Live Chats for Tangerine

Here are just a handful of chatbot uses. Read this article for more in-depth higher ed chatbot use cases:

  • 24/7 service: Chatbots provide an additional channel for students to still get answers during off-hours so they can get assistance on their schedule, not yours. This is particularly helpful when understanding how to engage international students.
  • FAQs: Chatbots can handle common questions to free up your agents to handle the more complex or sensitive queries.
  • Gathering student information: Chatbots can pass off the who, what, where, when, and why to an agent, helping them contextualize queries and reducing time spent on each question.
  • Shorter queues, faster responses: Chatbots can handle an unlimited amount of chats simultaneously. They can also deliver responses more quickly than human agents.

When choosing the best chatbot for your school, it’s important to understand what it is that you want your bot to achieve, including being realistic about the scope of your bot. While AI chatbots can handle a lot of queries and tasks, you should never expect a bot to handle everything – all support teams face questions that need a ‘human touch’.

3. Students expect: Support on the channels they use most

The solution: Social media

97% of students use social media, with those at university the most active of all students.

It won’t come as a shock to hear that students spend a lot of time on social media platforms. However, despite schools knowing this, many are not using this fact to their advantage. While 98% of schools use social media, the majority use it to improve brand awareness, image, and engagement, while missing out on one of its most important uses – as a support channel.

By offering social media in a higher education as a support channel, institutions can connect with students on the channels that they use most – be that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WeChat, or WhatsApp. And what’s more, you can connect all of these platforms with the other key digital channel for an efficient and seamless experience. More on this in the next point.

4. Students expect: Helpful & personalized support

The solution: Omnichannel student support

77% of students want support staff to remember previous conversations they’ve had.

So far we have explained how students want to be able to connect with schools across a variety of digital channels – be that live chat, chatbot, social media, and email too. Many schools would shudder at the mere thought of offering all of these channels, worrying that some, if not all, of the following are true:

  • “We can’t manage so many channels without increasing team size.”
  • “Offering so many channels will increase support volume to an unmanageable level.”
  • “Knowledge and information between the channels will become siloed.”
  • “It will simply cost too much.”

All of the above would be true, if it wasn’t for Comm100’s omnichannel platform. This platform brings every digital channel together into one easy-to-use, unified agent console. Moreover, all the data within each channel is brought together too. This eliminates channel siloes and empowers agents to provide helpful and personalized support that students expect. In fact, 74% of Gen Z say they ‘prefer personalized products or services’, yet only 32% feel like they are being ‘treated as a unique individual’.

How to Improve Student Support Services

With every channel connected, it means:

  • A live chat transcript with a student from three weeks ago is easily accessible to an agent providing email support to that same student today.
  • Agents can move between live chat, email, social media, and SMS support with little more than a click.
  • Saying goodbye to operational silos and hello to a flawless digital journey where students and agents experience fluid conversations across channels.
  • Routing between channels, agents, and even departments becomes effortless.

With an omnichannel platform, agents can provide the connected experience that 57% of students expect and treat every student like an individual.

Next steps

If your school wants to level-up its digital support capabilities and learn how to improve student support services, book a demo with Comm100’s specialists.

With live chat, messaging, voice, bots and automation all wrapped up in a secure, personalized and AI-powered solution, Comm100 fits your needs now, and later. Join the likes of Stanford University, McMaster University, California Southern University, and get a step closer to digital CX excellence.

how to improve student support

Sky-high Expectations - How to Improve Student Support in a Digitally-demanding World

Student support expectations have never been higher. Learn how your school can meet these expectations and improve engagement and satisfaction.

+ Read more


Article by

Kate Rogerson

Kate is the Content Marketing Specialist at Comm100. She has extensive experience in content creation for technology companies across the world, including the UK, Australia and Canada. She specializes in B2B messaging, branding and soccer trivia.