The Live Chat and Chatbot Guide for Higher Education

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Chapter 3

Live chat best practices

The type of experience a student receives from one brand will affect how they judge an experience with another, no matter the industry. In other words, today’s students are likely to judge the customer support from their higher educational institution by comparing it to other experiences like ordering food online or booking a cab via a mobile app.

With these experiences now setting the bar for customer experience, educational institutions are no longer just competing with others in their industry – they’re being compared to every digital experience that the student has ever had.

Live chat is the first step towards delivering a great student experience, but to really take advantage of this channel, you need to know how to use it and what student expectations are within this channel.

To help you do just this, we have pulled the key education metrics from our 2021 Live Chat Benchmark Report, alongside top live chat best practices, that will help you exceed your students’ digital expectations.

Wait time

Wait times are key to any customer service team. From analysis of our 2021 Live Chat Benchmark Report, we found that live chat teams in education sector have an average wait time of 70 seconds. This is far above the average at 38 seconds, and indicates that a lot needs to be improved to take this wait time down and provide a faster experience that students expect.

Here are some ways that higher educational institutions can reduce live chat wait times:

1.  Employ agent efficiency tools:

The first and easiest step to reduce wait times is to use efficiency tools within your live chat platform. Keyboard shortcuts, for example, can help agents respond faster by reducing navigation and typing. Canned messages take this a step further. Canned messages are pre-defined answers to frequently asked questions that agents can select without having to type out the full answer every time. This saves agent time and speeds up the conversation, so helping to reduce wait time.

2.  Agent-facing AI:

Comm100’s agent-facing AI, known as Agent Assist, monitors incoming conversations in real time and suggests the best answer to the agent. This keeps agents from having to search for answers, empowering them to deliver rapid-fire responses that have been vetted for accuracy.

3.  Encourage self-serve with a knowledge base – internal and external:

The more students that resolve their issue without agent support, the lower your wait times will be. This is known as self-serve, and the great news is that it is a popular and expected channel. In fact, 70% of customers expect a company’s website to include a self-service application.

A strong knowledge base is core to self-serve and should be accessible on any site. Better still, integrate your knowledge base within the live chat window so when a student opens a chat, they can perform a knowledge base search within the chat window before they start a conversation. This helps to reduce the number of common queries coming through to your agents, and so contributes to lower wait times.

Chat duration

Chat duration varies widely across industries, primarily due to the nature of the conversation. In our Live Chat Benchmark Report, we discovered that chat duration within education live chat teams is far higher than the average at 18 minutes 53 seconds. This is also much higher than the previous year’s which was 10 minutes 30 seconds on average.

A lower chat duration obviously has its benefits, allowing agents to handle more agents in a given time. However, over the past year, we have seen a significant shift in priorities due to the growing emphasis on student and customer experience. Partly due to the pandemic, managers have begun shifting value away from shorter chat duration in favor of developing relationships with students – and so allowing agents to take longer to resolve queries.

This is not to say that educational institutions should allow chat duration to rise too high – after all, we know that a key reason why students like live chat is for its speed. However, it does show that live chat teams are recognizing the need to balance speed with quality of service and showing students that they care. Here are some tops ways live chat teams can improve the student experience on live chat.

1.  Video and audio chat:

As we explained earlier, developing relationships with prospective and current students is crucial, and while live chat does this brilliantly, there’s another tool educational institutions can use to take this personalized customer service up a level – video chat.

Video chat brings students face-to-face with agents and helps them to connect on a more personal level. This is all the more helpful in the age of COVID as many universities and colleges remain closed. Dawson College faced this problem in the fall of 2020 and used Comm100 video chat as their solution.

In 2020, Covid-19 restrictions rendered Dawson College’s traditional open house event impossible. As an essential part of its enrollment strategy, administrators feared that without the event there would be a significant drop in enrolment.

In a moment of ingenuity, Dawson College came up with the idea of holding a virtual open house event through live chat, supported by video chat. The virtual open house took place over several days and saw almost 1000 students from 17 countries speak with hundreds of department reps. Video chat allowed department reps to develop a more personal connection with the students and begin building relationships that are always so important to the success of an open house event.

Read the full Dawson College customer story

Speaking with the students over video meant our college representatives had the chance to connect with the students on a more personal level, as if they were face-to-face. This is so important to developing relationships with the students and allowed us to recreate the experience of our typical, in-person open house events.

Derek Gaucher
Coordinator of IT Solutions, Dawson College

2.  Utilize data for a more personalized experience:

Nobody likes being treated like they are just one of many, and students are no different. This is why personalization in live chat is key to delivering the very best student experience, and your agents can only do this with if they have data at their fingertips.

With an intelligent live chat platform, your agents have access to a wealth of information about the student they are speaking to, especially if you integrate it with other core data systems like your CRM. With a unified agent console, your agents can instantly know who the student is, what they are studying, what year they are in, previous conversation history, and so much more – all without even asking. With all this information at hand, your agents can deliver the personalized, fully contextualized service your students want and expect.

3.  Intelligent routing:

A major reason why students dislike calling customer support via phone is being passed between agents, and having to repeat their query each time. To make sure that you avoid this typical phone complaint, you need to use a live chat platform that offers intelligent routing.

Intelligent routing allows you to direct chats based on pre-determined rules so that a student is always directed to the agent who is best able to resolve their question. Pre-chat surveys are key to this as they allow you to gain information about the visitor’s query before they are routed to an agent. From here, you can make sure they are automatically directed to the right department, team, or even specific agent.

This provides a far smoother experience for the student, while also helping to reduce overall chat duration.

Mobile chats

In 2020, 43% of live chats in the education sector were made on mobile. At first this figure may seem high because much of 2020 was spent at home due to COVID-19, which gave all of us greater access to desktops and laptops, making us less reliant on our mobile phones. However, this is actually 11% below the overall average, and suggests that secondary institutions have significant catch up to do in the adoption of mobile.

This is all the more important for educational institutions because their target audience is the highest users of mobile phone.
98% of Gen Z own a smartphone
75% of Gen Z most frequently uses a smartphone over computers and other devices
52% of Gen Z say that their smartphone is their most important internet device.

All these stats reinforce the need for higher educational institutions to embrace mobile and ensure that their chat is optimized for mobile. Responsive design is key to this – when viewing a website on a mobile device, chances are it will look different than it does from your computer screen. The original chat button and chat window that were designed to fit your desktop browser might take up too much space on a smartphone, making it difficult to navigate your mobile website.

With responsive design your live chat is automatically adjusted in size and layout with full mobile compatibility when visitors access your website through mobile devices. Without this, you risk providing frustrating and negative experiences when students are trying to reach out for support.

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