Every year, nearly 20 million students enroll in universities across the United States. Given how important the choice of a college can be for a person’s academic and professional career, students understandably have a lot of questions about majors, eligibility, tuition, campus life, faculty, and more, while going through the process of selecting a university. And as universities compete to get on board students who are the right ‘fit’, it is important for them to not only provide the right answers to prospective students’ queries but also to effectively communicate precisely what they have to offer.
Colleges invest a lot of time and resources in engaging with prospective students – with US universities spending billions of dollars annually on admissions. But the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown open new challenges for universities, as they now have to find ways to engage with students at a time when in-person interactions, including visits to university campuses and college fairs, will likely not be possible.
The good news is that there’s a solution to this problem – a proven technology that has already helped organizations across the globe automate customer engagement at scale through personalized human-like interactions.
Two words. Conversational AI.
Here are four reasons why your university should implement a Conversational AI solution to give a much-needed boost to your admissions process during this challenging time.
Resolve Routine Queries End-to-End
“I want to know about majors”, “How do I get started with my application?”, “What are the tuition fees for this program?” – these are some of the common queries you will be getting on a daily basis. Your support staff and admissions officers will have to manually answer these questions over and over again on phone calls or over e-mail. And given the sheer volume of queries that you will be receiving on these mediums, especially in the absence of in-person discussions and events, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for your staff to handle all of them properly.
This is where Conversational AI comes to the rescue. An AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Assistant can resolve these routine queries and FAQs end-to-end, with no human intervention required. And it does so in an engaging, conversational manner that simulates the experience of speaking to a human being and getting personalized attention.
As you can see in the examples above, the AI Assistant answers the student’s questions about majors, and can also direct him to relevant sections of the website or other additional resources if required. It also guides the student with regard to the university’s application process.
Conversational AI thus enables your university to scale up its ability to offer support to prospective students, while also freeing up your human staff and allowing them to focus on more complex tasks that require their attention.
This reduced dependency on your human support staff is also very helpful at a time when many of them will be unable to make it to work, or face logistical difficulties that may arise from working remotely.
Be Available Round-the-Clock
Conversational AI makes it possible for your university to engage with students 24/7. The AI Assistant instantly responds to their queries and offers them the support that they require at any time, day or night.
Being able to provide students with quick and timely answers is a great way to keep them engaged and ensure a positive experience, by preventing the frustration that could arise from not being able to get hold of a human agent in time. The 24/7 availability of an AI Assistant is particularly useful when it comes to engaging with international students across time-zones.
Offer a Virtual Campus Tour
Picking a college is of course, not just about majors or eligibility for a program. The campus plays a major role in this decision for any student – understandably so, given that they will be spending a major chunk of the next four lives of their lives there! The beauty and aesthetic appeal of college campuses is certainly a factor, as is the infrastructure and facilities available.
It is for this reason that many students visit campuses for a tour while in the process of selecting colleges. Unfortunately, such physical campus tours may not be possible in the near future due to COVID-19. But even under normal circumstances, there may be students (particularly international students) who will find it difficult to make the trip.
With an AI Assistant, you can offer a virtual campus tour to interested students. Through photos and videos, a student can explore the campus and get a feel for the place, as well as learn about its amenities and attractions. The assistant serves as a virtual ‘campus tour guide’, answering students’ questions about the campus and its facilities, interesting facts and trivia, and more.
It may not be quite the same as actually being there, but it’s certainly the next best thing you can offer your prospective students!
Facilitate Personal Interactions
While Conversational AI can do wonders, ultimately, a prospective student would, at some point in the process, like to speak to an admission counselor, an existing student, or even a faculty member.
Fortunately, an AI Assistant can help with that as well.
A good Conversational AI platform would include an Agent Chat tool, which can seamlessly transfer a conversation from the AI Assistant to a human agent.
So, if a prospective student asks to speak to an admissions counselor, and a counselor is available, he/she can take over the conversation and have a ‘live chat’ with the student.
Similarly, a student can use the assistant to learn about the faculty members associated with various programs and majors of the university and request a ‘live chat’ with them to get a better understanding of the programs. They might also want to chat with existing students in order to get an insider’s perspective of life at your university and a ‘feel’ for the kind of peers they can expect to meet there.
Of course, it may not always be possible for these stakeholders to be available for a live chat. But you can offer students the option of scheduling a phone call or video call with a counselor, faculty member or student representative through the AI Assistant.
These conversations will not only help with your efforts to engage prospective students (particularly those who are seriously considering applying to your university) but will actually go a long way towards influencing their decision to apply to your university, as well as decide which programs or majors to apply to.
To sum up
Choosing a university is an important decision for any student, which makes it crucial for universities to be effective in showcasing what they can offer, and helping them with the information they need to make an informed choice. Conversational AI enables your university to do this at scale, instantly and round-the-clock, while also reducing your dependency on human support staff.
Apart from boosting your engagement efforts during a challenging time, there can be no better way to position yourself as a tech-savvy university of the future than by making an AI Assistant your virtual ambassador!