8 ways to boost student retention with chatbots

Level up your retention strategy. Here’s how chatbots can help you boost student retention…

Have you ever thought about using chatbots for student retention?

Chatbots are a powerful engagement tool and they’re often leveraged to support prospective students through the admissions process. However, they can also help you keep enrolled students engaged as they navigate through college – whether that’s during their freshman week or throughout the year.

But… we get it. There can also be reservations about using smart technology in this way. Chatbots will never replace student advisory teams, that goes without saying. However, they can work alongside those staff to take the pressure off and enhance the student experience with real-time support and the kind of 24/7 customer service students know and expect.

boost student retention with chatbots

Chatbots cut through the noise

Some institutions are already leveraging chatbots successfully in this capacity. One study reported by Inside Higher Ed found that chatbots can “cut through the communication clutter” and nudge students to complete tasks that will help them to stay enrolled. Chatbots may mean that students are able to express themselves more freely in a way they may not be able to do face-to-face.

In this latest blog, we walk you through how chatbots can help you level up the student experience and successfully keep students enrolled.

1) Solve orientation week challenges

The first week of the new academic year can be challenging for both students and staff at universities. As much as you may think that you’ve communicated every tiny little thing that students will need to get themselves up and running over orientation, there will always be questions. However, large numbers of questions can be a huge time suck for your team.

Using a chatbot means that you can answer queries in real-time – when students really need it – and you can also point them in the direction of helpful resources that may help in future. A chatbot helps you set students up for success, right from the start.

2) Free up your team

Students will always have questions. We bet you’ve got a long list of the repetitive questions your team is asked on a regular basis, coming to you via phone calls, emails, and students popping by your office. But all of these questions take a certain amount of time to answer and, during busy periods, that can lead to teams feeling under pressure.

It’s hard to spend time on conversations with students when you know that more inquiries are flooding in all the time. However, our customers have seen decreases in both call and email volume after implementing their Gecko chatbots. That’s freed up their team and enabled their staff to spend more time with the students that really need it.

3) Collect data and spot trends

The questions that come into your chatbot from students are like gold dust. Why? Because they let you know exactly what students are struggling with. These questions tell you what students aren’t getting, what they may need additional support with, and what isn’t landing. You can use that data to interrogate your communications to help students in the future.

For example, if hundreds of students are asking where can get their timetables, when exams are, or when Reading Week is, then that may tell you that that information isn’t clear on your website. It could also tell you that students aren’t reading their emails and it could be worth exploring other communication channels to get your message across. Either way, it can help you deliver better student experiences throughout the student journey.

4) Create equitable experiences

Your team is in the office 9-5. But students are in class for the majority of that time. And what about when an inquiry comes in at 6:09pm on a Friday? What happens if a student has a burning question over the weekend? Or how about if the student in question is studying remotely in a different time zone – and is therefore unable to communicate with staff during core work hours?

A chatbot caters to all students at your institution, not just the traditional ones. Smart technology can create more equitable experiences, by being there for the students that work or have caring responsibilities or don’t have access to technology during the day – or who are based out of state or are located in a different geographical region.

5) Answer the ‘stupid’ questions

Is there ever a stupid question when you’re starting your journey in higher education? Of course not, but that’s not going to stop students from feeling that way, especially first-generation students who may not know what to expect from college. So how can you stop them from feeling uncomfortable about asking those questions?

You use a chatbot. A chatbot doesn’t judge. It doesn’t involve having to walk into an office and ask a question in front of a room of people. It doesn’t have to be caveated with, ‘I know this is a stupid question, but…” When you leverage a smart technology you can empower and enable students to ask what they need, without feeling awkward about it.

6) Enable students to be vulnerable

You might think a chatbot is there to answer the simple, repetitive questions, and that’s true. But it’s not always the case. Students are more likely to be vulnerable to a bot than they are to a human, and chatbots are a way of quickly directing them to the support they need.

This is something on of our own customers have found. Amarillo College told us how they were surprised that the level of vulnerability students showed when engaging with the chatbot, despite knowing they weren’t talking to a human. Maria Jurez, Director of Enrollment Services, told us, “I thought the questions would be a lot more basic. It’s nice to see that students feel comfortable enough with a chatbot to interact with it in that way.”

7) Boost your brand

Chatbots will only say what you tell them to. They can’t go rogue and say something that hasn’t been approved by you or your team. That means you don’t have to worry about them offering a ‘lesser’ experience than a real-person on your student services team.

In fact, the best way to think of a chatbot is as a digital member of your team, just one that happens to be available 24/7. If you’re really passionate about delivering amazing experiences to students, then you’ll see that a chatbot can help you scale your communications. Not only are chatbots quick and efficient, they can also bring your campus personality to life by supporting students in a way that is quick – and conversational.

8) Hand over to a human

One really important point to make when talking about using chatbots for student retention is to make sure that any bigger problems are escalated and handed over to a human. Not all chatbots have the ability to do this. However, the good news is that a Gecko chatbot does recognise when a conversation should be passed over to a member of staff.

The student having the conversation with the chatbot can opt to chat with a person at any time in the conversation. Your team in the backend will receive a notification alerting them to the fact that a new message has appeared in the inbox, and they can respond accordingly. All in all, it means that student issues don’t fall through the cracks.