How Can Universities Communicate More Effectively with Prospective Students?
Styles of communication can make or break a brand. For Higher Education institutions, it is imperative that they understand how to talk to their target market and not make the mistake of sticking to traditional methods that worked for generations before. If there’s any trend that defines millennials, it’s their affinity with digital communications. Having spent their entire lives in the digital age, they are accustomed to having all the answers they need within seconds. Therefore, in order to establish a trusting relationship with this generation, universities must remember that time is of the essence; responses to their queries must be quick if they are to retain their interest.
Hobson’s International Student Survey 2017 asked students how quickly they would expect to receive an acknowledgement and a full response to their enquiries; they found that 65% expected a response within 24 hours, 22% within 3 days and 9.4% said within 1 week. Evidently, we live in an era of speed and if institutions do not keep up with the demands of their target market, it will lead to distrust and frustration.
However, quick and efficient correspondence is easier said than done. With universities already having enough on their plates, it can be difficult trying to respond to every enquiry, despite all the best efforts. But as we move further into this digital era, more tools are being made available which can help universities handle their communication efforts better.
Chatbots are the answer to real-time support
Chatbots are gaining more popularity than ever by bringing new ways of how businesses run marketing. They have become the latest addition to every marketer’s bag of strategies as being an early adopter can give you a significant advantage, from customer support to lead generation. Through Artificial Intelligence, chatbots scan through huge amounts of information to spot patterns and repeat actions so that they can predict and adapt to a variety of questions.
It is believed that 85% of customer interaction will be managed without a human by 2020. The value in chatbots comes from their ability to automate conversations throughout your organisation; the money that would be spent on hiring an employee to answer questions and the time that would be spent attending to queries can instead be allocated to other efforts.
A prominent benefit of chatbots is their ability to work in real-time. Universities already have a lot of data stored in their systems in regards to current and prospective students’ behaviour and queries, so why waste precious time manually responding to the same questions over and over again when a system can be put in place to provide automated responses? With chatbots, students have access to information on-the-go; for universities, they reduce the number of steps that need to be taken to answer a question before an enquirer is referred to a specialist.
A benefit that chatbots can offer to Higher Education institutions is they can provide ‘after-hours’ support, meaning prospective students can stay connected to universities 24/7. As discussed earlier, millennials have the ‘I need the answer now’ mentality and so chatbots are a great way to decrease the average response time, thus bringing universities closer to their target market’s expectations.
In addition, not only do chatbots track and monitor student enquiries, they highlight where there are gaps in available information. This data will enable universities to re-assess their content to ensure informed correspondence with prospective students.
Cultivate trust with your prospects through forums
A forum is a public medium that is open for anyone to participate. This is a great method to help divert traffic away from universities’ inboxes and allows for even wider communication within the academic and student community. A study conducted by QS Enrolment Solutions into prospective international students’ communication preferences found that 45% of them would feel less worried about studying abroad if they were able to ask questions to existing international students at the institution and 64% said that the ability to connect with existing international students to ask questions was the most influential factor in helping them choose a university. Having current students answer questions gives a true representation of what life is like at that institution, making prospects feel more comfortable knowing that their peers are giving their honest opinions.
Staff interaction on forums is also integral in establishing trust with prospects; their collaboration gives credibility to the claims made by existing students, thus providing psychological satisfaction to anxious prospects and their parents.
In addition, forums can always be made smarter. Universities are inundated with similar questions by prospects on a regular basis, making responding to queries a tedious and repetitive task. Since conversations are public on forums, universities can review the most common questions being asked by prospects and publish answers that will satisfy a large number of people, thus lessening the burden of dealing with hundreds of the same question directly.
Let’s look at Quora, for example. Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organised by its community of users – so simply put, it is a forum. Quora has a massive user-base and is a lot of people’s go-to source for information. But, what is it about Quora that makes it so successful? Mainly, Quora offers dimensions of a social experience; it has a comment feature, users have the ability to message others and are able to blog. Having autonomy in the communication process appeals to its users and they can trust that they will get personalised replies that answer their specific queries. In a similar vein, university forums perform this function in that they rely on the active engagement of the online community.
The more conversations that take place, the more trust universities can breed with prospective students. Being part of a thriving online community means that prospects are more likely to engage with the offerings of the institution and starts to formulate a friendly and dependable relationship.
At Proodle Solutions, we understand the need for universities to establish successful communication networks with prospective students to harness a solid relationship of trust and understanding. As the new generation of digitally innate students begin to enter university, institutions must be prepared to keep up. Speed is a must, and so is accurate information; it is not a matter of students having one or the other, it’s a matter of they must have both. Fortunately, technological advancements mean that universities are able to meet the demands of their target market and ensure excellent levels of communication.
If you would like to know more about how Proodle can digitally influence your international recruitment efforts, email us at [email protected] or give us a call on +447776557159