Thanks to our daily usage of the internet, it’s nearly impossible to have never encountered a chatbot. In fact, they’ve become so ubiquitous that you probably don’t even recognize them unless you need to interact with one. When they first emerged on the market, they were either a nuisance you immediately minimized or a form of mindless amusement (as anyone who spent hours harassing AIM’s SmarterChild bot can attest). But the times they are a changin’. With an anticipated global growth of 24.43 percent by 2022, chatbots have become integral to the way the general public prefers to communicate—efficiently, anonymously, and on their time.
And no one covets this streamlined form of communication more than every higher education’s prime target audience: Teenagers. In fact, a Common Sense Media study found that 35 percent of teens prefer communicating via text above all other forms. So, why are chatbots the ideal technology for higher education institutions to better communicate with potential and current students?
- Instant Gratification. Gen Z grew up in an age of Google, streaming, and texting—they’ve never had to wait before, why should they start with your school? Chatbots don’t take coffee breaks or drop a busy signal when too many people try to connect, so they can be programmed to answer your institution’s most common questions efficiently and escalate any needs outside of their programming to a team member.
- They’re Budget Friendly. You could employ a 24/7 customer service center to let students know whether classes are canceled after a snowstorm at 3 a.m. or let your administrative team burn hours answering thousands of applicants’ fervent inquiries about when acceptance letters are being released… or you could let a chatbot do all the heavy lifting for a fraction of the price.
- It’s Free Data. Twenty years ago, you had to jump through hoops to get potential and current students to answer surveys, fill out inquiry cards, and share feedback. Now you can analyze how your chatbot interacts with students and their responses to ensure your communication is relevant and effective.
- You’re in Total Control. Even the most dedicated team member and amazing staff can supply inaccurate information or lack knowledge in certain areas. You can program your chatbot to know everything you—and every other member of your team—knows! Maybe incoming students don’t understand how to obtain their immunization records or what financial aid forms they need, but you do. Your chatbot is an amalgamation of shared knowledge and its capacity is as limitless as you make it.
Chatbots aren’t a new technology, but their value has increased exponentially—especially in the field of higher education. They give your prospective and current students the immediate answers and assistance they crave and demand, and provide you with a cost-effective data holy grail that boasts an ROI that’s infinite.
Austin Williams is an outcomes-driven full service advertising, marketing, digital and public relations agency, creating ideas that inspire action for clients in healthcare, higher education, financial services, nonprofits and professional services.