Self-Service – the Battle to Serve Students

More and more students want to go online, get the information they want, take action and get on with their lives.

Increasingly, education providers are building robust websites and mobile apps that further facilitate self-service so that students can access information when they want, from wherever they are, and without ever having to interact with a human being. This has many benefits, including the reduction of cost-to-serve as human intervention is relatively expensive.

The challenge?  So often, the pure information is not enough to help a student clear the hurdles they are encountering in their personal and academic lives. Students are increasingly afraid to ask for help, or even reticent to admit they need it.

Furthermore, new CRM / SIS platforms give us a false sense of being in touch with our students because they provide predictive analytics that show us who our at-risk students are, and some institutions even proactively reach out to those students that are showing signs of risk.  Perhaps they’ve missed classes, or failed assignments – and those triggers send up a digital “white flag” indicating that they need intervention.

While more at risk students drop out as a percent of total population, schools still lose too many students that show no signs of weakness or stress, but disappear at term end, or fail to return after a summer break.

Innovations in data will begin to parse the pages that students visit, even if they take no action on that page, and marry them with the typical risk assessment algorithms to begin to paint a more complete picture of student risk – so that someone who is a straight-A student, but who visits a page about school withdrawal, even if they don’t fill out a form, for example, would receive outreach.

These new methods will also look for trigger activities that should be changed in student portals so that a student cannot find the information they need online and must contact the school for additional support – requiring the human intervention that could put them back on a successful course and/or connect them with the resources to help them overcome the challenges and/or perceptions that may prevent them from returning, even if they are having great success in school already.

Additional changes are being made in the methods of information delivery. For sensitive questions, some sites now require test delivery of critical information. The scenario, for example? Student wants to withdraw. They visit the website and find a page that explains the withdrawal process, but instead of delivering a link to the form, the page has a form the student must complete that will then text them a link to the withdrawal documents.  This process requires the student to provide contact information, and grant permission for text messages, which then opens the door for a human to interact with the student before the student can complete the withdrawal process.

The extra hoop seems counterintuitive to the “all access, all the time” philosophy of student self-service, but the extra step could make the difference between a student slipping away with high debt and no degree, or accessing needed resources that will enable them to complete their program and successfully transition to their post-college career.

Are we Reaching Students Through Their Preferred Channels?

It feels right to create support departments, on campus, that are staffed with friendly, caring and efficient staff to assist your students.

But is that based on an old communication paradigm? Do they really need us when they’re already on campus – or would they be more inclined to engage with us actively if they could reach us in the “locations” they frequent more like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and perhaps most importantly text messaging?

There’s not doubt that innovative schools are using these tools — but mostly it seems like an afterthought, and certainly they haven’t become the primary source of connection — we still prefer: “Come to my office,” or “call me.” What if we reached them where they live and made these alternative channels – our primary channels?

One of the advantages of this strategy is the incredible information that can be gathered from tracking and monitoring these communication channels – unlike office visits and phone calls, we can capture all the keywords, common phrases, frequent questions – and now we have real science to inform our resources (human and web-based), and improve the information we give students in the first place.

I suspect there are some instances when a real person cannot be replaced – but I’m beginning to believe that we could increase student satisfaction and engagement, while also reducing cost-to-serve, by employing robust, high-tech contact center strategies and tracking technologies.

Economy of Time

An Economy of Time

The lack of time, and overabundance of things to get done, is likely one of the greatest health hazards, and career-success hazards in America (probably the world). Ultimately, there’s no easy pill… but I have encountered one piece of advice that has given me a few extra minutes in every day, which ultimately add up to hours each week…

Think of time AS money… yes, that’s different than “time IS money.” We all know it isn’t… I don’t always get paid for the things I spend my time on, but I still have to get them done. That said, if I think of “time AS money,” then I make more careful choices about how I spend it — even to smaller fractions of an hour. Read more