Use live chat and instant messaging to boost student recruitment

Our data shows that connecting with your prospects before they apply is critical to driving conversion to enrolment. But how can you encourage them to reach out? In fact, it’s quite straightforward. Engage them on their favourite channels – live chat and instant messaging.

We know that students who engage with an institution before they apply convert to enrolment at 2.5 times the rate than those who don’t.  We call this non-enquiring group ‘stealth’ – they’re an untapped opportunity for universities and colleges alike.

How do we know this? Well, we’ve helped over 35 universities to engage over 1.7 million potential students across 33 million touchpoints in recent years. We’re the UK’s experts on the application journey, from initial research, right through to successful enrolment.

We also understand the ins and outs of channel choices. The most popular, fastest growing and strongest converting communication channels are not surprising. Yes, that’s right, young people love to communicate with providers using live chat and instant messaging.

In fact, in 2021 alone, live chat, especially WhatsApp usage, increased by 233% across our 35-strong university partner group.

And for international students alone, gaining information and building relationships using live chat or WhatsApp increased conversion to enrolment by a massive 350%.

Create personal customer experiences

With unprecedented access to institutions and unparalleled choice, meeting the enquiry needs of Gen Z could be your university or college’s differentiator.

Ultimately, they’re savvy online shoppers, emphasised hugely post-pandemic. The brands they love set customer experience benchmarks high, and they expect nothing less from the universities and colleges they’re looking to invest in.

As digital natives, they’re glued to their devices and their patience is at an all-time low. They want a high-quality enquiry experience, which means talking to who they want, when they want, and on their favourite channels.

We know, first-hand, that universities and college that meet their needs convert students through to enrolment and beyond at impressive rates.

Use real-time chat channels

So it’s clear that a great instant messaging enquiry experience underpins enrolment conversion. But we also know that chartering unknown territories can be daunting. That’s why we’ve pulled together the following ‘tried and tested’ guidance – to help you feel get it right first time.

Consider a pilot phase

Consider testing live chat in one or two markets initially as a pilot study, to minimise internal disruption, while giving you the insights you need to establish internal processes and systems. You can also define and communicate limited live chat opening hours (ideally taking into account relevant time zones) to help manage customer expectations in line with internal resource.

Match your channel choice to your markets

You’ll find a whole host of live chat nuances across different countries. Learn what channels your markets use and adapt your plans accordingly. As you will already be familiar with – Chinese students love WeChat and Nigerians WhatsApp. Be clear about your top geographical markets and embed the channels they use into your student recruitment strategy.

Make your website do the work

Some 90% of international stealth applicants used university websites as their main decision-making source.  Place live chat cues prominently, to make it as easy as possible for prospects to reach out.

Your website should contain useful information to answer FAQs. This allows your advisers to link to content rather than repeat themselves during interactions. Relevant website content will also provide a stronger UX and improve your SEO.

Drive lead generation

To track and qualify leads across your sales funnel, ensure you enter your enquirers’ data into your CRM system after every enquiry. Use questions asked to inform information provided across other channels. Real-time feedback can help you adjust communications and activities mid-cycle.

Choose the right people to answer enquiries

Make sure the right people are answering your live chat questions. Ensure your teams understand the products and services your markets are interested in (this will differ across geographical segments).

Establish customer service quality benchmarks to help your team build emotional bonds. Utilise live chat data – response times, conversation durations, leads and conversions – to manage performance.

Reach out for support

Real-time messaging channels are a great tool for conversion funnel activities, but you might not have the internal resources, skills, or time to adopt them.

We’ve successfully supported over 35 universities to reap the rewards of live chat over the past nine years, managing almost 1.7 million enquiries through to enrolment.

We can work as an extension of your admissions team, combining our data with yours, to maximise returns across the digital comms channels, including live chat and instant messaging, that are right for your markets.

We’ll answer and follow-up on conversations, complete application files, and more – all in a highly personalised and efficient way.

Get in touch with our team to learn how we can work together to improve your enrolment results