Live Chat for Higher Ed: Dos and Don’ts
Live chat agent types at desk

Many colleges and universities use live chat to boost enrollment and support students—but not all of them use it correctly.

This guide is for higher ed admissions directors, marketers, and administrators who are looking to implement live chat and don’t know where to start, or just want to up their game.  These suggestions apply whether you’re running the live chat in-house or outsourcing it. When shopping for outsourced live chat solutions for your school, make sure the providers meet all these criteria.

Learn more in The Definitive Guide to Live Chat for Higher Education

Live Chat Dos


Do make it 24/7

24/7 live chat is the key to making sure you never miss any prospective students who come to your website and have questions. When students are on your website, they’re at their highest point of interest in your school. They’re much more likely to engage with you through live chat while they’re on your site than when you send them an email on a random Tuesday morning. Around-the-clock live chat is also vital for helping you reach students in other time zones and non-traditional learners. International students will inevitably visit your website while you’re asleep, so an outsourced, 24/7 live chat gives them the opportunity to have their questions answered promptly. Additionally, non-traditional students, such as adult learners, tend to have day jobs, so if your live chat hours are only 9 to 5, you’re missing them, too. Live chat is a valuable way to make a connection with prospective students and make your school memorable when they choose where to enroll. Don’t miss the chance to engage with them by missing their chats!

Do update your knowledge base regularly

A knowledge base is exactly what it sounds like: a document containing all the information prospective students and parents may ask you about via live chat. Some key stats it should include are application deadlines, degree program offerings, and miscellaneous facts about your school. At JetSpring, we create a knowledge base for your school and get your approval before starting the live chat program. We periodically reach out for updates about holiday hours, new programs, or any other changes or additions you wish to make. It’s important to keep your knowledge base up-to-date to ensure that prospective students are receiving the right information. Additionally, it makes it easier for the live chat agents to find answers quickly and efficiently.

Do make it compliant

Compliance is more than just a buzzword when it comes to your web presence, especially in the education space. The two main laws to keep in mind when developing a live chat strategy are the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). FERPA is designed to protect student privacy. In a live chat context, this means protecting the confidentiality of the data that prospective and current students share via chat. Make sure your live chat provider is FERPA-compliant. ADA compliance often falls to the developers of the live chat platform. It ensures that people with disabilities, such as visual impairments, are still able to use live chat to communicate with your admissions team.

Do set goals and measure results

Even though setting goals and keeping track of them may seem daunting, it’s vital to make sure you’re getting the ROI you want from live chat. Before implementing live chat, choose the metrics you want to improve. For instance, many schools track the number of chats that convert to applicants or the percentage of chats that come in after hours Check if your live chat provider offers any sort of data dashboard or reporting to help you make sure you’re on track to reach your goals.


Related: Three Steps to Winning the Live Chat Game

Live Chat Don’ts


Don’t use robotic responses

If you talk in an extremely formal manner, prospective students might feel uncomfortable or like they’re being talked down to. Use a conversational tone, but make sure it aligns with your brand voice. You can rely on your knowledge base and take advantage of pre-written responses, but modify them to make sense for the situation. Chatting like a real person helps build trust, which makes prospective students more inclined to continue to pursue your school. Being empathetic demonstrates that you care about students and truly want to be of service.

Don’t leave prospective students hanging

Let’s face it, people have incredibly short attention spans. 60% of consumers want an immediate response when contacting an organization through live chat. So if you wait more than a few seconds to answer a chat, you run the risk of the prospective student leaving the page. An easy solution to this is outsourcing your live chat. Your admissions team already has a lot to focus on, so it’s not practical or realistic to expect them to pick up every live chat immediately. A team of outsourced live agents can monitor chat requests and answer them within a couple of seconds. Then, they have the option to transfer the chats to your team if they’re available.

Don’t make assumptions

Never make assumptions when chatting with a prospective student. This can cause the student to be confused, at best, or annoyed, at worst. Make sure you’re listening to what the prospective student actually wants to know. If they say or ask something that’s unclear, ask for clarification. If you bulldoze ahead and answer a question they didn’t ask, the prospective student will feel misunderstood and frustrated.

Don’t wing it

Finally, don’t wing it. Live chat is a valuable source of information for prospective students and an often-overlooked chance to make connections that lead to enrollments. You may be tempted to implement live chat and then forget about it, but that opens you up to the risk of providing a poor experience for your website visitors. To prevent this, make a plan. 

  1. Think through the experience of a prospective student and what they would want from a live chat conversation. 
  2. Prepare for multiple scenarios. 
  3. Set goals for your live chat’s performance and make sure you measure and analyze results. 
  4. Request feedback from users and agents to make sure everything is running smoothly. 

While this may seem intimidating, implementing live chat on your school’s website can free up your time and resources while improving your prospective students’ experience.  If you have any questions or are stuck developing a live chat strategy for your higher ed institution, reach out to us and one of our live chat experts can lend a hand.


Related: UCLA Case Study

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