As we move into the beginning of the academic year, colleges are wondering what steps they need to take to adapt to new scholastic and economic environments. Now that students are engaging in distance learning, it’s time for colleges to consider adopting new communication channels to meet both current and prospective students where they are: online.

Enter live chat.

Live chat is growing, and fast. So fast, in fact, that data collected from a survey published this year projected that it will grow up to a whopping 87% in the next 12-18 months. With this industry’s highly significant growth, more people are trying to understand how younger customers are transforming the way we look at customer service.

It comes as no surprise that Millennials and Gen Z are gravitating toward online engagement. When interacting with a brand or business, 65% of 18 – 34-year-olds now begin the process online, and 60% of all consumers in that same age group say that they use live chat for these interactions. There are many reasons for this preference; it’s fast, it’s convenient, and it also taps into a peculiar generational trend: young people tend to prefer texting over talking on the phone.

Considering the data surrounding chat, there’s a lot to be gained for institutions utilizing chat to reach students.

Make Connections Easy

When the goal is to recruit as many students as possible, accessibility is key. You never know when someone will visit your website, and if they are able to connect with you right away via a live chat, that conversation could be the deciding factor between a potential student leaving your site, or filling out an application.

Data shows that young people heavily prefer text-based platforms. A recent survey determined that for Americans under 50, texting is the most frequent form of communication used, and more than 2/3rds of the respondents who identified as Millennial and younger said that they text “a lot.” Since having chat means that your website has its own instant messenger function built right in, this means that the majority of incoming students may be more compelled to engage with your website than they would without that live chat capability.

Gen Z and Millennials are also more inclined to desire self-service than previous generations of consumers. Overall, 84% of Millennial customers report relying on self-service, and FAQ page usage increased from 67% to 81% between 2012 and 2015. College websites are notorious for having vast and daunting catalogs of information. A live chatter can answer general questions right away and direct the student or parent to any part of the website that can answer specific questions. Eliminating excess search time to help a visitor get straight to the information that they need, like financial aid, major curriculums, or student life creates a better experience. Also, since many chat services are available 24/7, this heightened self-service experience is always an option for your visitors no matter when they visit your website.

Warmly Welcome Everyone

A student’s very first interaction with your college will almost always be through your website since 69% of prospective students now rely on college search sites, online reviews, and social media to assist them with their college admissions process. Wouldn’t it be nice if your website had an admissions tour guide to welcome students? That’s what having a live chat specialist is like. Chat offers opportunities for personalized guidance so you can take control of how people experience your website and strengthen your school’s online identity, brand, and ambiance.

Timeliness makes for a welcoming student experience, and no other form of online service is more timely than chat. The average time for a chat response is around 23-46 seconds, which blows away the average professional social media response (10 hours) or email (12 hours). If students are greeted right away on your website, they’re much more likely to stay and start a conversation about attending your school.

Show Your Competence

Students aren’t the only ones visiting your website. Parents are searching for schools as well, and they have their own set of needs that need to be met. 77% of parents say that they’re very involved with their child’s college selection process, which means that for every 10 prospective students who engage with your website, about 8 parents will follow in their wake.
A live chatter can immediately assist an inquisitive parent by connecting them with faculty members and office staff, as well as answer general FAQ’s. They can even take messages to send to school staff after hours, making sure that parents never have to wait to ask a more specific question. Having a live chat specialist who is always ready to connect parents with the information they need will help your college present as competent and prepared.

Stay Engaged

Following up with students is critical, especially when it comes to transitioning them into the next freshman class. While 58% of students tend to use chat during all stages of recruitment, a significant 75% of them have a preference for using chat after accepting an offer. Having communication channels that students will want to use will help combat the “summer melt” phenomenon every admissions department experiences, where students either miss deadlines or don’t even engage with the finalization process that solidifies their spot in the class. Chat can be used to promptly schedule school visits for accepted students and casually remind them about important deadlines as well. Conducting these follow-up conversations over chat also benefits the institution since transcripts of these interactions can be saved and reviewed, allowing future correspondences to be more accurate and personalized for each individual student.

Strengthen Your Community

Chat enhances the experience of prospective students through accessible, caring, efficient, and consistent customer service. Not only can it help you put your website’s best foot forward for your next admissions cycle and make your community grow, but it can also help current students, parents, and even alumni interact with your website easier than ever before, making your school a stronger, more connected community.

Interested in learning more about chat? Download our guide for the full scoop.

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If you are a small business owner, it’s likely that your life has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of you have needed to change the way that you run your business entirely. Maybe you’re working from home and trying to rearrange your daily routine to ensure you’re just as productive as you were at the office. Maybe you’re learning the ropes of how to manage a small or very large team remotely. Maybe you’re figuring out how to conduct meetings in virtual spaces on the fly while trying to stay on schedule as much as you can, or you’re addressing tech issues or limitations.

But most of you have one thing in common: you’ve had to radically change the way you interact with your customers by finding new ways to provide the best possible service you can, maintaining the meaningful relationships you’ve built over the years, all while avoiding the most impactful way you can accomplish that: being face to face.

This is a challenging time filled with uncertainty and anxiety, but now, more than ever, in your isolated makeshift office where you’ve tried to close yourself off from children, partners, and the rest of the outside world, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. It’s important to remember that there are people out there who want to help you.

Ruby is dedicated to helping small businesses grow: it’s our mission statement, our purpose, and our passion. As a company that got its sea legs in the middle of a recession, we know what it takes to weather an economic storm while helping others do the same. While it does take grit and a pinch of unsinkable optimism, it also sometimes takes a little bit of outside help, and in this new and unpredictable economic landscape, there has never been a time when we’ve wanted to ensure the growth and stability of our community more.

If you keep asking yourself “where do I go from here?” this post is for you. Our team has dedicated some extra time to research ways that help ease the stress of small businesses affected by COVID-19, and honestly? We were overwhelmed by the results. Tons of tech companies are now offering extended free trials for their online services and software.

New business loan programs are being born.

Non-profits are stepping up their game.

Webinars are being recorded.

Articles are being written, and lists are being compiled by publications of all-sorts, each dedicated to strategies to help preserve, and even improve, the health and wealth of small businesses across the
country.

What follows here is a spreadsheet containing all of our findings. You’ll find a list with opportunities that we believe will help small business owners save time, money, and energy for at least the next three months. We also intend for this to be a living document and add to it as the year unfolds,
so stay posted.

The resources are out there, and we are committed to helping you find them. We’re in the business of keeping you in business.

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*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.