Sunday, October 30, 2005

11. Multiple use of live chat

Live support through online chat is a feature on the rise. According to an Andersen Consulting review, 62 % of Internet consumers said that if live online customer service were present, they would purchase more products online. What can we learn from this when it comes to higher education?

One advantage is related to student enrollment. When more and more educational institutions are competing for the best students, answering questions from potential students in real time instead of via e-mail could make a difference. Easy access to someone behind the scenes could also reassure those who have opted for a program that they made the right decision. But then, isn´t this creating more adminstration than reducing it? From an inside-out perspective it certainly is. Students are demanding and it is best to keep them at arms lenghts.

In an online environment, however, the on-campus benefits of socialising off-hours are not there. More effort has to be invested in attracting and keeping the students on track. Fast feed-back is one feature to ensure this. Setting up fixed office-hours, for example, for live chat support means no major changes to present working routines, as you are able work with your computer while waiting for an incoming chat. This highligts, however, the need to organise all relevant student information in an easy accessible way, so that any member of staff can be available for a chat at given time-slot. With all basic information present online, it is not a matter of repeating the same answer all the time, but actually building a relation with future students, who in turn may act as ambassadors to attract other students. Perhaps a role to be played by former students, the alumni?

This, is the outside-in perspective. Lund University is actually doing a similar thing by offering future students access to a web-ambassador. They are still at the e-mail stage though...

Ps. Try Live Chat for yourself by downloading a demo version of Bold Chat or Provide Support. Ds.

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