In the business world, efficient multichannel service and support is vital to customer satisfaction, retention, brand reputation, loyalty and of course, the bottom line. Given an economy that continues to struggle, along with the rapid rise of MOOCs as a low-cost learning option, higher education institutions both large and small are experimenting with ways to attract and retain their own “customer” base which includes students, prospective students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff.
Emerging and converging trends in technology are additionally forcing the hand of traditional higher education institutions to innovate their service, support and communication on an almost immediate basis, a parallel shared by big brands that are reeling to adapt to the always-connected consumer. The six major technology trends below have formed an unlikely alliance between campus support and customer service:
1. Supporting Generation Next: At more than 80 million strong, Millennials are the largest age grouping in American history, and by growing up in parallel with the internet and rapid-fire innovations in technology, they have created an engagement-craving student body that operates on their own time, and via their own devices, on a global, social and real-time scale. For both big brands and higher ed, serving Generation Next comes with a challenging learning curve.
2. Looking to the Cloud: Over the last few decades, many higher education institutions have been developing their technology systems and corresponding processes in a piecemeal, department-specific manner. The result is multiple administrative systems stretching across a growing university landscape in disparate silos that contain redundant data, conflicting processes, and that don’t communicate with one another. Both the private and public sectors have been keeping a close eye on a trending forecast that calls for clouds.
3. The Burgeoning BYOD Movement: From flipped classrooms to self-directed learning, everything in higher ed is moving increasingly online, which brings up the slippery slope of BYOD adoption. The goal is to turn an increasingly prevalent classroom disruptor into a cost-effective learning tool, but the benefits come with an equal set of challenges and investments, from handling increased IT support requests to managing learning and support delivery across a myriad of unique devices.
B2Bs and B2Cs have had to face this same challenge and have taken an early lead on offering a mobile version of service and support information and access, which gives higher ed some proven best practices to work from.
4. Satisfying the Eternal Quest for Knowledge: Just like their business counterparts providing product and support information online, higher education institutions are using self-service knowledgebases to give students 24/7 answers to questions ranging from “how do I change my login password” to “when does fall semester registration begin” to “where can I find the financial aid form I need.” According to a recent Sitel study, when looking for service or support, 71% of 16 to 24-year-olds and 65% of 25 to 34-year-olds look for a solution online first.
Big brands have come to the competitive realization over the last few years that content is king, every facet of it, and have been beefing up their customer service knowledgebases with not just search-engine-friendly content, but video and other forms of content better suited to command the hyper-connected consumer’s attention. Higher ed should be able to take and make use of the best practices honed from the business world’s new command of content.
5. Maintaining a Social Reputation: College students are some of the most active users of social media for communication, questions and support, so higher education has had to tackle this new channel much sooner and with much greater responsibility for social media users and influencers outside of its control (think popular student athletes, former students, media reports, etc.) than almost any other industry.
Social media monitoring and response software, like that used by big brands to manage brand reputation and respond to customers, is a growing need for higher education institutions, not only for promoting each institution’s news and information, but for student recruitment, reputation management, crisis management and coordinated and consistent communication across official and unofficial social media properties including alumni relations, student organizations, athletics, individual academic departments, foundations and more. Watch for its expanding use by higher ed.
6. Making a Big Deal about Big Data: While there may be a big buzz around MOOCs right now, experts will tell you that the real transformational trend to watch in higher education is big data. And though big data is just that, it’s the little things that can make all the difference in a school’s digital development and future success. Again campus support and customer service will connect as they develop best practices for big data collection, management and usage.
As BYOD policies and online offerings continue to evolve in both traditional and non-traditional learning environments, the role of customer service in higher education will continue to grow and evolve, as well. Customer service for serving students? It makes perfect sense.
June 5 Webinar Discusses How Higher Ed Can Improve Support & Information Delivery Across Multiple Channels
Join Microsoft Dynamics and Parature, from Microsoft on June 5th for a free webinar to hear more about how customer service best practices and multichannel service and support technology can positively impact your institution including:
- How you can deliver more efficient and effective service, support and information across multiple channels, including social media and mobile
- How to empower students with 24/7 self-service capabilities and information
- How noted colleges, universities and higher education-related brands are successfully doing this now.