How Can Automation and AI Help Universities Respond to Prospective Students Faster?

By Salesforce.org | October 16, 2019 | Artificial Intelligence, Higher Education, Marketing, Recruiting

Professor of Computer Science Reads Lecture to a Classroom Full of Multi Ethnic Students. Teacher Holds Laptop with Deep Learning, Artificial Intelligence Infographics on the Screen.

Today’s prospective students are demanding a new level of service. And Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are helping universities rise to the challenge.

As we explore in our new E-book, The Changing Landscape of Student Recruitment, prospective students now expect universities to provide the fast, convenient responses they’ve grown used to in the rest of their digital lives.

But how do you achieve that new level of service when you’ve got a growing number of applicants from a growing number of nations – and your resources aren’t growing at the same pace?

Increasingly, university recruitment and admissions teams are looking to automation and AI to help them streamline processes, and deliver slicker, smarter experiences at scale.

Automating and Streamlining Enquiries

If you default to email to manage prospective students enquiries, the chances are you could make life a lot easier for them, and for your recruitment and admissions team by offering new channels of communications.

Today, students can find answers online to common questions quickly without your team having to intervene. Indeed, it is easy to create a dynamic form on your website that captures the key information needed to direct prospective students to the right resources (an FAQ page for instance).

If that form is part of a modern service platform, you’ll also be able to route automatically more complex enquiries to the best person to handle them.

That person will then see all your previous interactions with the individual and rapidly provide an appropriate, personalised response – using data intelligence to predict the next best action to take.

From descriptive statistics to predictive intelligence and proactive recommendations, artificial intelligence accelerates team efficiency by providing strategic insights and focus to support applicants at scale.

Adding AI and Chatbots to the Mix

Another popular technology for accelerating responses and provide 24/7 support to prospective students? Chatbots. These programs that simulate interactive human conversation can provide an ideal first point of service for recruitment and admissions, engaging with prospective students across live chat, social, SMS and voice.

And with the right service platform, it’s now possible to build a bot once, then quickly deploy it across any number of channels.

In addition to answering common questions, a good bot will seamlessly hand an enquiry off to your admissions staff when it requires a human response – and even intelligently route it to the person with the right knowledge and skills.

In all these ways, chatbots are helping universities scale up digital service, without having to scale up recruitment and admissions resources. 

Smiling higher education student using digital tablet

Getting the Foundation in Place

From automation to personalisation – smarter service depends on data. And that means you’re going to need to establish a 360-degree view of your prospective students.

Many universities are achieving this by connecting their existing systems to a scalable cloud platform. Our own platform even has an open-source data architecture built on top that’s specifically tailored to the needs of education institutions. (Learn more about our Education Data Architecture here).

How LSE has Transformed Prospective Student Experience

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) might be almost 125 years old, but when it comes to recruitment and admissions, it’s still at the cutting edge.

LSE has introduced an enquiry management app to help transform its interactions with prospective students. Its first step was to create an enquiry form that captures the key data its recruitment and admissions team needs – from an individual’s intended level of study, to whether they’ve already applied, and where they’re located.

This data not only ensures the enquiry is directed to the right department, it empowers the team to provide proactive service, answering questions the prospective student hasn’t even asked yet. For example, for an international student, they might include details of any available scholarships in their response.

LSE’s recruitment and admissions team have also created dashboards so they can see – at a glance – what the most common enquiries are and who’s closing the most cases.

Nathan Brennan, Student Recruitment and Study Abroad Coordinator at LSE, says, “[The enquiry management app] has increased the efficiency of staff members. It has made it easier for us to collect information about our users and had improved our ability to give quick and accurate information.”

The next step? “We’re looking to roll out [the bot aka the enquiry management app] on each of our programme pages around the school,” says Phil Wood, Marketing Manager at LSE. “We’re also looking to bring in a live chat feature.”

The Impact of Smarter Prospective Student Experiences

Deploying an AI-enabled service platform can have a significant impact on key recruitment and admissions metrics. 

As such a platform can help teams understand applicant and enrollment trends, take action based on predictive key performance indicators, get help with an automated and intelligent to-do list, scale their impact and support to prospective students thanks to bots.

Ultimately, recruitment and admissions teams save time, provide a better service to more prospective students, and successfully engage the talents they are looking for.

 

Dive Deeper with our New E-book

Students’ changing expectations around recruitment and admissions – and how universities are working to meet them – is just one of the trends we explore in our new E-book.

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