A future where AI chatbots help admissions professionals with student recruitment may seem like a far-off sci-fi tale, but on a small scale, it’s already happening. What do you need to know about how chatbots can assist in your recruitment process?
What Is a Chatbot? Myth-Busting Misconceptions
What are chatbots anyway? You’ve already used websites featuring chatbots – every time you open a retail or tourism website and a dialog pops up with ‘Jen from Customer Service’ asking if she can help you with sizing or finding information, that’s a chatbot in action.
When we talk about bots, we’re most often talking about spambots initiating fraud, posting “My Cousin Made $1000/hour Click Here” comments on articles, harvesting personal information or ripping off your company’s content. However, a bot is nothing more than a computer script that automates tasks, and most do good, not evil.
A chatbot is a bot that’s set up to respond to user inquiries in natural language, using AI technology. While a bot for a clothing company may answer your questions about a sweater, a recruitment bot could respond to questions like “How many students go to this college?” or “What team sports do you have?”
How Can Chatbots Help B2B Industries?
Chatbot Jen from Customer Service might help you figure out if a pair of pants is available in another fabric or color from your favorite store. But higher education isn’t selling pants – you’re looking at a long customer acquisition cycle, challenging questions and decisions from your prospects, and large long-term expenditures. Your marketing approach is more like B2B than B2C. Can chatbots work here?
Higher education recruiters face the challenges of a long acquisition cycle and needing to give structured answers to repetitive, predictable questions. Chatbots are easy to set up, and provide quick answers without the hassle of picking up a phone or writing an email.
As with customer-oriented chatbots, chatbots in education can be used at the beginning of the purchase funnel to assist with initial inquiries. For Gen Z prospects who will barely answer a call from their parents or best friend, they’re a simple solution to answer some of the most common questions.
Targeted chatbots can be employed to great effect for a university or college. Using different bots on different pages can help streamline search inquiries, or a few simple questions at the outset can ensure the answers provided are appropriate to the user. For example, a high school junior and a student who’s been accepted for September may both search for information about housing, but one is looking for general information, while the other needs to know if applications are due next week.
Even better, if you’re worried about your administration’s ability to respond to leads fast enough, a chatbot can answer routine questions right away, leaving your department more time to respond to more specialized inquiries.
How Does a Chatbot Help You Reach Students?
A chatbot can help students sort out the right application information for their specific situation, whether they’re a domestic high school applicant, an international student, a transfer student or mature student.
Chatbots can also help students navigate a website on a mobile device. If your website isn’t fully set up for mobile, or simply offers a wealth of information, a chatbot can quickly point students to the right page for information on financial aid, student residences, or other common inquiries.
Using a chatbot also allows you to collect information on your prospective students, letting you both shape campaigns and create re-marketing opportunities.
How Does the Chatbot-Led Student Enrollment Cycle Look?
What would the cycle of enrollment look like with the help of a chatbot?
First of all, students might land on your college’s page, where a chatbot helps them find information about the programs available, financial information, facilities, and the application process for their own situation (high school applicant, international student, mature students, transfer students).
Chatbots could inform them about important application deadlines and assist with questions about the application submission process, from where to fill out forms to requirements for additional documents to answering some of the most common questions on application forms.
While students are waiting for an admissions decision, a chatbot might provide updates on decision dates, additional information required, or other questions that come up in the process. And once students receive those acceptance letters, your work is certainly not over – chatbots can answer questions needed to finalize a student’s decision, or provide important information about housing, financial aid and deadlines.
Who’s at the Head of the Pack?
Does all this sound far off? It’s not – schools like Georgia State University have already introduced chatbots to their recruitment process. “Pounce,” named after the mascot of the GSU Panthers, chats with incoming students to respond to thousands of possible questions about the school.
In its first month, Pounce answered over 50,000 questions, referring a tiny 1% of them to admissions personnel for follow-up. Tired of using staff resources to answer routine questions about fees and deadlines? A chatbot could help increase engagement for both staff and students.
Can a Chatbot Assist with International Recruitment?
What about with recruiting international students? The technology for multilingual chatbots is still developing, but in the future, multilingual chatbots will become more efficient and functional.
Your recruitment office might do well in attracting students from China or India, but how are you at recruiting admissions staff fluent in Mandarin or Bengali? Students who are more comfortable in another language than English – or especially their parents, who foot the bill without a TOEFL test – may find it easier to ask questions in their native tongue. Multilingual chatbots will be able to respond to questions without requiring your entire site to be translated.
Another major plus in the international market: while your recruitment office isn’t open at 9AM in Malaysia, chatbots are online and available to answer students’ questions.
Are You Ready for the Chatbot Recruitment Future?
These are just a few of the possibilities out there for recruiters to use chatbots to streamline the recruitment process and provide additional services to prospective students.
If your university needs some assistance preparing for the high-tech future or you’re still trying to get on top of the high-tech present, check out what updating your online recruitment tools can do for your school.