Chatting with student prospects

Sixty percent of students researching college expect a response to their inquiry to you within the same day.

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Chat is a perfect medium for personal and real-time communication with high school students who don’t answer phone calls or have email installed on their mobile phones.

But chat is different than email and telephone, which means you need to respect the channel and use best practices in communicating with students on C’reer’s chat application.

It’s about them

You wouldn’t meet a stranger at a social gathering and begin showering them with all of the data points of how great you and your college are. You’d first ask friendly but specific questions to find out more about them and their interests.

Chat is no different. 

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We recommend you ask similar questions to ensure you’re making it about them, not you. Your objective isn’t to inform, it’s to engage and build trust. Part of that is being timely in respondin g and part is asking questions to start the dialogue.

Sample questions:

·      Your vocational profile says you’re artistic, are you considering a field in art and design?

·      When are you planning to enter college?

·      What were your favorite subjects in high school?

·      What high school are you attending?

·      What other schools are you considering?

These are the same questions you’d ask if a student walked in off the street and sat at your desk. We suggest you stick with them, particularly early on, in order to avoid sounding like a report from institutional effectiveness. They won’t care about when you were founded or how large your alumni network is, until you show you care about them.

Stay within the channel

They didn’t call you or email or fax you – they want to chat with you. So respect their choice by staying within the medium for as long as they want. Too often, we see admissions counselors push to call or email students in the first two or three chat messages and then they get crickets. Asking them to leave chat in favor of another medium too soon can be a showstopper. You wouldn’t ask someone who walked into your building to turn around and walk out so you can call her on her phone because you prefer phone conversations. So don’t get antsy and ask someone who is chatting with you to move to email. It’s a bit rude and there’s a strong chance they don’t have email installed on their iPhone.

Chat takes a much different mentality than the typical transactional approach of email – that has a specific call to action to click a button or fill out a form. Chat is a conversation – so converse!  But remember, students are on a mobile device managing multiple messaging platforms and apps, so keep it short. No one wants to see a wall of words let alone respond to it. A good guideline is to look at your own text message exchanges and model the length of your chat messages against those.

Back to timeliness

As former recruitment marketers for three higher education institutions, we’ve seen a lot of different data points on when it’s best to message students. With all the time zone differences and the busy schedules most high school juniors and seniors keep, we haven’t seen a magic bullet on this.

Here’s a tip – ask students when they’d like to chat then do that.  See the point about it being about them. The good news is you can access C’reer and your prospect chats via the mobile app anytime you want. Students aren’t sitting at a desktop computer waiting to chat and you don’t have to be either. Just don’t wait for more than a day to get back to them.

Listen and be specific

Chat is a one-to-one medium and by raising their hand to speak with you, students have agreed to joining a personal dialogue with you.  As easy as it might be, avoid cutting and pasting copy from your web site or email campaigns. You wouldn’t read verbiage from a brochure over the phone, so don’t cut and paste it into chat and expect it to feel like dialogue. Authenticity matters.

With C’reer, you will at minimum see their first and last name, vocational profile and you’ll know they probably live within 300 miles of your campus. If they’ve inputted their high school and expected year of enrollment within their user profile you’ll be able to see those as well. Align your comments and questions around those points of information and save the boilerplate copy for mass media. 

Chat is personal so be specific and listen carefully to the cues they provide. Doing so will build trust and ultimately your yield rates.  No one buys a $100,000 education from someone they don’t trust.