24 October 2014
Web Chat Software - A Better Way to Process Accommodation Enquiries
Two weeks ago we discussed how admissions teams can use web chat software technology to create a more efficient service for the younger 21st century generation. Today we’re returning our attention to the Accommodations Office and all the hard work they put in to ensure that all questions are answered before allocating students to their rooms.
The first challenge in processing applications for on-campus accommodation is providing students with enough information to make an informed decision. Most details, such as the types of housing and rooms available, the cost of rent and the proximity to the gym, library, etc. are available on the university website and in the welcome pack sent to successful students. Despite this, the accommodations team still receives a large number of email and phone enquiries from both prospective and existing students.
Enrolling students are less confident and will generally have questions about the availability and cost of accommodation, when rent installments are due and how they are paid, how rooms are allocated, the number of people they have to share with and so on. Returning second and third year students usually have less predictable and more time-consuming questions when it comes to applying for accommodation. Those preparing to live in accommodation off-campus might have concerns about their tenancy agreement or need to stay a couple of nights on campus before they can move in to their new home. Questions about living with friends and deposits from living on campus last year are also common topics for the accommodations team.
With October drawing to a close, university accommodations teams have already survived the initial housing rush, a period in which web chat software can provide a significant advantage by allowing multiple chats to be handled simultaneously rather than one by one over the phone. Not only is this technology more efficient, it is also much more flexible thanks to a variety of built-in functionality (some of which is exclusive to the live chat format).
The diverse yet repetitive nature of questions relating to student housing applications means they are best answered with pre-defined replies. These are management approved templates that the Accommodations Officer can select and send to save them typing out the same response over and over again. These can be used in email correspondence but students with more questions then have to wait longer for a reply. Web chat software is a much better alternative because students can receive instant replies to their follow-up questions. This means that an exchange lasts for 10 minutes – not several days.
Adding a pre-defined reply to live chat is much easier than creating a template for email; where the design needs to conform with the university’s image, whereas a dialogue response in live chat dispenses with formatting. As a result, it takes less time for management to create ad-hoc pre-defined reply templates for new trending questions. Whether it be about rent deadlines, living with friends or deposit eligibility, ensuring that students receive consistent information is vitally important. Some pre-defined replies even include blank spaces where appropriate information can be plugged in, e.g. “There are x number of rooms left available in the x building. We operate a first-come, first-serve policy so please submit your application as soon as possible”.
More often than not, the answers to your students accommodation application can be found in your university’s brochure.
Today’s generation expects instant access to this kind of information so sending out a hard copy is both more expensive and less appreciated. Your Accommodations Officer can ease their workload by using live chat’s file transfer feature to send across informative documents as well as forms that the student need to complete. Unlike file transfer by email, students can remain in chat to receive assistance while filling out the form. Live chat assistance is also useful if the student is having problems completing their online accommodations application. Providing this enhanced level of support means that students are less likely to return with further questions; increasing first-contact resolutions and reducing the overall workload for the accommodations office.
Because it’s not always clear whether the issue lies with the Student Loans Company or the university it can be fairly common for the accommodations office to receive questions about maintenance loan – the loan that most students receive to pay for their rent. However, short of extending rent deadlines or checking the deposit has been paid, there is very little that universities can do to help with these issues. Students are instead advised to submit their enquiry via the official Student Loans Company website.
Unfortunately for students, the Student Loans Company website has such a wealth of information that it can be difficult to navigate. Providing and receiving directions blindly over the phone is frustrating and emails can be incredibly time-consuming, but the accommodations office will often go the extra mile to help students. The auto-navigate functionality incorporated in our live chat means you can push the visitor to any page on your website, the internet or, in the case of maintenance loans enquiries, the correct page on the Student Loans Company website. You can even use the co-browse feature to see the actual page the student is viewing and offer advice while they fill out online forms.
Members of the accommodations team can double or triple their productivity with web chat software. October is a chance to look back on the summer rush and see where you could’ve done things better or made things easier for your team. Book a demonstration with one of our University Coordinators to find out how Click4Assistance is already helping major UK universities to handle their influx of student housing applications and other accommodations enquiries.