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call centers
are becoming
contact centers
to improve learning

Author: Heidi Vella

University call centers are important information hubs for both students and parents. Call center workers provide highly specialized guidance, learning materials and resources to thousands of individuals across the institution every day. What's more, they are often the first point of contact for prospective students and, therefore, need to be easily accessible, efficient and welcoming. If not, the university risks losing applicants.

Amid the disruption of the pandemic, university call centers became especially important as epicenters of information for students when learning halted and shifted online. As education remains forever changed by this time in history, the job of a university call center has become more demanding and complex. New solutions are needed.

This is why many university call centers are now transitioning into contact centers. Contact centers harness technology to better handle and process the large volume and diverse range of queries a university deals with on a regular basis while also improving the student experience by offering an omnichannel approach to information sharing.

Meeting students expectations

Today's students are tech natives. They expect to find answers quickly and through a variety of online mediums. University call centers are designed for this and allow students to access information not only by phone but also in other ways that are most convenient for them: video, email, social media, chat boxes or artificial intelligence (AI) powered chat bots.

Yet, universities have generally been laggards when it comes to transitioning to more modern ways of communicating. Less than 5% of college budgets are dedicated to IT spending. And Harvard Business Review also states that before the pandemic, only about one-third of all U.S. college students had some type of online course experience, as U.S. Department of Education data shows.

But this is changing. More university call centers are transitioning to contact centers to meet their growing needs. This upgrade allows universities to use a host of tools to better manage their current and prospective students' needs and queries as they come flooding in at the beginning of a semester.

Tools for contact centers

One of the key contact center technologies is artificial intelligence. AI can tap into analytics data from university call centers to derive insights on how to make contact centers more efficient and effective. This includes speech analytics to identify pain points and queries that could be more quickly managed by other technologies, such as automation or chat bots. Eventually, this data can be centralized into a unified platform that integrates and analyzes information from multiple sources in a single location to manage a university's changing needs.

AI can also help to create an effective queue management system by automating mundane processes and directing or rerouting callers to where their query can be answered the quickest. Additionally, simple solutions, such as call back functions, can mitigate the need for callers to wait on hold for a long time, automatically calling them back instead.

Where appropriate—such as for queries that aren't time-critical—students can be directed to get in touch via SMS, email or web chat and receive fast automated replies. For example, a chatbot can provide a correct contact number for health services or direct students to the correct online information, forms or resources, or even schedule appointments. Once on file, they can be contacted automatically with updates via these channels.

Along with these technologies, universities should look to train staff to use all the tools at their fingertips efficiently—especially since they may be fairly new to them. This can also help them become more aware of how data can inform their everyday work. Technology, data and highly skilled operatives can make for a powerful customer service experience.

Excellent customer service and effective information sharing provides a competitive advantage in terms of winning over prospective students and improving current students' education outcomes. It enables students to spend less time stressing about administrative matters—financial tasks, logistics, etc.—and more time studying. Similarly, passing on educational resources quickly and efficiently will enhance their studying experience, so they can thrive in the university environment.

Discover how the Verizon Virtual Contact Center can help your university create tailored student experiences.