Let’s face it – the upcoming academic year is going to look a lot different than anyone would have expected. There are many questions about what the new year will look like. Some institutions are bravely reopening doors, while others have decided to continue with online offerings only, at least for the fall semester.

Most schools face a third alternative that requires them to be both on campus AND digital. This presents a whole host of new challenges for staff to find ways to equally serve both student populations. Putting in place tools to support student retention will be a key to long term success.

While the future may be uncertain, there is one thing we do know. The timeline for higher ed’s digital transformation just sped up – big time. Educational institutions around the world have to change how they interact with students to become more efficient and they need to do it fast. The student experience is about to undergo a dramatic change.

Here are five ways that your institution can transform to better serve the student:

1) Use Service Cloud Basics

Salesforce Service Cloud is the backbone of enabling change for student success. It can help you transform both staff and student experience. Tools such as Case Management, Chat, and Knowledge are all practical ways that institutions can start to digitize their student experience.

Case management (Email to Case, Web to Case) can help you track student engagement across departments, automatically routing and escalating cases to the right people or groups. It can also help you set response time goals to guarantee that students are getting their questions answered in a timely manner.

Chat allows staff and students to interact instantly, regardless of being on campus or remote. It can eliminate wait time for students, as well as enable staff to work productively from home if needed.

Building a Knowledge database is also key. Taking old FAQ databases and migrating them to Salesforce Knowledge allows students and staff to quickly find and interact with knowledge articles. Ongoing curation ensures that topics and content are relevant to the students’ needs and prevents staff from having to explain the same information multiple times.

Other additional tools to consider are a text messaging solution or Lightning Dialer – two ways to help make staff more efficient and more effective at reaching students.

2) Build a Student Service Portal

Once you have the Service cloud basics built, it’s time to expose these in a Student Service Portal! Thanks to Salesforce Communities, building a portal is easy, flexible, and scalable. And since communities are mobile friendly, students can access the features on the go – regardless of if they are on campus or remote.

Common functionality for a student service portal may include student access to a Knowledge database, the ability to submit a Case, Chat, and Chatter.

A successful student portal gives students the ability to self-serve and find information on their own. To do this effectively, Knowledge content should be well organized based on department and relevance. When developing Knowledge content for students, start with the most common questions first. If you can answer the top ten questions your department receives, question volume may decrease by 20-30%, allowing staff to focus on other areas.  Students can also upvote or downvote the helpfulness of answers and provide written feedback of their experience, allowing for continued adaption of Knowledge content based on student experience.

If students cannot find their answer in the Knowledge database, they will also need the ability within the portal to be able to contact a staff member directly. Case management and Chat are two ways to provide this capability to students so they can ask questions to the right people using the communication method that works best for them.

Finally, using Chatter in the Student Service Portal can be a game changer as student groups start to interact in a blended digital and on campus environment. Students will need new tools to collaborate and engage with one another. Adding in relevant Student Chatter Groups – such as Freshman Fall 2020, moderated by staff or faculty members, will foster relationship building and allow students to learn from and with one another.

3) Leverage Artificial Intelligence

Now to the really fun stuff! Service Cloud Einstein just makes everything cooler…and easier. Everyone has heard the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” Einstein allows you to do just that. Some of the key benefits of Einstein include:

  • Reduced call/email volume
  • Reduced average handle time
  • Increased first contact resolution
  • Increased staff productivity, morale, retention

Einstein Case Classification can help your staff quickly understand and prioritize their work. Based on historical use, it uses machine learning to pre-fill fields, saving staff time and allowing them to respond to students faster

Einstein Article Recommendation embeds into Knowledge and recommends relevant articles for staff to include in student responses.

Einstein Bots give you the benefit of enabling Chat functionality without having to have staff on call 24/7 to service students. The more that Einstein Bots are used, the smarter that they become. Now for the best part—Service Cloud Enterprise Edition customers with Live Agent webchat licenses and Unlimited Edition customers have limited quantities of Einstein Bots conversations automatically included with their licenses. That means you can get started now.

4) Improve your Student Communication Strategy

With students engaging remotely and traditional communication becoming harder, it’s time to review your student communication strategy and increase your communication efforts. To do this effectively, institutions need a platform that allows them to interact with students via email, text message, and social media. Salesforce Marketing Cloud can help with all these areas.

Strategically planning out the student journey with multi-channel messaging tailored to each student demographic is key in keeping students engaged. Freshman, for instance, need a different message than Seniors.

Those that are struggling academically need to be automatically pointed to resources that can help them improve, while students that are succeeding may need to be pointed towards ways that they can help tutor their peers. Timing is everything on communication, and Marketing Cloud can help educational institutions achieve this.

5) Watch for Trends in Student Behavior

With Salesforce serving as the system for engagement with students, higher ed institutions have an increased capability to analyze and predict student behavior and outcomes.

For instance, what does it mean if a student has had five open cases with five different departments in the last month – and each has taken over a week to resolve? Or what does it mean if a student that is not performing well academically is not interacting with emails pointing them towards ways that they can improve? These early alert trends are not performance based, such as GPA, but rather behavior based. Early indicators on behavior will typically precede performance.

Regardless of whether students are on campus or engaging remotely, students’ digital footprint tells educational institutions a lot about how they are doing and how they will do. Tools such as Einstein Analytics can help watch for student behavior trends at a macro level, while at a micro level VisualFlow can be used to create Early Alert tasks for staff to manually intervene and catch students that might be struggling.