At Texas A&M University, we’ve provided students in our College Station campus with high-quality education since 1876. As the first public higher education institution in Texas with more than 68,000 students and with the country’s second-biggest student roll to look after, our ability to innovate in student support as well as in our classes, laboratories and playing fields, is a pillar of the excellent customer service we provide to our community.
Too much email?
Each Texas A&M student has a dedicated email address. After years of using email as the primary way to communicate with students, we started to encounter some challenges: many students began to only monitor their personal email address, spending little to no time checking their university email address. It resulted in them not completing important administrative tasks such as signing up for direct deposit, and failing to meet important deadlines and requirements such as submitting a photograph for their identification (ID) cards or to complete financial agreements.
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We already had a vendor conducting one-way outbound calls and reminders–not only did students rarely answer the phone or reply to voicemails, but they also couldn’t text back that number. They had to find time to call us back and whenever they would actually do that, they would be frustrated by the long hold times.
As a result, students were not completing important administrative tasks. It was obvious that we needed a better way to interact with students. That is why we decided to add a text messaging option to boost engagement with our student population and make administrative tasks simpler for them and for our teams.
Smarter use of students’ phone numbers
We researched new digital technologies and state privacy regulations. We also examined capacity issues–we had a strong but shorthanded in-house customer service team. We didn’t want to introduce a new service without adequate internal resources to support it.
I was first introduced to Quiq at an Oracle conference last year. Having talked through our needs, we quickly realized that we could operate messaging with our students within our existing CRM application, which was great, because that is also how we route our emails and questions that come in.
Quiq let us engage with students from our existing CRM by simply enabling SMS/text messaging. Shifting calls to text messaging allows our departmental employees to handle multiple customer interactions at once, as opposed to just one phone call at a time as we used to do. Conversations are automatically prioritized within a single, cross-channel, easy-to-use interface. Better-managed conversations can take place on a student’s phone, which is so much more convenient for them. It has boosted student satisfaction and saved the university money.
At Texas A&M University, we took a crawl, walk, run approach to text messaging. We initially decided to roll out Quiq on a limited basis with outbound texts and notifications sent to students. Unlike our outbound dialer, Quiq offers two-way texting so students could reply directly to the reminder or notification. We then added a “Text SBS” button to our website a couple of months later, so students could initiate conversations by texting in directly. We have seen significantly higher engagement levels–and scope to broaden these types of interactions.
After the positive initial response, we pushed the promotional efforts further by advertising the “Text SBS” feature through other channels such as our Student Business Services web pages and our billing statements. In the near future, we hope to be able to essentially give students the option to text us rather than being on hold using our phone system.
All these promotional efforts helped us increase communications over the messaging channel to both broad and targeted audiences.
Future targeted efforts will include informing graduating students if their diplomas will be held up due to non-payment and notifying students to sign up for direct deposit to receive financial aid refunds.
We’ve seen a range of benefits from offering text messaging to our different student services teams.
First and foremost, we engage better with our students using the new Quiq messaging channel. Students are delighted that they don’t have to wait in long phone queues to access departmental or administrative services. They are also pleasantly surprised that when they text in, the staff sees their profile and interaction history.
My director of Student Business Services colleague tells me her contact team loves using text messaging, as well as handling multiple conversations more effectively. They can add in emojis or gifs, making those interactions more personal, more fun and even empathetic. The team finds the text channel to be much faster than handling phone calls. Our call center, staffed with eight student workers, can now handle both inbound and outbound texts from new and existing students.
Messaging has ensured that our department engages more effectively with current students, and simplifies administrative tasks for enrolling students. We have enhanced our proud record of supporting students with the most accurate and timely information.