With such high support expectations and high competition, schools must adopt digital student engagement and digital engagement strategies to meet students' support expectations

5 costly impacts of ignoring digital student engagement

With such high support expectations and high competition, schools must adopt digital student engagement to meet students' support expectations

Today’s students expect a lot from their university or college, and so they should. The average cost of tuition and fees to attend a private college in the U.S. is over $38,000.

With such high costs, it should come as no surprise to hear that students have high expectations of their school. However, for many students, there is a key area in which their expectations are not being met — digital support.

While investment has been plugged into various areas to advance the clear need for digital transformation in higher education, digital engagement has been neglected. Many schools still rely on traditional methods of communication–mostly telephone and email. These channels do not and cannot provide students with the support that they want. Growing up surrounded by technology, this generation wants fast, convenient, 24/7 digital support that only an omnichannel approach that includes live chat, chatbots, SMS, and social media can truly provide.

A lack of digital student engagement has a snowball effect throughout the institution, from limiting enrollment to reducing retention.

Here are the 5 major impacts that universities and colleges are suffering from when they don’t offer the digital support that today’s students expect.

1. Engagement dwindles across the student lifecycle

Sixty percent of Gen Z say that they ‘hate calling people.’ By offering phone as your primary support channel, colleges create a significant barrier to engagement with both prospective and current students. This is in part due to the desire for speed. Phone is a notoriously high-friction channel, forcing callers to be put on long hold times and repeatedly passed between agents. Email is less hated by students, but it can also be unpopular for the long response times. After all, 71 percent of Gen Z believe that CX can be drastically improved by quick responses. By only offering channels that students often have reservations using, schools will engage with less students across the lifecycle, from prospective students to graduates.

To solve this challenge and meet the digital support expectations of today’s students, colleges must adopt digital channels, starting with live chat. Live chat support meets students’ need for fast support, providing them with instant responses on a channel that is so intertwined with how they do things daily. Fifty-five percent of Gen Z use their smartphones for five or more hours daily. As Derek Gaucher, Coordinator of IT solutions at Dawson College explained when they introduced live chat: “Our students are mostly 17, 18 or 19 years old, and they naturally find live chat very easy to use. It’s also very quick for them – they can hop on a chat, ask us a question, and have their answer in a minute – all from their mobile device. It’s the perfect channel to help us engage with them and give them the support they need.”

2. Shrinking CSAT

When institutions don’t listen to today’s students, frustrations can soar and retention rates plummet. As I explained before, phone and email are no longer popular with many students, and forcing students to use them can significantly harm customer satisfaction (CSAT).

As well as an expectation for fast and convenient support, students also expect personalized support that treats them like an individual – 77 percent of Gen Z expect their unique needs and expectations to be understood. One of the strengths of live chat is its ability to help schools provide personalized service as agents have all the information about the student they are speaking to right in front of them.

3. Steep operating costs

In today’s economy, higher operating costs are mounting from the long calls and difficult conversations that agents devote their ‘high-priced’ time to. Colleges and universities that haven’t introduced digital student support can expect to pay higher operating costs because digital channels are much more cost effective than phone.

All the same things that turn students away from voice calls are what make phone support so expensive to support. Lengthy calls that require transfers or holds, focused conversations that make multitasking difficult, and aging technology infrastructure all add up to increased costs for schools to support. On the other hand, the cost of live chat is typically less than 1/3 the cost of phone support, and it can boost productivity too!

4. Lower agent productivity

While live chat allows customers to receive faster support, it also results in faster work by agents, improving productivity in a way that phone support can’t hope to compete with.

With live chat, agents can handle multiple chats simultaneously rather than one phone call at a time. This increased capacity and ability to quickly respond to chats means greater agent productivity, as well as reduced wait times for customers. With live chat you can also easily transfer chats between agents so less time is spent passing students between departments, and more on resolving their issue.

Introducing higher education chatbots to the mix will make any support team a powerhouse of productivity. AI chatbots can handle up to 80 percent of all inquiries without any human intervention. This can lower support costs even more than live chat, as you don’t need to hire additional agents to cover peak periods.

5. Failing grade for accessibility

Meeting students’ accessibility needs is a failure for far too many higher education institutions. Every school must break down barriers and support students who may have visual or hearing impairments, disabilities–or neurodivergence. Live chat helps with this as it can be fully WCAG compliant through a number of ways. For example, windows and buttons can be fully customized to remove any barriers to access for potential visitors. Live chat also provides great support for visitors who struggle with traditional phone support but still need real-time communication. That includes customers with speech impediments, or the deaf or hard of hearing.

Some live chat software also offer in-built video chat to allow for the power of lip reading or signing over video and provides critical audio for the visually impaired.


With such high support expectations, coupled with such high competition, schools must adopt digital student engagement to meet students’ support expectations. Without doing so, they risk damaging every stage of the student lifecycle. On the other hand, by matching these expectations and providing the support that students now demand, schools will see improvements across the board, from increasing intake to reducing drop-out rates.

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool Media Contributors

Sign up for our newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.