85% of Gen Z prefer to deal with automated customer services online, over making a phone call.

The 21st Century sees technology impacting our daily lives in every possible way, from the way we shop to the way we work to the way we communicate. Gen Z, who make up the vast majority of college students have been brought up in the digital age, and therefore are used to efficient, easy-to-use and streamlined processes.

According to Alistair Sergeant, Founder and CEO of digital consultancy, Equantiis: ‘the HE industry is lagging in its ability to serve its students in a way that reflects technological advancements’. His article in FE News predominantly focuses on universities, but one can draw many parallels between university and college technological systems. Schools, colleges and universities have attempted to catch up with technological trends, introducing student portals, cashless premises and communication through digital channels, such as WhatsApp, and this trajectory must continue if FE institutions want to survive. 

Sergeant points out that tasks such as administration, enrolment, exams and general student enquiries can be automated, and products such as Purlos Convert and Purlos Destinations attempt to do so in order to mitigate stress. Culture Shift’s Chelsea Maher also sees automation’s merits in helping FE institutions, as she states that automated systems (such as Purlos Convert) can create a ‘proactive system of identifying and prioritising students who need support’ and allow students to instantly receive help without having to wait on hold, take time out of their day to visit Student Services, and can access help outside of college hours. HubSpot, an American software company uses a chatbot in order to assist their users, which led to ‘182% more qualified leads’. This same principle can be applied to colleges in the admissions process, as chatbots could greatly increase prospective student enquiries. 

‘85% of Gen Z prefer to deal with chat or automated customer services online, over making a phone call, according to Hootsuite’, which shows that FE institutions must move with the times for their own benefit. In a recent study carried out by Purlos, students gave feedback on a semi-automated Destinations Campaign, and many described the service as ‘polite’, ‘easy to use’ and ‘quick’, as the chatbot, Jenni responds instantly. This allows colleges to save time, and staff can work on more important tasks and projects without the stress of responding to hundreds of message from students. A 2021 survey from Formstack found that ‘lack of technical resources resulted in 28% of employees getting held back on projects and led to 59% of projects being delayed’. Sergeant ends his article by stating that universities (and I can also apply this to colleges) can ‘save money by establishing which processes should be automated first, there should be no deterrent in improving the student experience while also cutting costs – which could be used for investment into better practices that will make the institution’s offering even more inviting for the long-term.’

In the future, we can expect more and more automation in the FE sector, which will continue allowing students to quickly and efficiently access information while saving time, money and other resources. The continuing development of artificial intelligence will also be a key factor in the development of automation technologies. Further Education institutions don’t even need to have technical or programming knowledge, as they can outsource their communication systems to external companies such as Purlos, or even use No-Code methods to reach students such as MailerLite, which makes automation more accessible.

To get started in automating your institution, you can use Hubspot for Customer Relations Management, Formstack for web engagement and Purlos for WhatsApp conversational engagement with students.