As the market for digital learning in the higher education space expands, your recruitment pool expands with it. Even if you don’t recruit more students, there’s a good chance the top end of your recruitment funnel is going to get busier. You’re going to need a quality system to separate the wheat from the chaff and find the students that are the perfect fit for your courses.

With all those extra applicants, it’s natural to start looking for funnel management solutions that don’t take up a lot of resources. Chatbots and virtual recruitment solutions might seem like an easy, time-saving option. However, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using this emerging technology. 

This week, we’re laying out some of the main issues so you can decide whether a chatbot is right for your brand. Let’s take a look.

How does a chatbot work?

The idea of having a robot that can talk to a hundred different students at once and talk them through their application process is pretty compelling. Unfortunately, chatbot technology isn’t quite there yet. Sure, it can talk to a hundred different students at once, but calling those interactions a ‘conversation’ might be a bit of a stretch. 

Chatbots function using a combination of pattern recognition and natural language processing. They can recognise specific phrases and embed natural language inside them in order to match search parameters against a database of responses. The more comprehensive your database, and the more you ‘train’ your AI, the more natural the chatbot will seem. 

What are chatbots good for?

In effect, chatbots are pretty good at dealing with simple questions in a tight window of comprehension. They can understand simple responses and direct people to further resources. For example, if you asked a chatbot, “how many modules are in this course?”, it could direct you to the application link easily. However, a question like “is this course right for me?” may force it to default to a scripted response.

In this sense, chatbots are great when thought of as interactive navigation tools. They can point students in the right direction, help them set up meetings, and help answer basic questions. That makes them ideal for very early-stage interactions and prospectors.

What are the negatives?

As soon as you start to ask a chatbot questions outside of its programming, it needs to default to a scripted response. That means that, when it comes to explaining complex information, they’re pretty useless. And they’re even worse at picking up on the emotions of their correspondent. This is why talking to a chatbot can sometimes feel aggravating.

Although chatbots have been shown to raise conversions on some pages, they can often detract from the personal experience your brand is looking to offer. This is especially true when customers don’t realise they’re talking to a bot until halfway through the conversation. It can leave them feeling even less valued than a non-interactive course page.

What’s the ideal?

Here at The Brand Education, we strongly advise against using chatbots further down the conversion funnel. Choosing a university course is a big decision for students and the best way to make a sale is to build a one-to-one, personal relationship. Chatbots can sometimes give the impression that your team won’t be available when they’re needed.

That being said, chatbots do have their place. If prospects are yet to emotionally invest in the idea of studying with you, then chatbots can be a handy way of directing them to the information you want them to see. They work great as an interactive signpost to your marketing content and can even be used to filter unwanted applications.

Deploying them in this manner can be a useful way of taking the pressure off your enrolment team. Just make sure you’re still creating opportunities to build a real brand relationship.

For more advice on building out your marketing funnel, get in touch with the team here at The Brand Education. We’re always excited to chat about marketing challenges.