As we all know, there’s a number of ways to accomplish anything in life. Just like there’s many ways to train your dog or many ways to get to work, there are many ways to rollout online self-services. But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that often, there’s one “best” way or set of best practices if you want to do it right. But what makes it a best practice? I personally believe it comes down to results. Was the goal achieved? Was there a material difference in the before and after comparison? How many others have achieved comparable results using these best practices? These are the questions we might want to be asking to determine whether an approach was truly a best practice.
FRCC Reduced Call & Email Volume…And So Much More!
Case in point is Front Range Community College (FRCC) who rolled out a virtual agent solution in order to deliver online self-service to their student population. FRCC’s roll out took place in early 2012 and they’ve been delivering impressive results ever since. Have a look at the Infographic: FRCC-Enhancing the Student Experience to the right. Here’s a few highlights:
- 42% reduction in call volume, within the first year.
- 46% drop in email inquiries, also within the first year.
- Site search volume that decreased by one-third (as students preferred to self-serve using the virtual agent solution).
- Improvement in consistency and accuracy of online answers and overall student service.
Four Best Practices FRCC Uses to Drive These Impressive Results
If we revisit the original point I made about using best practices to roll-out online self-service, it’s important to note that FRCC’s success didn’t happen by chance – it was by design. FRCC relied on a number of best practices that we encourage all of our clients to use. Let’s examine just a few of the online self-service best practices in use at FRCC:
- Encouraging Natural Language Questions: FRCC uses a directional sentence, inside the Ask FRCC question box, instructing the student to type real questions. This increases the frequency of natural language questions being submitted which helps provide enough context to deliver the right answer to students.
- High Visibility and Placement of the Ask FRCC Question Box: No matter where a student is within FRCC’s entire website, the question box is prominently displayed in the header. This maximizes the potential for students and prospective student to self-serve using Ask FRCC.
- Strategic Placement to Reduce Call and Email Volumes: FRCC effectively positions its Ask FRCC virtual agent to achieve the greatest reduction in call and email volume. It’s very apparent to students to first ask questions using Ask FRCC when on their site. Even when a student wishes to go directly to the contact us page, they are first presented with the option to Ask FRCC at the top of the page. This has a real, positive impact on call and email volume reduction.
- Escalation Management – Front Range Community College uses a layered approach to delivering online student self-service. Upon receiving an answer to their question, the student is also presented with the option to email FRCC. If for some reason (e.g. the student did not provide enough context), Ask FRCC is unable to return a response, the student is immediately given the option to escalate to email or phone. With this approach, it is as easy and effortless as possible for FRCC students to escalate their question while still effectively positioning Ask FRCC to answer the bulk of those “informational” type questions.
Best Practices for Best Results
Best practices, including those implemented at FRCC, can have a big impact on the success of any virtual agent deployment. FRCC is doing all the right things and has been able to reach all their goals outlined in the FRCC infographic. What’s next? On the heels of these great results, FRCC is preparing to roll out its virtual agent solution so students can self-serve from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. And you’d be guessing right if a multi-channel self-service approach is a best practice we recommend!
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