You’re probably familiar with the phrase “content is king.” But in today’s digital marketing world, a new “C”, convenience, is vying for the crown.
It’s expected that your school has educational resources; content in the form of eBooks, videos, guides, or infographics to help nurture prospective students through their journey. It’s expected that you promote relevant resources to a prospective student across different stages of their journey (leads and inquiries should receive different resources than applicants). Nowadays, this isn’t enough.
The modern prospective student experience needs to be seamless and frictionless. That means near-immediate answers to prospective students’ questions. As enrollment marketers, we must make it extremely convenient for prospective students to find information and get their questions answered.
For that reason (and several others), chatbots are rapidly growing in popularity in the education industry. Chatbots are geared toward connecting prospective students to the right answers, resources, and people in a quick, effortless manner. They’re a “one-stop-shop” for student queries of all types, from admissions to student affairs, student recruitment, career services and even test prep.
Not all chatbot tools for higher education are built the same; some tout artificial intelligence, some live chat, and others simple pathways to help the user find relevant content. In this post, I’m going to compare 4 common chatbot tools for higher ed: HubSpot, Ivy.ai, Mongoose, and GeckoEngage.
A quick overview of chat tools for higher ed
Ivy.ai is an AI-powered enterprise chatbot which features human-supervised natural language processing technology and an algorithm built on a massive library of a school’s data. Ivy.ai bots can be translated to speak over 105 languages.
Mongoose’s chatbot, Harmony, is built on Drift’s chat technology platform. Using custom if/then branching logic and drag & drop building blocks, Mongoose’s chatbot allows you to qualify (or disqualify) leads, route conversations to the appropriate staff members, and guide website visitors to the content they’re most interested in.
GeckoEngage features a channel agnostic chatbot, meaning that just one bot can handle simultaneous conversations over Facebook Messenger, text message, or live chat. GeckoEngage bots are built with intelligent question banks. You add questions, keywords, and phrases that you predict prospective students will ask and then provide the answers. The more questions, keywords, and phrases you add, the more confident the bot becomes in identifying the correct responses.
HubSpot’s chatbot tool features several out-of-the-box bots, including a book-a-meetings bot, a live chat bot, and a lead qualifying bot (other options exist depending on your HubSpot package). Drag and drop chatflow building blocks allow marketers to create custom logic if/then branching, pose questions with pre-built answers, and create chatflows that funnel users to content.
How does each chatbot tool stack up for student recruitment?
Now, let’s dive into how each chat tool stacks up in three different areas: implementation, maintenance, troubleshooting, and integration with other programs.
Ivy.ai features an enterprise-level chatbot. While the company says it can get your chatbot up in as little as 3 weeks, it requires coordination with several different departments and teams within an educational institution. From student recruitment to the bursar, registrar, library, IT, and even student services, an enormous amount of coordination must take place to realize the full value of this tool. Doing so allows any website visitor (prospective student, student, parent, faculty) to find answers to their questions on any page of your school’s website. Once you do have everyone on board, the bot can be implemented across pages with one line of HTML code. With each new interaction, this bot (human-supervised) will continuously learn and improve on the answers it provides to difficult, complex questions.
Mongoose’s team has the higher education context and knowledge to build optimized chatflow paths for your school’s chatbot. Mongoose also has ongoing support available to help your enrollment team identify high drop-off rates across your chatbot, calculate ROI, and make strategic recommendations. After building the various chatflow paths in the Mongoose chatbot tool, you can deploy it on your website by copying and pasting a code snippet onto a global element across website pages.
GeckoEngage claims it can help you get a chatbot live in just 1 week. We do suggest you build out numerous question/query banks and answers, and train the bot over the course of several test runs before deploying it live on your school’s website. When it is ready, copy a paste of a line of code onto the pages you want your chatbot to appear on.
A HubSpot chatbot can be implemented on any of your school’s pages that have the HubSpot tracking code present. With HubSpot, you can easily pick and choose certain pages (and exclude others) to include the chatbot. You can even prevent the chatbot from showing to visitors that come to your website from certain sources, that are a part of certain lists, or that clicked a certain call-to-action on a previous page.
Ivy.ai’s technology indexes your school’s entire website on a daily basis to search for new information, updated information, and recently removed information. This ensures that the answers provided by the chatbot are updated regularly and accurately (and reduces the time required to update the chatbot). Answers and responses provided by the chatbot are generated in large part by the content that already exists on your school’s website.
The Mongoose team helps you identify common user drop off spots in your chatbot that could prevent you from capitalizing on leads, inquiries, or solid conversations. Outdated information will need to be manually updated for new events, replacing outdated links, or general outdated information.
GeckoEngage features a “train” option for its chatbots. For all of the questions that the bot does not feel fit to answer, you can go through each question/query and train the bot to answer it a certain way next time around. Still, as events, resources, and staff change, you will need to manually update questions/answers in your chatbot.
HubSpot chatbots will need to be manually updated as information, events, program requirements, financial aid, etc, change.
HubSpot, GeckoEngage, and Mongoose chatbots do not index your website to find new information.
Troubleshooting: When a Chatbot Gets Stumped
Chatbots for enrollment aren’t meant to replace a live human. Even the most intelligent, AI-powered, seemingly bullet-proof chatbots run into questions they can’t answer.
When the bot gets stumped, you can have the user submit a ticket which can integrate into your school's ticketing systems, or you can route the conversation to a live agent.
When a Mongoose chatbot gets stumped, route the conversation to an admissions coordinator or allow the user to leave a custom message for a reply from your team at a later time.
GeckoEngage’s bot can be trained to know when to hand off the conversation to a live human. Using GeckoEngage’s question bank, you can also automatically route certain questions to a live human.
HubSpot’s chatbot can hand conversations off to live humans that are active in the account. Otherwise, the user can leave a custom message, which the bot will route to a particular individual for further follow up.
To our knowledge, all four tools feature a variation of a conversation inbox; a command center that provides visibility into ongoing conversations and ones that require follow up, and the ability to jump into a live-chat conversation at any time.
Chatbot Integration with CRMs
Ivy.ai integrates with Salesforce, Ellucian, Zendesk, HubSpot, Slate, TargetX, Oracle, SAP, Hobsons, and more. Custom integrations could allow Ivy.ai chatbot to reference and relay a user’s missing application materials from Salesforce. Conversations can also be continued over SMS text messaging.
Mongoose features out-of-the-box integrations with popular CRMs like Salesforce, Ellucian Banner, Ellucian Colleague, Slate, and TargetX (among others). It also includes calendar integrations with Google Calendar and Office 365 for convenient meeting scheduling by prospective students directly within the chatbot. Mongoose features a mobile app to keep live chat conversations going while on the go.
GeckoEngae integrates with well-known higher education CRMs like Slate, Salesforce, Ellucian, Campus Management, and Tribal. From campus tours to open houses and information sessions, GeckoEngage is a great tool for capturing event registrants and syncing that information to your school’s CRM.
HubSpot features its own CRM tool. It’s chatbot tool can automatically sync saved user responses to the HubSpot CRM and even skip over chatflow questions if a user’s information is already known in the CRM. The chatbot can reference other common HubSpot tools, like lists, workflows, and meetings links (integrated with Google Calendar or Office 365). If you’re a school currently on HubSpot, the chatbot tool is a slam dunk (and comes free in most cases). While the chatbot tool does not directly integrate with other CRMs, you can create custom integrations between HubSpot’s CRM can be with just about any other higher education customer relationship management software.
What is the Best Chatbot Tool for Higher Ed?
There’s no catch-all answer here for the most effective student recruitment chatbot tool. It depends on your budget, goals, and other department initiatives. For the incredible abilities of a tool like Ivy.ai, it requires a level of school-wide coordination that might take years to achieve, when you may need a simple solution tomorrow. HubSpot’s chatbot tool, while a no-brainer for schools currently using HubSpot’s CMS and CRM, is best used for student recruitment purposes by helping prospective students quickly find content, resources, and book meetings with admissions coordinators.
A tool like Mongoose might be a good fit for enrollment teams that are working with chatbots for the first time and are in need of a helping hand. Their industry knowledge and ongoing support can be helpful when identifying room for improvement and maintaining the bot. GeckoEngage is a great option for combining multiple chat and conversation tools into one convenient inbox for your team to manage. On the other hand, their chatbot is built differently as it requires you to predict the questions users will ask. This may make it more difficult to create clear chatflow paths for prospective students to find content, but more flexible to handle difficult, complex questions.
Have you used one of these chat tools for higher ed before? We’d love to hear your feedback and which one you think is the best chatbot tool! Leave a review on Enrollify Chatter to help the higher education community and other enrollment marketers like you.
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