Friday, September 22, 2017

Mobile apps Can Provide Great Service to Students

I was eating lunch on a college campus the other day and watched as four students came and all sat down to lunch together at a table.  Now, this was not a monastic college but not one of them said
anything to another throughout their sitting together. Nor did they seem to acknowledge one another’s presence though it was clear they had chosen to sit together. They were all too busy looking down at their smart phones to engage one another.

It was amazing to see how they could scroll through the phone and even text with one hand while the other hand lifted food and miraculously found a mouthy to place it in.  I was saddened by the lack of communication with one another. It was equally frustrating to realize that students seem to be more engaged in their phones than anything else on campus.

But then it came to me. Why not use the phone as a college service device? Why not realize and accept that the phone has become more important to most students than for example the computer or conversation? That phones are not for talking on anymore but are for communicating in other ways such as texting and that email has been replaced by text? It dawned on me that rather than lament the dominance of phones and their capturing students’ attention, why not use the phones as a central point of service provision to students?

Mobile apps could be a very potent customer service delivery system as well as w ay to increase engagement with the school alongside great person-to-person customer service. Colleges could put a massive amount of information and access right in the hands of students who would be untethered to a computer or the campus. Considering that so many students have lives off campus and cannot always get to offices on campus, the ability to have access to services anywhere in the world was powerful concept. This would be especially great for commuters and community college students whose schedules often precluded being able to get to the campus to obtain services.

Moreover, providing a mobile app with as much information a student can use and want is also a sign from the college that it does care about making the student’s life at the college as easy as is possible and that leads to great service and engagement.

Why not harness the power of the phones attraction of students and use it as a main service provider on campus? This could, should be big. I thought about setting up a company to design mobile service apps for colleges but then realized I know nothing about mobile app development so I decided to do some research into mobile apps and college.

That led me to realize what I should have already known. This was such a good idea that it was already being done. There is a company named DubLabs that had already designed mobile apps for over 150 colleges and did so extremely well. The apps that they had developed met student needs and desires rather than those of the college or its IT department. Too often when a school decides to go mobile they try to develop it themselves and while this is helpful, it does not always mean it is useful to students. In fact, when investigating two mobile apps that were developed by the schools, students complained that they were “clunky” and “not very user friendly just like many website that were homemade.

I found that DubLabs had designed mobile apps providing service to large universities like University of California – LA mid-sized school like Bridgewater State University in MA and community colleges all over the country. And they had gotten very good reviews from students at the schools. They were able to put everything students needed and colleges wanted them to have in the hand of the student.  Their mobile apps gave students full information and control over their college lives from class schedules to lecture notes, grades, registration, ebills, add/drops, college forms, access to Blackboard , class cancellations, bus schedules and all else right in their back pockets that was easily accessible and immediate.  And the apps integrated with the college’s native IT system like People Soft.

Here is a list of what’s available to students on one example of a DubLabs mobile app.
·         There is a dashboard for notifications, assignments, grades, class discussions, news and video;
·         Access to the college ‘s Blackboard
·         The book store where students could search for courses, required and non-required texts and even college clothing;
·         Courses where all classes, and locations are available for immediate view with the ability to pin them to a mapping ability to locate the classrooms
·         Course announcements and assignments;
·         Media where students can watch class videos or whatever video pertains to them or their classes if posted;
·         A student’s final exam schedule;
·         A campus directory with active links to all college employees with contact information;
·         One click calling for emergencies or student services offices;
·         All grades;
·         Register from the phone;
·         Pay bills through the app;
·         The library website;
·         Employment opportunities with internships available;
·         Dining information with dining hours;
·         Real time bus schedules for students who commute;
·         A calendar with events and where students can enter their own events.

A study by a company named Rapid Insight found that a mobile app by DubLabs increased communication between the school and student enough so it attributed a 2% enrollment increase to the mobile app.  That translated into 133 more students retained and an additional 2.6 million available for the college's budget  That is nothing to sneer at.

This is all great information for a student to have and it also shows the college does care about students having the information to be able to manage their days and lives all in one hand.
So now when I see students staring down at their phones I can believe they are using their college mobile app rather than just wasting time and ignoring one another.

Since 1999, NRaisman & Associates as been helping over 450 universities and colleges increase their admissions, retention and enrollment as the international experts on academic customer service through its consulting, training and campus service excellence studies
It's time for you to increase retention and customer service on campus.Call today at 413.219.6939 or email me at GreatServiceMatters.

No comments: