What is an empathy engine?

The ways higher education leaders operate, work, and communicate have taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are living in an entirely different reality, and for many of America’s colleges and universities, connecting with students has become the top priority.  

Many institutions are asking themselves what effective communication even looks like when we are surrounded by so much uncertainty. How can you grow enrollment, increase retention, and cultivate student loyalty under the circumstances of social distancing and remote learning? Creating an empathy engine for meaningful communication is the answer. 

Definition of an Empathy Engine

So, what is an empathy engine?

Definition: An empathy engine is artificial intelligence technology that delivers relevant information and answers to questions in real time by practicing active listening at scale, analyzing data, routing conversations to a human when appropriate, and cultivating trusting relationships to improve ongoing communication.

Developing an effective, engaging communication strategy starts with hearing what students are saying and thinking. If there are any fortunate outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of them is the accelerated digital transformation the world is experiencing. Remarkable innovations in communication have come as a result of society’s rapid move to an online landscape. Over the past several years, technology and analytics have also advanced to the point where digital conversations can be analyzed in real-time and at scale. 

The Intersection of Technology and Empathy

Fostering meaningful, personalized interactions between students and your institution is critical to student success.

Higher education institutions are adopting technology to streamline communications with students — from recruitment all the way through to graduation and beyond. Evidence proves that this approach also develops trusting relationships and leads to student success. Artificial intelligence is on your side, and utilizing this technology can have an incredibly positive effect on the student lifecycle.  

AdmitHub’s white paper, “Building an Empathy Engine for Meaningful Communication,” explores how harnessing the power of conversational AI plays a critical role in the academic journey for students. It also includes real-life use cases and key results from colleges and universities that have implemented empathy engines of their own. Let’s examine some of the findings from the white paper.

Growing Enrollment

During the height of the pandemic, AdmitHub worked with nearly 150 colleges and universities to solve students’ questions, challenges, and priorities in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. The data from this initiative highlights some eye-opening findings in response to the student experience over the summer months. For example, students asked the same amount of questions pertaining to the virus, regardless of the number of COVID-19 cases in their region. This suggests that students nationally were equally concerned about the virus’s impact in the first weeks of the pandemic. 

Enabling prospective students to 24/7, immediate access to information at their fingertips through conversational AI is proven to both initiate and simplify the enrollment process. By building engagement and a sense of community through an empathy engine, administrators are able to foster trusting, personal relationships early on with prospective students — which is vital to student success. Doing so before and during the enrollment process gives the institution a head start on creating the ultimate college experience from the very beginning. 

Improving Retention

The way colleges and universities communicate with students significantly influences retention rates — and these efforts can start before a student even enrolls. Enabling campus-minded digital communication is proven to keep students involved and guide them in the right direction when they feel lost, even in cases where students are remote. 

At Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus, Dr. Christopher Smith, Executive Director of Enrollment Management, Marketing & Financial Aid, deployed an AI-driven campaign sequence to send prospective students. With a focus geared towards building student trust, Smith found an increase in engagement and enrollment activity, even at the height of a pandemic. Compared to 2019, total applications are up 44%, total admitted students are up 39%, and full-year enrollment is up 20% — all thanks to their empathy engine. 

By harnessing the power of AI to efficiently answer questions and identify knowledge gaps in the student journey, colleges and universities can develop empathy engines to drive their students’ sense of belonging. There is no better time than now to improve communication strategies to foster student retention, especially in the age of social distancing and remote learning. 

Communicating the Way Students Prefer

There is a significant gap in the way most colleges communicate with Gen Z students. Email is the new snail mail because today’s students expect instant  to be available conveniently at their fingertips at any time of day. That’s why many colleges and universities have tapped into the power of AI chatbots that proactively and reactively text students to uncover their needs and concerns. This empowers students to access answers on their own terms and without judgment, so they can make fast, informed decisions and overcome their challenges. 

At Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, AI-driven communication led to record-breaking engagement levels in activities such as housing applications, making payments, and completing paperwork. This technology is not only removing guesswork for students, but it’s also eliminating a significant amount of work that would otherwise take administrators away from the high-value interactions with students that only they can do. 

It’s a common misconception that AI eliminates administrative jobs. In reality, it only amplifies administrators’ efforts at scale. Dr. Lindsay Page of the University of Pittsburgh states “Our research indicates that chatbots can have their most significant impact when it comes to important administrative processes with clear deadlines.” By analyzing what matters most to students, administrators can better understand the wants and needs of students and deliver a better experience for them from the start.

Dive in Deeper

Download “Building an Empathy Engine for Meaningful Communication” now to examine how colleges and universities are using empathy engines and explore the results they’re seeing. Uncover how you can use the right tone, utilize data, and truly drive your institution’s empathy engine with AdmitHub today.