Have you ever called a company for customer service help and been greeted by an automated system? The experience feels impersonal and cold. No one likes to talk to a computer, and students are no different. They're used to receiving and dismissing mass automated messages, which is why we always stress the importance of personalization.
We know that successfully engaging students is difficult, and that it’s even harder to re-engage them once they’ve disconnected. The moment a student receives a message that doesn’t apply to him or her, we lose his or her attention and may never get it back. If students receive messages that are not relevant to them, they will be more likely to ignore the messages or opt out of the texting program, ensuring that they'll miss the critical information sent in future communications.
Personalization can take many forms. Student data can be used to personalize the content of a message (e.g. referring to a student by name; including the name of the counselor who is sending the messaging; sending school- or class-specific information). It can also be used to determine which messages a student receives. For example, sophomores only need reminders about sophomore registration; the registration schedules for other classes simply aren’t relevant to them. If a student has already submitted all financial aid forms, he or she does not need to receive reminders to turn in those forms.
The best way to keep students engaged via personalized text messages is to show them that there's a person on the other end of the messages. They aren’t talking to a computer or automated system; they’re talking to you. It’s as simple as adding a question to the end of a message (“Have you enrolled in your spring classes yet?”) or concluding a message with “Text back with questions.” This lets students know that they can reach a real, human advisor by texting back.
Which message do you find more effective?
The message on the right sounds warm and human. Personalized messages like this help increase response rates and keep students engaged.