Thursday, 9 November 2017

Time to talk: Can live chat change classroom support?

Unlike a printed book, software is complex, open-ended and constantly evolving. School technology environments are equally complex, each one its own unique ecosystem. 

Software just has to work – even in places that don’t have a reliable cell signal or consistent Wi-Fi. Faced with a classful of students and a block of 40 minutes or less, teachers have no time for connection failures or searching through Teacher’s Guides to find out how something is supposed to function. Yes, there’s startup training and a trove of articles and videos in the resource center. But when a student is stuck, who has time to look up troubleshooting tips? Things that seemed crystal clear in training can suddenly become a little murky when students are online.

Who you gonna call?

When teachers are new to BrightFish Reading, it’s the ones we don’t hear from who worry me the most. No news is definitely not good news in the instructional software environment. Toll-free phone lines are a good support option, but when there’s no landline in the classroom or cell reception, who you gonna call?

Last winter, we integrated live chat into our online Teacher Dashboard. Teachers have embraced the tool as a way to get instant responses to their questions. It enables our support team to close most issues in minutes and get ahead of anything that might affect the student or teacher experience. When there’s a problem, we know about it right away.

“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” – Jim Barksdale

As software developers, we live for metrics. Since integrating live chat, we’ve cut our average response time from 15 minutes down to five. Ninety-five percent of support requests are now closed within one business day. Based on our live chat data, we are able to plan for heavy traffic times, create new tools based on frequent questions, and make changes to our training program to better equip teachers. Increased chat volume from specific schools can help to identify additional training needs at those campuses. 

Our chat tool also has a monitoring feature, so we can see exactly which devices and browsers students are using to access our program – great information for troubleshooting performance issues.

Using live chat involves a bit more setup time when we’re bringing on a new school, as it requires the local server firewall to allow access. But for the most part, it’s been a seamless addition to our support portfolio. We still offer toll-free phone and email, but things are getting very quiet on those old-school channels!

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