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Friday, July 23, 2021

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Through its website's live chat feature, Student Account Services staff are able to remain accessible to both students and parents in a virtual capacity. Through its website's live chat feature, Student Account Services staff are able to remain accessible to both students and parents in a virtual capacity.
 


Student Account Services Launches Live Chat in Response to COVID-19

The feature allows staff to assist students and parents with questions regarding billing, payments and reimbursements.
By Michelle Barón
 

“I'm really proud of all the hard work our team has put into implementing this feature and we'll continue to explore innovative ways to help our students.”

In the beginning of March, San Diego State University’s Student Account Services (SAS) was tasked with shifting its operation to the virtual space. No longer able to answer questions via office phone or welcome in-person inquiries, the SAS staff sought an alternative communication channel to remain accessible to both students and parents in a virtual capacity.

Without delay, SAS made the decision to launch the live chat feature of its chatbot with the intention of continuing to accommodate the campus community in the rapidly changing landscape caused by the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

“Given the state and county stay-at-home orders, implementing live chat was critical in order to assist students and their parents with questions regarding billing, payments, and reimbursements,” said T’Ante Sims, manager of Student Account Services. “Right now, many of our students and their families are dealing with the financial impact of COVID-19, and our team is working diligently to issue refunds, post payments, and get financial aid checks mailed as soon as possible.”

The transition from providing in-office assistance to becoming a live agent in the virtual space was not without the initial challenge of overcoming technical hurdles, and the major shift required comprehensive fast track training.  

“It was all hands on deck for the roll out. We trained staff and student assistants via Zoom,” said Scott Arnold, Student Account Services communications specialist. “Our team does everything possible to resolve inquiries in the moment, and if we’re unable to answer a question in live chat we send a follow-up email to the student.”

The rapid adoption of this interactive tool as a solution for remaining available to offer student-oriented financial services and maintaining student success has not gone unnoticed.

“Campus feedback to the live chat has been overwhelmingly positive. Students have left comments to our team thanking us for going above and beyond to answer questions and provide support during this pandemic,” said Arnold.

In addition to the live chat service, the chatbot also includes a blue banner announcement that when clicked prompts information regarding the impact of COVID-19 on bills, refunds, and direct deposit.

Moving all of their services online was quite the undertaking but determined to deliver on their commitment to the campus community, SAS found a way to keep their virtual doors open. 

"I'm really proud of all the hard work our team has put into implementing this feature and we'll continue to explore innovative ways to help our students," said Sims.  

All students are encouraged to visit the SAS website and utilize the chatbot in order to address financial services related questions. SAS staff are available via live chat Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.