Skip to main content

Customer Service in Higher Education: Five Best Practices

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey Content Strategist

Customer service in higher education is dedicated to ensuring students enjoy a positive experience throughout their academic journey. Much like businesses thrive on providing excellent service to keep customers satisfied and loyal, schools and universities aspire to do the same for students and parents.

Negative experiences arising from poor customer service, when shared with friends and parents can harm an institution's reputation and enrollment rates, emphasizing the importance of cultivating positive interactions. Conversely, happy students become loyal advocates, recommending the institution to friends and family.

To elevate the student experience, envision a scenario where institutions leverage school customer service software. This technology empowers higher education professionals to respond swiftly and efficiently to student and parent queries, resulting in heightened overall customer satisfaction.

In this article, we delve deeper into the benefits of elevating customer service in higher education, explore what is good customer service in higher education, and outline the best practices for digital experience management within your educational institute.

The Importance of Exceptional Customer Service

In the U.S., there are 134,960 educational institutions ranging from public to charter and private. To attract students and secure vital funding, it is important to stand out from the competitors. By prioritizing extraordinary customer service, you not only place students at the forefront of your focus but also position yourself uniquely, carving a distinctive niche in the competitive educational world.

Let us further explore the benefits of providing exceptional customer service to your students.

  1. Retention Boost: Excellent customer service in higher education can significantly boost retention rates, with the potential to increase student retention by up to 20%.
  2. Satisfaction and Advocacy: Aligned with student expectations, good customer service fosters satisfaction, turning satisfied students into enthusiastic advocates who share positive experiences with peers and family. Notably, 72%  of customers share positive experiences with six or more people.
  3. Loyalty Building: The provision of personalized support through exceptional customer service plays a crucial role in building trust and loyalty among both students and their parents.
  4. Addressing Completion Challenges: Outstanding customer service actively addresses challenges such as low completion rates by implementing proactive measures. Personalized guidance in course selection and streamlined enrollment processes positively impact student success.
  5. Competitive Differentiation: Higher education institutions that prioritize good customer service stand out. This strategic approach attracts and retains college students, contributing to long-term success in a crowded market.

Challenges in Providing Customer Service in Higher Education

Delivering effective digital customer experience in higher education presents unique challenges that demand thoughtful solutions. Here's a concise overview:

Security Concerns

Challenge: Managing sensitive information while complying with various privacy laws, such as FERPA in the U.S.

Solution: Comprehensive privacy training for staff, focusing on the strictest interpretation of laws, and employing tools with robust privacy features. Regular audits and refresher courses keep support teams informed.

Supporting a Varied User Base

Challenge: Addressing diverse needs, expectations, and knowledge levels among different stakeholders in education.

Solution: Establishing specialized support teams or knowledge bases for distinct user groups, gathering user information for tailored communication, and practicing empathy to serve a broad range of users effectively.

Prioritizing Requests

Challenge: Managing customer queues efficiently, prioritizing issues based on severity, and ensuring timely responses.

Solution: Develop a triage process for assessing and prioritizing tickets, measuring the impact of issues with a scorecard, and establishing clear escalation practices for critical issues.

Technological Integration

Challenge: Integrating and managing customer service tools and technologies seamlessly within the educational environment.

Solution: Prioritize tools with good privacy features, conduct thorough audits before adopting new technologies, and provide ongoing training to higher education professionals for efficient use. Ensure that the selected tools align with the specific needs and compliance standards of the educational institution.

Communication Across Departments

Challenge: Facilitating effective communication between different departments within an educational institution to address complex student queries.

Solution: Establish clear communication channels and protocols between departments. Implement collaborative tools and practices to ensure a cohesive approach to problem-solving. Encourage cross-training among staff members to enhance their understanding of diverse issues.

5 Best Practices for Improving Customer Service

Enrich your institution's customer service excellence by embracing these five best practices.

1. Student-Centric Approach

In a 2012 survey by Academic Impressions, only 6 professionals from 79 institutions rated their university's customer service as "A." This underscores the need for a significant shift towards a student-centric approach in delivering good customer service to higher education. Prioritizing a customer-centric mindset institution-wide is crucial, emphasizing understanding students' journeys, needs, and concerns.


Craft student personas by creating detailed profiles that capture diverse student demographics, allowing tailored services to meet specific needs.

2. Digital Solutions for Streamlined Service

Harness AI tools, such as chatbots, for automating routine tasks to minimize wait times, ensure omnichannel integration on cloud-based platforms, and enhance service efficiency by exploring AI-powered solutions, allowing chatbots to address basic questions autonomously, thereby freeing up agents and improving response times.


Leverage ChatGPT prompts to automate specific student interactions, such as answering questions about course details, utilizing its natural language understanding for diverse inquiries.

3. Staff Training and Development

Ensure continuous training for staff—current and new—with department-specific protocols for existing members and technical skills training for new hires. Sustained programs ensure alignment with evolving technologies, covering aspects like utilizing a knowledge base for relevant responses, understanding admission policies, and adeptly managing multiple live chats without compromising a personal touch.


Conduct relevant workshops and webinars to help your staff stay updated on the latest technologies and customer service best practices, ensuring a dynamic and skilled team.

4. Gathering and Implementing Student Feedback

By collecting insights on teaching quality, staff interaction, and the learning environment, your institution can refine its customer engagement strategy. Feedback serves as a powerful tool to gauge student and parent satisfaction, identifying areas for improvement. Employing automated surveys, addressing negative reviews with courtesy, conducting regular surveys, integrating feedback-driven changes, and maintaining transparency in communication are key practices to enhance customer service in education.


Automate surveys as a component of your monthly or quarterly routine for identifying loopholes and subsequently implementing corrective actions.

5. Building a Supportive Community

Foster a sense of community through peer-to-peer support forums, engaging alumni in mentorship programs, and hosting events that strengthen connections among students and faculty members. Nurturing a supportive ecosystem not only enhances overall satisfaction but also fosters a profound sense of belongingness.


Regularly assess the effectiveness of these community-building initiatives and adapt them based on feedback to continually strengthen connections and support systems.

Five9: A Solution for Higher Education Customer Service

Five9 OneStudent, an innovative cloud-based contact center platform is tailored for higher education. This solution transforms student engagement by offering multi-channel communication, enhancing advisor productivity with comprehensive omnichannel controls, and ensuring operational flexibility through cloud migration.

Addressing the complexities of student engagement, Five9 employs cloud capabilities and cutting-edge Generative AI for real-time coaching and summarization in student-advisor interactions. With Intelligent Voice Response (IVR) and Omnichannel Mobile features, Five9 caters to the rising demand for immediate care options. Integration with leading Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions further boosts staff productivity, providing a competitive edge and optimizing existing technology investments.

Elevate your contact center with Five9 OneStudent, a modern solution that aligns with evolving student and stakeholder expectations.

Visit for more information!

Ruthie Carey
Ruthie Carey Content Strategist

Call 1-800-553-8159 to learn more about Five9