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Communication a source of frustration for some students

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Communication between Delta College and students in need of answers has been a source of frustration for students, even as the college looks for ways to offer more customer service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unreturned calls and emails to counselors and financial aid specialists have left some students, such as Sarah Saechao, considering transferring to another institution.

“This is my first year going to college and it has been a horrible experience so far,” Saechao said.

Saechao said she had sent emails to her financial aid specialist twice a week for more than a month and received no responses.

She said she also tried reaching out for help regarding the processing of her financial aid multiple times through LiveChat.

Adapted from Freepik.com.

LiveChat is an online customer service software that Delta College has utilized to extend support services to students.

Before the pandemic, LiveChat was only used by the IT department in order to answer students’ questions regarding the MyDelta system.

After public health shelter-in-place orders were issued in March and it became clear that in-person classes would have to be suspended, other departments turned to LiveChat as a way to provide assistance to students transitioning to online instruction.

Employees who work in the Admissions and Records department, as well as the Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Verteran Services department and the Welcome Center received training on how to use LiveChat, according to Account Services Manager Christopher Frymire.

“We added more seats to the platform. Originally IT only had a couple since they were the only ones on it,” Frymire said. “We now have up to 30 staff on it at any one time, with over 100 staff who have accounts and rotate through the tool.”

According to data provided by Edward Aguilar, assistant dean for Outreach, Equity, and Student Services, there has been a total of 40,103 chats with an average satisfaction rate of 89 percent.

Still, there are students who reported having difficulties receiving assistance through LiveChat.

“LiveChat is not helpful as there is a long wait time,” student Samantha Jeter said. “You get kicked off and forced to wait longer, and half the time your questions aren’t able to be dealt with, just forwarded on to someone else who doesn’t help.”

Student Nikki Carera-Farquhar has had similar issues when attempting to use LiveChat.

“I sat on LiveChat for five hours before being disconnected,” Carera-Farquhar said.

She said she doesn’t believe LiveChat is a useful platform for students who are seeking answers to their questions.

“I never got a response,” she said. “There are insane wait times. Plus, you have to be near the computer all day to check in every few minutes so you don’t time out for inactivity.”

Frymire said that he is actively exploring ways to improve the student experience on the platform.

“We are looking at automating the queue, which should help keep wait times down by auto assigning students to open agents, and are training some more staff to help with password resets, which represent about 25 percent of our total chats,” he said.

Frymire said he is also looking at utilizing chatbots to help students with some of the easier questions that get asked, such as how to order official transcripts.

“That would be available 24/7, whether we are online or not,” he said.