Improving Engagement with Students by Providing Instant Chat Service

University of Sheffield shares how they increased transparent student communication with live chat service, TAWK.
Find My Solution

Key Highlights


Visitors to PortalX site over their busiest period.


New chat conversations between students and staff.


Students are asking less questions in email and phone calls since their implementation of TAWK.


Staff are better equipped to work together on issues or concerns from their community members.

University Of Sheffield
Higher Education
Active Since
No items found.

The University of Sheffield is a world top 100 university renowned for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of their research led learning and teaching. They have won the Queen’s anniversary prize 5 times which recognises quality and innovation in research by UK universities and colleges and the impact it has made to the nation's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.


The Need to Better Understand Student Needs

In March 2020, Covid-19 resulted in increased queries into the accommodation office at The University of Sheffield which resulted in the office struggling to meet service-level agreements. All staff members were working from home, making it difficult to ensure students received consistent advice. There was a clear negative impact on the student experience when responses were being delayed due to staff being under pressure and at a time when they needed trustworthy, reassuring advice at uncertain times.

A more robust communication tool was the clear answer.

The University needed to look at ways to improve communication for both staff and students with minimal cost. First steps they took was to analyse feedback from students and research solutions that would meet their expectations. During the digital StarRez conference held in June 2020, they learned about the collaboration with which offered the instant chat service within StarRez. After researching the company in terms of ethics, responsibility, and sustainability, they arranged a virtual meeting with a representative in early July 2020 before the implementation of the software. To address the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), there was a requirement to complete a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) as introducing a new technology affects the freedom rights of individuals. Implementation Successes

Following implementation, the queries flooded in. They offer the service between 10am – 4pm meaning staff are always available to answer the chats. On their busiest week the team received 31,531 visits to PortalX and had a total of 616 chats. Once the service was established, they simplified the process even more by adding shortcut answers to common questions. This meant the team had a stock of responses that would be consistent and quickly available when dealing with queries.

"Covid hit and we were inundated with calls. I attended StarRez Connect virtually last year and we heard about chat. Implementation was easy and has been great. Calls have reduced and we have happier students"

Elaine McDermott - the University of Sheffield

The staff love the whisper feature used for when they can reach out to other staff members for help on queries without even being in the same office. If need be, the team can transfer chats amongst themselves if someone else was more specialised in a particular query. The use of chosen avatars for the staff also gives that personal touch for students.

The Results has improved efficiency and productivity for both staff and students and the team has seen a reduction in emails and calls since implementation. As well as improving communications, there is an additional benefit in that its developed in collaboration within their department. The more they use the instant chat software, the more other teams get involved as they recognise its positive impact on the accommodation office. If you want to know how can help increase engagement in your communities, get in touch with the team today.

Cloud customers can have access to a live chat service called available in PortalX. The service allows multiple agents to communicate with their residents from anywhere and on any device maintaining efficient communications without needing to be in the same office or answer phones.