7 Essential Ways to Use LINE at Your Language School

Depending on where you live, you’ve either never heard of LINE or you use it everyday. For those of use in East Asia, Japan in our case, LINE is likely the most common way we use to communicate with friends and family these days.

What do school owners use now?

According to some informal Facebook polling done by Lawrence of AES Eikaiwa in Gifu, main methods of communication by English schools in Japan is spread out among a few different categories.

Courtesy of Lawrence Hong, AES English School, Gifu, Japan

As you can see, email, LINE personal, and in person rank as the top three. He also broke down the top answer by group, giving us a bit more insight into who is using what. It seems like there are clearly some generational aspects at play in terms of who is using what type of communication method (no offense intended).

Translation by Lawrence Hong, originally from https://honote.macromill.com/report/20180620/

You can see however, that what schools are using most doesn’t match what consumers in Japan are using. Most Japanese respondents said the LINE chat is their most used communication tool, so why haven’t schools caught on?

LINE personal v. LINE business

As a side-note, you’ll see that Lawrence’s original survey separated LINE personal and business, so in reality, quite a few school owners are using LINE now, but about half of them are mixing their business LINE communications in with the personal LINE communications, a good way to end up missing messages or else constantly disrupting your hard-earned time off. Whatever you do, let’s try to avoid this situation!

Why should you be using LINE?

To cut to the chase, the main reason to use LINE is the above: because your students are using it.

However, if you’re not convinced yet, let’s take a look at some of the benefits your school can get from adopting LINE:

  • Easy Advertising: LINE is useful for your students to communicate, so they’ll gladly sign up for your school’s LINE account. However, you can use your LINE account to send promotions and advertisements to your students, helping you do things like recruit for events, fill new classes, etc.
  • Easy Communication: Similarly, what happens when the typhoon is bearing down on your city or a pandemic requires a quick switch to online teaching? With LINE, you can notify everyone immediately!
  • Deepening Relationships: Because LINE is a popular communication tool, it’s easier for students to get in touch with you, meaning more opportunity for interaction and providing value for your students.
  • Asynchronous: Unlike the telephone or in person communications, LINE doesn’t need to be answered immediately. Meaning if your front staff is busy or you are in a class, you won’t be bothered. Students also don’t expect an immediate answer, reducing pressure on your school.
  • Reliability: Email bounces. People don’t pick up phone calls. In person communication relies on people showing up. LINE is always delivered, comes with read receipts, and can be done any time.

It’s obvious right? If you’re not using LINE, you should be.

Limitations of LINE

I’ve been saying a lot of nice things about LINE, but it’s not all peaches and cream. There are some annoying restrictions that mean LINE, though it is very useful, is not perfect.

  • Push messaging limitations: LINE’s main method of monetizing their platform is to charge businesses to send out messages. Currently, they limit free push messages to 1000 / month. This means if you have 500 people registered to your LINE, you can send out two push messages a month. Once you hit 501, you’ll be limited to only one (unless you want to start spending a money!). Reply messages and 1:1 messages are unlimited, so you’ll be able to chat as much as you want.
  • LINE interface: LINE is foremost a consumer platform. So while it’s nice and clean for users, on the business side of things it can be a bit ugly. Logging in to your account to check messages requires opening three different windows, and you’re constantly getting signed out. If you’ve signed in on your browser, you won’t get mobile notifications, so sometimes you might miss notifications if you leave your account signed in somewhere.

Not too bad in the end, just a few nagging things you need to be aware over before making the plunge.

7 ways you should be using LINE

1. Register your LINE Official Account

Obvious, right? But as we saw above, there’s still a lot of people mixing in their school’s messages with their personal LINE accounts. This is not a sustainable way to manage your interactions with students, besides, it looks unprofessional.

Is it easy?

Of course, just head on over the the LINE for Business site to get started.

Some things to keep in mind when creating your LINE official account:

  • you’ll need a personal LINE account to manage the business account
  • you can manage your LINE Official account by smartphone, but it’s easier if you have a computer
  • you can pay for a custom LINE ID, but this is not necessary

2. Make it easy to find

Just having a LINE account doesn’t mean much if no one knows what it is. You can’t expect people to search for you unprompted, so you need to get it in the face of your students.

How to show off your LINE

1. Post it round the school

You’ll want to use a QR code to make things easy for your students. LINE users should all be familiar with QR codes, so just post it where people will see and they’ll sign up.

You can find the QR code for your LINE account in the LINE Official Account Manager. Select your account name > Add Friends and you’ll see a list of options for adding friends:

  • URL: this can be useful if you want to send it to someone via SMS or email
  • QR code: this will be the easiest way to do in your physical school. Download and print this out.
  • Web button: we’ll mention this in more detail in a bit.
  • Poster: there are some restrictions on the text, but it’s easy and eye-catching
  • Novelties: if you really want to go crazy, you can buy some cheap novelties to stick around the school. Because they look nice and professional and don’t cost a lot of money, this can be a good choice for some

Where should you post your LINE QR codes?

Think about all the places your students will notice the QR code. Also think about where new students are likely to be so that you can sign new students up easily. Here are some suggestions:

  • on the front door
  • on the inside of the bathroom door
  • at the front counter/desk where students might stand when talking with staff
  • in the classroom (center of table, near the students)
  • in the waiting area / study space
2. Post it on your website

When students or prospective students look at your website, what do they see?

This is an example of an English school website straight out of the 1990s. They only thing you can see here that let’s you know it was made after the dot-com bust is the Facebook logo.

So why am I picking on this school?

I know this school uses LINE for communication. It is actually one of the bigger and perhaps the oldest school in my area. And even though they are large, use LINE, and we know most Japanese people prefer LINE as their main communication tool, can we see LINE anywhere here? Nope.

Let’s look at another local school’s page. This school is using a full screen splash image, but when you school past the picture the first thing you see are mobile-native buttons which allow the students to call or register for LINE to send a message.

LINE is not the only tool, but it should be on par with telephone on your site

Let users choose which way to contact you, with the simple push of a button.

Don’t forget your contact page. Some students will click through to LINE immediately on the main page, but other students will browse around before wanting to contact you. Making LINE prominent on your contact page will make it easy for prospective students to choose LINE, telephone, email, or contact form.

You’d be surprised how many students choose LINE.

3. Create useful automated messaging

LINE is a great time saver because you can move your messaging and customer service from real-time (telephone) to whenever you have downtime. But LINE’s automatic messages also save you a ton of time. Let’s talk a bit about how to make use of the automated messages in LINE.

Greeting message

When someone signs up for your LINE, this is the first message they will (automatically) receive from you, so it’s important. Take some time to think about what kind of information you’d like to include here, and what kind of impression you want to give your students or potential students.

LINE conveniently offers three very useful tips for what to include here:

  1. Let users know what kind of info to expect. Are they going to get coupons, event info, or something else?
  2. Tell users what they can do after signing up for your LINE to direct them to a concrete action.
  3. Use images and rich content to make your messages pop.

Let’s look at a great example of a LINE greeting message:

AES Eikaiwa LINE greeting message

This message really hits all the important parts:

  1. Lets you know you’ll receive school news, but can also chat one on one with the staff.
  2. Gives information on how to use the rich menu included with the account to perform certain actions like “schedule make up lessons”
  3. Wraps everything together in an appealing picture message that reinforces the school brand and makes it easy to see.

Auto-reply message

You can really go crazy with auto-reply messages if you want. I recommend keeping it simple.

Auto-reply messages should be used in tag-team with point #4, “set your work schedule”.

If you’re in regular business hours, you don’t really need to set an auto-reply, do you? You’ll get back to them pretty soon. But what about when the school is closed or late at night / early morning. Most students will probably not expect a prompt answer in these situations, but many new students might not know your school schedule. If they send you their first LINE right at the beginning of a long holiday, you won’t be able to reply to them immediately and they might have moved on already.

The two main situations you’ll want to use auto-reply messages are out of business hours and during long vacations.

You can schedule the messages to work during these times to set student expectations for when you will get back to them. Like the greeting messages above, it’s best to:

  • Set expectations: When will you reply? Why aren’t you answering immediately?
  • Give concrete action examples: What can they do in the mean time (visit your site, see your calendar, etc)?
  • Use rich content: Make the message easy to see and professional.

(Avoid) AI auto-reply message

AI auto-replies can be a bit tricky with LINE. If you read about how wonderful AI is and how many things it can do, don’t get confused. LINE’s AI messaging functionality might as well be called “artificial stupidity” for all the functionality it offers.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Preprogram responses to queries. But be careful, the queries need to be an exact match or LINE won’t program them.
  • Give generic responses: When there isn’t a good match, LINE will send a pre-programmed generic reply and you’ll need to reply manually anyway.

So why did I include this? Because you should avoid it. If you really want to automate your LINE interactions, take a look at section 7 where we talk about integrating LINE Bot functionality using uTeach Cloud.

4. Set your work schedule

As we talked about above, setting your school’s work schedule will allow you to sync that schedule with auto-reply messages as well as prevent you from having to constantly answer LINE messages all hours of the day.

You can do this from the LINE Official Account Manager > Settings > Auto-reply Settings > Auto-reply Time > Set Auto-reply Time page. Yes, it’s a bit difficult to find.

When you set the green bits, those are the times when you are available to reply, the grey bits the times when you are not available.

Jumping back a step in the LINE settings will show the options for settings your responders:

You have two options for both “during work time” and “out of work time”. During work time (the green bits), you can select manual chat or smart chat (which is the poorly designed AI backed up by manual chat). I recommend manual chat.

Out of work time, you can select an AI-responder or an auto-reply message. I recommend using manual chat during work hours and an auto-reply out of work hours (as shown above).

One caveat: If you’re usually unable to respond promptly during work hours, perhaps because you have several classes and no front desk staff, you might want use the smart chat option to reply with something like “I’m in class now, but will get back to you soon”.

5. Use rich menus

Rich menus are customizable buttons that appear at the bottom of the LINE chat window. These buttons let your students do a variety of things like send pre-set phrases (useful if you want to use the AI chat), visit links, etc.

Here’s an example of the rich menus from uTeach Cloud’s LINE Bot, which we’ll talk about more in section 7. Each of the buttons here has some specific function:

  • add a reservation
  • cancel a reservation
  • view upcoming reservations
  • view payments
  • view the home page
  • switch the the manual chat LINE account

If you’re not using a LINE Bot, you might want to have slightly different functions here, but I think you get the idea. Here are some things you could add to a rich menu to give students access to resources without having to even send a message:

  • your school’s calendar
  • your home page
  • student sign-in portal
  • upcoming event information page
  • blog

The list goes on!

However, the unfortunate thing about rich menus is that they are a bit of a pain to use. You need to decided the layout of the buttons you want to use, then download a photo template, add all the button images you want to the template with something like photoshop, and finally upload the image. If you never change anything, it’s not that much of a time investment, but if you want to change the buttons to update things like event information it can take a bit of time and requires some photo-editing skills. It’s also difficult to support multiple languages.

If students are always asking you the same questions, put the answers in easy to find links on the rich menu!

6. Keep it light and friendly

Recently, LINE has updated the official account manager to allow you to use downloadable stamps. This is great because it allows you to add a bit more personality to your LINE messages, and if you have made custom LINE stamps for your school, that’s even better.

Here are some simple tips to keep in mind when interacting with students on LINE:

  • There’s a reason they contacted you: Figure out what they want and answer it for them. If there are some resources to point them towards, do so aggressively. LINE lets you share links, photos, videos, etc.
  • You can’t unsend: On personal LINE accounts, you can delete something if you sent it by mistake, but not on official LINE accounts. If you’re worried about accidentally sending a message part-way through, compose it in another text editor and copy & paste to send.
  • Keep it light: LINE is usually used for private communications, so no need to address and sign all your LINEs. You should also avoid adding a lot of fluffy templates. Messages should be concise and easy to read.
  • Use stamps: Stamps are fun and playful. Depending on the person and the situation you might want to avoid stamps, but in general, go for it.

Speed and usefulness is more important than politeness when using LINE.

7. Make a LINE bot

If you’ve got an hour to kill watching this video, know how to program Python, and already have your own server / Heroku set up, you’ll be able to start down the road of using LINE Bots.

Not you?

Don’t worry, there’s an easier solution.

uTeach Cloud lets you set up a LINE Bot with no programming skill.

All you need to do is set up an official LINE account, set it to bot mode, and copy and paste the appropriate codes. In just a few minutes, your students will be able to make, view details, and cancel their reservations, as well as check out their payment history all in the comfort of their LINE apps. 24-hour access will make it easier for students to make reservations and free up your time, too!

Here’s a very quick demo of the app running on LINE on an iPhone:

If you have more questions on how this works, feel free to get in touch anytime.

Case Study: LINE adoption in Kyushu English school

The school featured in the case study is in a central location in Kyushu and fairly typical in terms of offerings, size, and pricing. This school uses the 3 main methods of contact (LINE, telephone, and email) but occasionally gets other types of contact (Facebook Messenger, walk-ins, etc).

Let’s have a look at the year-to-date data for initial contact by type for 2020:

Real-world contact data from an English language school in Kyushu

As you can see, over a third of all first contacts come via LINE, with email and telephone coming in at about a quarter each. We can see that LINE is clearly a first choice option for many prospective students.

The school owner says three main things make LINE useful in the school:

  • “When students make first contact, they are also subscribed to our LINE announcements, meaning we don’t need to go out of our way to put them on an email list.”
  • “Most students prefer LINE, so together with the LINE bot, students are happier and we have much fewer low-value interactions to deal with.”
  • “LINE makes it easy to check when someone has read a message, which is great when we need to do something like cancel class because of a typhoon. A lot of students don’t reply to that kind of announcement, so when we were using email we’d have to call to follow up with the students that didn’t email back. With LINE we can just see if they’d read the message or not and then feel relatively comfortable knowing they’d got the message.”

So, the real world experience from this school reinforces what we’ve been discussing above! Every school is different, but it’s hard to see any downside of incorporating LINE into your school’s business repertoire.

In Conclusion

LINE is a well-liked, robust communications platform that despite near-ubiquity in Japan has yet to reach wide adoption in language schools. Implementing LINE and taking advantage of some of it’s key features will improve students’ interactions with your school as well as save you time in the back office while providing more responsive service.

To go deep with LINE, take advantage of uTeach Cloud’s integration with automatic LINE notifications and LINE Bot native reservation functions. Your students will be amazed at what they can do!