Chatbots can immediately respond to high volumes of incoming student queries, which can increase student satisfaction and retention as well as free up staff to focus on more pressing matters during the era of COVID-19.
But colleges and universities need to do more than just install and update these AI-powered platforms to ensure students receive the right answers as quickly as possible. Chatbot use should be seamless with the ability to escalate, contextualize, provide actionable opportunities, launch workflows, offer diverse types of questions with limited answers, and be comprehensive.
“One of the biggest mistakes that universities make is picking a chatbot point solution that can just perform simple chats as opposed to an AI platform that allows you to build the foundation of your AI experience,” says Founder and CEO David Karandish of Capacity, an enterprise artificial intelligence SaaS company. “Not having these capabilities can lead to students getting frustrated.”
Here are the six best chatbot functions that colleges and universities must enable on their platforms to improve how students interact with them.
1. Escalation: Chatbots should connect students with staff members in case platforms cannot answer certain questions. “One time, there was a package that was supposed to be delivered to my house but didn’t show up, so I went to the company website and asked the chatbot where my package was,” says Karandish. “Not only could it not answer the question, but even worse, it didn’t know that it couldn’t. So there was no escalation path to bring someone in to give me a response.”
2. Contextualization: “When a student is asking about job opportunities, the answer will be different if they are graduating seniors, graduate students or incoming freshmen looking for jobs,” says Karandish. “Chatbots therefore need to contextualize the answer based on the context of the user.”
3. Diverse questions with limited answers: Schools should limit the answers that chatbots provide to three to five. “You want to give your students options, not inundate them,” says Karandish. “If it brings up 35 answers, the students will be overwhelmed.” Chatbots should also give students the choice of either typing in their queries or choosing guided questions. “You want an experience that is a combination of the two,” Karandish adds.
4. Comprehensiveness: Students don’t just ask simple questions such as when classes start. They are asking what they should buy for a course or how to log onto the school’s learning management system. This requires platforms to have knowledge of the university. “You can’t offer a comprehensive answer if the chatbot is not connected to your major systems, so make sure your chatbots can connect to your email, LMS and student record platforms such as Sales Force for example,” says Karandish.
5. Actionable opportunities: Having a comprehensive solution will allow chatbots to not only answer questions but take actions. For example, students are asking chatbots not just how to register for classes, but that they want to register for classes now. Chatbots that receive such requests therefore need to actually start that process for them.
6. Workflow launches: Many actions require more than one step, so platforms must have the ability to coordinate multiple numerous sessions. For example, students might want the chatbot to drop a class for them. “When a student asks to drop a class, the chatbot needs to start a workflow and update the system every time an email is sent to the registrar’s office, academic advisors and professors, for example,” says Karandish. “The opportunity is to have the bot really take on the work of a student concierge.”
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