University Chatbot for, Leading Australian dual sector university

Mark Western – Deputy Director - Customer and Growth systems,

Introduce your business and tell us about yourself: What does your business do? What is your role?

My name is Mark Western, Deputy Director – Customer and Growth systems in the IT and Library directorate of CQUniversity. My responsibilities include delivery mechanisms and technologies to assist in Student Support. CQUniversity is a dual-sector University delivering more than 300 education and training offerings, from short courses and certificates, through to undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees. Study areas include apprenticeships, trades and training, business, accounting and law, creative, performing and visual arts, education and humanities, engineering and built environment, health, information technology and digital media, psychology, social work and community services, science and environment, and work and study preparation. As a pioneer in the delivery of distance education, CQUniversity also continues to be a leader in this area with almost half of the current student cohort made up of students studying off-campus, many of whom are based in rural and remote areas.

What problems/challenges did you have and why did you decide to create a Chatbot?

One of the biggest challenges we face is many of our students are interacting with our systems outside of normal business hours. This means that there is no-one to answer a phone or respond using a manned chat service. In order to provide our students with a responsive support mechanism it became apparent that the use of a chatbot was the best option available. There was then a significant investigation process into build or buy also taking into consideration the resourcing required to manage the chatbot on an on-going basis. We found Virtual Spirits on a web search and after a trial process and implementation discussions selected their chatbot service.

University Chatbot CQU

What was the result of adding your Chatbot to your business/website? And what did you learn from it?

We have learnt a massive amount about how our students use our systems and services, the time of day they use them and the differences in terminology that students use. It has provided insight into what content needs to be created and what content style works the best. Virtual Spirits have built service flows for us meaning students can just select topics and navigate through various support streams without having to worry about how to ask the question. Direct integration with our CRM has meant an improved service call throughput as a lot of calls that had previously been manually handled are now resolved within the chat session.

What are your top recommendations for businesses just starting with their own Chatbot?

My recommendations on starting out with a new chat bot are:
  • Clearly identify the personas expected to engage with the chatbot – this helps with crafting content and the terminology and tone used

  • Rely on expert advice where available – Virtual Spirits were critical in the immediate success of our chatbot because they understand what works and what doesn’t and provide a wealth of best practice advice

  • Start small – don’t try to solve every problem or scenario immediately. Let the chatbot learn what people are asking for and make the recommendations on content

  • Define what success looks like for your chatbot – understand what the chatbot is supposed to achieve so you know whether it is working or not. Is it reducing service calls? Has it increased sales leads?

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