2020 accelerated digital transformation at many higher education institutions as they were forced to quickly adapt to a remote environment. This led innovative schools towards selecting a chatbot to enhance their communication with students while streamlining their customer service.
Of course, not all implementations work to perfection. Since chatbots have only recently started impacting higher ed, a lot of the solutions available typically leave a lot to be desired.
Before investing time and money into an AI chatbot, it’s crucial to discern the differences between an average chatbot and a great one. Here are five indicators to help you understand when the bot you’re considering is simply the wrong fit.
Lack of training data
Bots are typically ill-equipped to handle most questions out of the box. For higher ed institutions, this means that the majority of bots aren’t equipped for the variety or breadth of questions they’ll likely receive. Like any good employee, most chatbots need some type of training before they can have a positive impact on your organization.
The question you need to ask is how does the bot get trained? Does it rely on templated answers or does it use your own content? With templated answers the bot only answers certain questions with generic information, while using your own content allows you to generate answers based on what already exists on your website. Since students tend to overlook higher ed websites and don’t want to sift through piles of information, having a bot that accurately communicates that information will ensure the success of your implementation. To make that possible, it’s important to select a chatbot with sufficient training data to understand the variety of questions your students will ask.
Inability to understand multiple languages
If you’re looking to attract first-generation students, understand that many of them speak another language natively and will seek non-English support. But if your chatbot is only English speaking, it may deter your prospective students from attending your institution.
Your chatbot should have similar translation capabilities to Google translate where it can work effectively in the language of your student’s choice. Some chatbots either use templated scripts or don’t offer translation at all. The best way to truly evaluate whether the translation capabilities work or not is to ask about the bot’s BLEU score. Most importantly, ask your consultant to translate specific questions and answers so you can ensure that your bot will be up to par.
No personalization available
After implementation, you’ll notice that your students will start to ask a lot of personal questions. Students want to know what the balance is on their tuition bill, how to find a professor’s phone number or named entities like the timing of specific questions. Most chatbots either limit the amount of customization you’re allowed or charge extra to personalize the bot to your liking.
If improving student satisfaction is a must, make sure that the technological investment you’re making has a meaningful impact on your students. List your top 20 inbound questions you receive from students and see if the bot you’re considering can answer them in a coherent manner. If you’re getting direct answers similar to the way you’d respond, consider that a big plus.
Fails to work on all channels
Students converse on a variety of platforms including text, email and even Facebook messenger. However, lack that ability out of the box and require additional customization in order to work on additional channels. Since 70 percent of higher education customer service interactions happen over email, a bot that doesn’t capture inbound emails will ultimately fall short.
Your bot should meet students where they are, on their terms. Look for a bot with automatic email response so students can receive the response they’re looking for without overloading your staff.
Your bot can’t improve over time
In order to truly have an AI chatbot, you must have an element of machine learning. Combining AI with machine learning allows the brain of the bot to improve over time through continuous user feedback. However, if a bot lacks a ratings or feedback system, the only way a bot can improve is through human-guided machine learning. This means it will cost more from a professional services standpoint and create inefficiencies.
Look for a bot that can make improvements by learning your website’s content on a periodic basis. This will keep your bot fresh and help students get the most up-to-date and relevant information.
Getting a chatbot is a substantial investment. And when your institution is trying to run on a lean budget, it’s important to get the decision right the first time.
However, by following these five tips, you can ensure that the chatbot you get will be the chatbot you want. Stay away from these warning signs, and you’ll forever change your institution for the better.