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Chatbot Best Practices Showcase:  University of Oklahoma SoonerBot

Jun 10, 2019 10:26:43 AM / by Mark McNasby

Here's what to do when your bot gets stumped.

Here's a typical scenario:  It's 8:00pm on Wednesday and a prospective student is working on their admissions application.  They've searched your website high and low but can't figure out if they are eligible for a discounted application fee because of their veteran status.  They see your chatbot and ask it the question.  Unfortunately, your bot doesn't know this information yet and gets stumped.  Gracefully handling this scenario is essential for inspiring confidence in your bot and attracting return users. 

The University of Oklahoma, a leading innovator in the utilization of AI in student services handles this extraordinarily well.  Let's take a look at how they do it. 

1.  During business hours SoonerBot hands off to a live agent

When the bot gets stumped during 8am-5pm Monday-Friday, students are automatically presented with an option to connect to a live chat.  Students get to decide whether or not they would like to connect to chat with a human (or if they would like to try again).  OU also lets them know that the information will be added to the bots brain, which happens each week during the maintenance process.  Here's what the student experiences:

SoonerBot-i1-3

 

2.  OU leverages live chat skills groups 

Like most schools, the application process is different for the different populations of students.  Graduate students, for example, have different programs, requirements, and deadlines than undergraduates.  OU has divided their live chat agents into "skills groups" where graduate school applicants can speak to graduate school advisors and undergraduate applicants can speak to their advisors. This ensures that the right content experts are in place to handle any inbound request. In the image above you can see that 1 graduate school advisor is online and available.   

 

3.  An after-hours ticket option is available 

It's equally important to make sure after-hours student requests are handled just as well.  When the bot gets stumped on an evening or weekend, the student will be presented with a customizable fill-in form where they can supply their contact information and a description of their issue.  Once the student submits the form, the request is automatically e-mailed to the admissions office for handling.  The bot will let the student know that the ticket has been successfully submitted and that someone from the office will be in touch soon. 

 

SoonerBot-i2-1

 

Conclusion

Following this approach will give your students the best possible experience.  During office hours they'll receive a real-time resolution to their question; other times they'll know that their question has been received and that someone will be in touch.  Nice job OU!  Keep up the good work.

Mark McNasby

Written by Mark McNasby

Mark McNasby is CEO of Ivy.ai.

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