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How to Choose the Best Chatbots for Higher Education

If you’re reading this blog, you’ve likely learned of the benefits of chatbots and are now looking for the best chatbots for higher education.

With so many chatbots in the market and the many ways that they can be used, it can be a challenge to know where to begin. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the choices, answer these 5 key questions about your chatbot needs and put yourself in a better position to make an informed decision on the best chatbot for your college or university. So let’s dig in and help you on your way to finding the best chatbots for higher education.

Question 1 – What do you want to achieve with a chatbot? 

Choosing the best chatbots for higher education begins by asking yourself “what outcomes am I hoping to achieve?” This will put you on the right path to manage your expectations, set targets, and benchmark your progress along the way. Goals for your chatbot might include: 

  1. Reducing support costs by decreasing reliance on human agents 
  2. Improving student engagement by providing 24/7 availability 
  3. Increasing student acquisition by lowering wait times and providing faster answers. 

Deciding what you want in a chatbot also means being realistic about the scope of your bot. AI chatbots in higher education can handle a lot of inquiries and tasks, but you shouldn’t expect bots to handle everything. All support teams face questions that need a “human touch”. This should be discussed with your agents as well, to help them understand that they’re not being replaced. 

Question 2 – What type of chatbot do I need? 

Depending on the goals that you set for a chatbot, your choice of chatbot language interface can vary greatly. Chatbots can range from keyword recognition to AI chatbots, and before you build your chatbot you need to understand the strengths of each: 

1. Task bots 

Task bots are simple bots that guide customers through a series of questions and answers. They are built to resolve common FAQs and perform routine tasks like booking a meeting or signing up for an event. They are the most easy-to-build of chatbots, requiring no technical expertise or coding – users can pick from a selection of pre-built templates or create their own with a simple to use drag-and-drop bot builder.    

2. Keyword chatbots 

Keyword chatbots use a simple keyword engine to understand what the visitor is asking and respond with the most appropriate answer. While they can be used for straightforward questions, they may not understand complex questions or phrases. 

3. AI chatbots 

AI chatbots are the most sophisticated of chatbots. By using Natural Language Processing (NLP), these bots can identify the intent behind student inquiries. This gives them a better contextual understanding so they can handle a broader range of questions. They also learn from conversations and are continually self-improving. The best AI chatbot for higher ed should also be able to take action, such as booking meetings and making payments through integrations with other systems.

When choosing between these language interfaces, you should establish what your must-haves are, and the types of questions that you expect students will ask. Ask yourself and your team about the types of questions the bot will handle. How broad is the range of questions that you anticipate? Does the bot need to be able to provide content like images, videos, and links within the chat? Will the bot need access to dynamic information from your CRM? 

Question 3 – How do I build a bot? 

Once you’ve established what you want to achieve with your bot and the kind of interface the bot will use, you’re ready to start building. Chatbot vendors can take a variety of approaches to chatbot deployment: 

  • Doing all the work for you 
  • Handing you the keys to do the work yourself 
  • A mix of both, doing as much or little as you want 

Before you get started, you should understand how each vendor loads and maintains bot data. This includes whether the vendor has the capability to batch import your data, how the bot interface will appear to visitors, and the kind of support the vendor provides. If you’re deploying an AI chatbot, you should understand how the training happens and what tools you’ll need to maintain it. 

The best data for training your bot comes from the resources you’ve already built, including chat scripts, your knowledge base, and FAQs. Using what you already have available will help to speed along the deployment of the bot. Just keep in mind that you might need to adjust the language to be more conversational to make the chat more accessible. 

If you don’t already have a variety of resources available to draw from, you should get your support team involved in the process by asking them what kinds of abilities the bot should have. Since front-line agents interact with students daily, their knowledge can be invaluable for determining the direction of bot development. 

Question 4 – How do I balance chatbot and agent interactions? 

Most bad experiences with chatbots have one thing in common – a visitor who wants an agent, and a chatbot that can’t or won’t oblige. The best chatbots for higher education will include a “chat with agent” option in the chat window because 86% of people believe that they should always have the option to speak to a human agent. 

The next step in providing a positive chatbot experience is to make sure the bot can transfer the conversation and chat history to an agent in real-time. Nobody likes to start over and repeat themselves. 

Some other feature considerations to make when choosing a bot vendor include: 

  • The ability for customers to bypass the bot completely. You might want international visitors routed directly to an international student engagement team, for example. 
  • The ability to let after-hours visitors know when a human agent will be available, or how long it will be before their message receives a response. 
  • The ability for your chatbot to also support agents by providing them with customer profile data and supplying agents with relevant information to share. 

You should communicate with your support team that they’ll always be a critical part of your response. Bots handle repetitive queries while letting your agents handle more complex, and often interesting, requests. 

Question 5 – How do I measure the chatbot’s success? 

The last step in chatbot deployment is to determine how successful your chatbot has been, and that means choosing the right impacts to measure. Chatbots and human agents can’t be measured by the same standards, as bots can respond instantly and don’t need time to think or type answers. This means you shouldn’t use time-based key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure bot success. 

Instead, bot success should align with the desired outcome that was settled in our first question (“what do you want to achieve with a chatbot?”). For example, if you’ve deployed a chatbot for support, its responses should be measured by student satisfaction ratings as you adjust and improve its responses. If you’re looking to drive revenue with your bot, it should be measured on enrollment conversions and purchase value. 

Some examples of measures that can be used to measure your bot’s KPIs include 

  • Changes to wait times after bot launch 
  • Ratings for bot chats 
  • Percentage of chats handled by your bot 
  • Number of enrollments or sales from bot.

No matter what it is you’re measuring, before selecting a chatbot vendor you should understand what kinds of reporting they offer. Depending on your needs, ask to see what their out-of-the-box reports look like and whether they can offer custom reports. Measuring success requires the right tools for the job. 

Next steps

Now you understand what your chatbot goals are, it’s time to explore the best chatbots for higher education. Comm100 has built purpose-built chatbots for higher education that the very best universities and colleges are using today, such as Thompson Rivers University, Cambrian College, Montgomery College and many more.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Comm100’s chatbots, click here.

About Kate Rogerson

Kate is the Content Marketing Manager at Comm100. She has extensive experience in content creation for technology companies across the world, including the UK, Australia and Canada. She specializes in B2B messaging, branding and soccer trivia.