Student’s don’t want to spend time looking for answers. They just want it right in front of them.
Ana Gagula, Associate Director of Financial Aid, Florida Atlantic University
Identifying the Need
A public research university in Florida was on a mission to meet the needs of students in a 24/7 customer service environment. Prior to finding ivy.ai, the administration spoke with the IT department to find ways to support more students more efficiently. 80 percent of all student questions were generic and could easily be found on the website. This left students and parents frustrated with long wait times for questions that were easy to answer. With the onset of the pandemic, the need for connecting with students remotely only grew, as the financial aid department sought to research different chatbot options for their institution. Despite having videos and answers readily available, students still asked questions about their financial aid status or when the FAFSA opened. As Ana Gagula, Associate Director of Financial Aid at Florida Atlantic University put it, “Students don’t want to spend time looking for answers. They just want it right in front of them.”
The finance office had a similar initiative, seeking to reduce incoming calls, especially because wait times were long. After visiting another peer’s website, Associate Controller Shane Siewbally learned that they were using ivy.ai as their preferred vendor. In addition, many of the other options were only suitable for the financial aid department, and couldn’t be deployed across other departments. This led the institution to select ivy.ai over other available chatbots, aligning with their vision to support more students, more efficiently.
Ana and Shane both received feedback from their IT liaison that the implementation was much less strenuous than they had imagined. With just a few lines of code, the institution was on its way to delivering a far superior customer experience than before. When Ana and Shane had questions, they noted how ivy.ai’s customer success team was responsive and easy to work with.
The institution instantly noticed a reduction in how often students made appointments to get answers to their questions. After implementation, appointments dropped 96 percent compared to the previous year, a strong indication that students prefer to interact with their bot. While inbound phone calls once took as long as 20 minutes, the average chatbot conversation took just six minutes. As Ana explains, “They come to see us in-person when they have to, but we find that students aren’t looking to visit an office in-person. They’d rather have the answers on their phone, wherever they are.”
The bot also reduced the number of inbound calls and emails by a combined 11 percent. The improved efficiency allows the financial aid and finance departments to handle more complex questions when the situation called for it. Now, 80 percent of all questions are answered by their bot. As Shane said, “I like that the bot is helping us bring 24/7 availability and not having 700 emails waiting for us like we had before.”
With over 50 percent of all questions coming after-hours, the financial aid department can provide a personalized touch during the day without accumulating a backlog of questions the morning after. Ana is a heavy user of ivy.ai’s heat map to understand which topics rise to the top for students over time, and where on the website they tend to ask certain questions. They also monitor trends in topics and popular times to help update content on their website as needed or scale support during peak hours.
Finally, ivy.ai’s Live Chat functionality allows the financial aid department to work more efficiently with other departments whenever there’s a need to verify information. This was especially important in a remote work environment where employees aren’t centrally located on campus.
The institution is planning to implement ivy.ai into the admissions and student orientation departments. Since there is a shared brain, ivy.ai’s chatbot can answer questions for a variety of departments without siloing student inquiries and sending them in different directions.