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Taking an Innovative Approach to Chatbots: NYU Grossman School of Medicine

NYU Grossman School of Medicine launched their first chatbot as recently as last year, but they’re already innovating every step of the way. They have a handful of chatbots within the institution, including one of which is fully internal and has been designed to support their research community. We speak to lots of schools, and we’ve never seen that before!

We were delighted to speak to them and take a deeper dive into how they’re leveraging the Gecko chatbot and live chat modules in multiple ways…



The Challenge: Managing a Huge Volume of Inquiries

The first Gecko chatbot at the school came as a result of the untenable volume of inquiries the school receives.

The grad school at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the Vilcek Institute of Graduate Biomedical Science, run a number of programs, including a PhD program, an MD-PhD program, a summer undergraduate research program and a masters in biomedical informatics program, and so there was always a lot of applicant and pre-applicant inquiries. They wanted to decrease the huge volume of inquiries coming into their email inbox each day.

Susanne Tranguch, Associate Dean, Research Training and Communications at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told us: “We probably receive around 1000 inquiries a month. But the questions we get are always the same, like, ‘When is the application open? How do I send my transcripts?’ and so it’s really a lot of work for my team to respond to all these inquiries and quickly.

“I saw the Gecko booth at a grad school recruitment fair I was attending and I thought it would be a good idea to have a chatbot to answer these questions, so applicants wouldn’t have to email us, and this would also take pressure off my team.”

We receive around 1000 inquiries a month. But the questions we get are always the same, like, ‘When is the application open? How do I send my transcripts?’ I saw the Gecko booth at a grad school recruitment fair and thought a chatbot could take the pressure off my teams.
Susanne Tranguch
Associate Dean, Research Training and Communications

The Solution: Chatbot and Live Chat Modules

The Vilcek Institute started with a chatbot and live chat functionality on their website. The bot has made a huge difference to their inbox already, decreasing inquiries by around 15%. The live chat capability has enabled them to connect with students in different ways and offer more tailored, personalized experiences. For example, they recently ran a series of live chat events across multiple time zones, so students could directly chat with the admissions staff and have their unique questions answered regardless of their time zones.


Impact 1: Track Recruitment Efforts

The biggest impact of the bot on the admissions side has been being able to have much greater visibility of all micro-interactions prospective students are having. Through the integration of Gecko with Slate, they’re able to see which students are engaged, which students aren’t, and have a much better read of their predicted enrollment numbers.

“The integration enables us to gauge interest, so we can estimate the likelihood of students matriculating. If we see that they’re interacting with the chatbot a lot, we know that they’re definitely still interested in studying here. Understanding who’s going to matriculate and where they’re coming from is important so we can target our recruitment accordingly.”


Impact 2: Supporting the Internal Research Community

The institution didn’t stop there and, next, they set about creating an internal chatbot. The grants research team at the institution was in the process of building an internal website for the research community when they first thought about using a chatbot. They were put in touch with Susanne, who helped them get the internal bot off the ground.

They wanted it to serve the internal research community by answering basic questions. Similar to the admissions team, they would get the same queries to the specialists in the department, but they were all simple things a bot could answer. It’s created a point of difference, helped them stand out, and has received unanimously positive feedback.

Jennifer Castanze, Senior Grants Manager told us, “Our research community has told us that the chatbot is so useful and helpful. They have a question and, boom, they can get the answer. They can also continue what they’re doing, instead of spending 30 minutes searching online for who to ask or having to search on Google.”

Nicholas Senn, Senior Grants Manager added, “In addition to the ‘tree’ of internal questions and policies we wanted to address using the chatbot, we also included external resources because we get many, many questions about the National Institute of Health policies and federal grant policies, states, and city grant policies.”


Impact 3: Using a Chatbot in Other Initiatives

The final exciting innovation that NYU are undertaking ties into other avenues. Susanne actually has two roles at NYU, one with Vilcek and the other with Research Communications. She’s leveraging her experience of using chatbots within the grad school to feed into the communications strategy for things like large complex clinical trials.

We can’t wait to hear more about their next chatbot!