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Case Study

Implementing a chatbot without IT assistance

Implementing a chatbot doesn’t have to be as complicated or time-consuming as you may think. Amarillo College tells us why…

Implementing a chatbot without IT assistance

Introducing a new technology solution to your institution may elicit a mixed bag of emotions. Of course, you can see the clear benefits the technology will offer. However, you may also have reservations about the disruption to your team in the short term.

Perhaps you have concerns that it’ll take months to get off the ground. Maybe you think it’s really technical and needs a lot of IT support. You might be concerned about the amount of maintenance the technology will need on an ongoing basis. All of these things can combine to make a new solution feel like… well, just another challenge to manage.

However, it doesn’t have to be the case. Amarillo College is a relatively new Gecko customer and has just gone live with their chatbot. They talked to us about how their implementation experience was even more seamless than they imagined…

Maria Juarez Amarillo College
Gecko
“My experience of implementing the Gecko chatbot has been wonderful. We've never felt confused or on our own, we've had full support through the entire process.”
Gecko
Maria S. Juarez
Director of Enrollment Services, Amarillo College

Why they needed a chatbot

  • To support staff

Amarillo College realised that they needed something to change at their institution a couple of years ago. They’d introduced live chat (with a third party) on their website to enable them to be more available to students, but it wasn’t actually solving any problems for them. Maria explains…

“It was the same team covering our front counters, walk-in traffic, phone traffic and live chat traffic. When other channels got busy, so did the live chat. We only had a handful of licenses so we were trading licences and having to log out so other team members could log in. Doing this in the middle of busy periods was completely unmanageable.”

  • To better serve students

Another challenge Amarillo was facing was tied to the student experience. One of the things they’d noticed, especially with new incoming students at the school, is that they don’t like asking questions they’re uncomfortable with.

“They’ll say, ‘I know this is a stupid question, but…’ And, of course, they never are stupid questions. There aren’t any dumb questions when you’re a newcomer to higher education, but students sometimes feel and see it that way.”

“I thought, maybe we could help their comfort levels if they could ask that question and get their answer without having to admit to a person, OK, I need to ask a dumb question. There could be a big benefit to taking the information to them where they are.

“We know that this demographic loves technology and they’re really comfortable with using it, so we thought that a chatbot could work well for both staff and students.”

The challenge

Amarillo College had seen other organizations successfully using chatbots and knew this could be a workable solution for them. However, they put their plans on hold because their IT department had lots of other initiatives they were trying to accomplish.

The admissions team figured that there probably wasn’t the time or resource to add a chatbot implementation into the mix. But what they didn’t know at the time was how little IT intervention is needed to get a Gecko chatbot up and running…

“We assumed it was like everything elsewhere it would require somebody from IT to be there for the entire process and help us through the whole thing. That’s part of what our delay was – we were trying to make sure we could fit it into the window of time IT could help us with it. But then, lo and behold, it turns out that the Gecko chatbot is something we could deliver almost completely without their help.”

Amarillo College

The solution

In fact, the extent of the IT assistance in Amarillo’s implementation was tiny.

The only thing the IT team needed to do was embed a tiny bit of code on the website to create the chatbot, and that was it. They put the code on a test site, the chatbot team tested it, and then they went live.

“Not having to rely on other teams has been huge for us. That was one of the things my supervisor, who is the Vice President of Enrollment Services, said to me – that we really need to try to find solutions that we can manage and control. Not because we need to own it, but because we need to be able to maintain it and manage it by ourselves.”

Outcome

Amarillo has been able to drive engagement with students since they went live with their Gecko chatbot. Although it’s still early days for them, they’re already seeing real engagement with the chatbot from students. And, sometimes, it even surprises them.

“We had one example where a student was saying, ‘I’m not going to be able to make my class. I think I’m going to have to drop it, but I’ve not been able to get a hold of my advisor. Is there somebody that can call me because I really don’t know what to do.’”

“So it wasn’t just, how do I drop my class? This student went into detail, and they were willing to say that to a chatbot, probably fully knowing that it isn’t a human. Of course, we have the ability to escalate it to a human being, which is exactly what happened.

“But a student being willing to ask that question and to be vulnerable, I didn’t expect that. I thought the questions would be a lot more basic. It’s nice to see that students feel comfortable enough with the chatbot to interact with it in that way.”

Maria Juarez Amarillo College
Gecko
“IT has a lot on their plate probably at any institution. Having a solution that we can control and maintain by ourselves without their assistance works for everybody.”
Gecko
Maria S. Juarez
Director of Enrollment Services, Amarillo College