25: How Johns Hopkins University Uses Chatbots to Automate Customer Service w/ Gus Sentementes

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Gus Sentementes, Audience Engagement Manager at Johns Hopkins University discusses how to build your very own chatbot to automate customer service, better assist students, and increase your inquiry generation.

A lot of people are really looking for useful information. They're trying to navigate, you know, often times they're trying to navigate massive university websites and they're looking for a simplified entree into it. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Gust sentimentis audience engagement manager at Johns Hopkins University. Gust, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks for having me on. Eric. We're going to have a great conversation today about how to build your very own chat Bot to automate customer service better to students and increase your inquiry generation. But before we get too...

...deep into that, gust, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Johns Hopkins and your role there? Yeah, great, so Johnsonfkin, the university is a big research university based in Baltimore, Maryland, and I am the audience engagement manager and I have been doing it for about five years now. As audience engagement manager. Johns Hopkins, you found your self consistently fielding the same student questions on Facebook Messenger over and over again. How does your new chat bots provide better customer service than you were previously able to offer manually? Yeah, that's a great question, and so I think I you know, I think what getting to the point where I realized I wanted to build a chatbot. I was actually trying to solve the same type of question in different ways over the last couple of years and which is basically as facebook, another the another social network, but especially facebook, has made it easy for your customers, your students, your perspective students, to messages...

...through your page. A lot of young people are taking that opportunity. We have a lot of major brands have been building out their chat bought experiences, and so a lot of times that I discovered was when people were engaging with us through our sending us a message on Facebook, they were some of them were actually expecting a chat bought experience. And so what I found was it was I'm just basically one person on our social team in the central office, and I found was that I wasn't able to keep up with a lot of the one on one messages that I was that were coming my way every day. It would take me several hours to respond and as a result of that, facebook was was binging our responsiveness on the facebook page with a negative score right and so I was like, oh, how do I really get that up? And first I started use on facebooks, built an auto respond or auto reply service, which is free and easy to do, and then I started I was like, okay, how can I beat this up to the next level, and that's when I started reading up on chat bots and and...

...what I found was that with a Chatbot, what I basically have is sort of like a it's almost like a phone tree that when you when you kind of like dial up sate, like your local pharmacy, and they're like, you know, do you want this, do you want that? You press one, press to write, and so you can you basically just like replicate that experience through a Chatbot, like and and it doesn't have to be super fancy and doesn't end have to involve you know, super computers and artificial intelligence, but if you give people a guided men you experience of what they can ask as they're using their iphone with one hand on a you know, on a Saturday night and they want a message Hopkins. And what I found was a lot of our people who are messaging US tend to be foreign students, foreign applicants who really maybe can't navigate their way around an English website or an English Google search experience, and so they're just coming straight to our page and asking how do I apply as a foreign student? And I would in the past I would always have to have this you know, can response ready and...

...hold their hand a lot and it would take a lot of time. And and now they get my chat Bot and they basically I send them right to the web pages that they're looking for and if they have follow up questions there, they're still able to ask me the question, but it's basically a way to triage the dozens of messages that I get every day on our page and as a result, I've seen my facebook responsive numbers just go through the roof. I mean suddenly my green light is on. You know, people who run facebook pages will understand that and you know it says. You know, I respond instantly with this great because it, you know, it looks great to our students and our customers. Right, right, yeah, and Gust there are a bunch of chat bots out there right now that in a great directly with facebook. I believe you're currently using jet fuel. There's many chat there's others in a whole bunch more likely to come. How difficult, how costly and how much time to take to build out your chat botroom scratch. So you can do it for free, just the time that it takes you...

...to build out a rudimentary type of Chat Bot, which I was sort of classify ours is sort of like, you know, experimental version one point. Oh, or you can really hire a developer or a team or a or a vendor to really customize the Chatbot and you can sell things through your Chat Bot. You could theoretically, you know, build some type of an application system through your Chat Bot, so it could really runs the gamut from free. You can do a lot for free. That kind of answers your needs, for your growth needs for save the next year or two. You know, if you're running a social media operation and higher sad or if you're finding that you're getting great engagement and it's worth higher in a developer. Are, you know, building out some more bells and whistles? You can definitely do that. But the great thing about it is is you can do a lot just for free. Right now. It's just really like staff time to kind of understand these various platforms, whether it's chats, fuel or many chat. You know some of the other ones you know, and I think kind of...

...strategically you want to think about if you're going to invest in a chatbot development, do you want to chat out that can work across platforms, or are you really going to dedicate invest in resources and just facebook? And so I think that's sort of like the one of the bigger questions to let's talk about inquiry generations. So when a student engages with your Chat Bot, what contact information do you get automatically from those interactions and is that enough information to effectively treat those students like you would a true inquiry that came into your website? Yeah, so that's a great question and working in our central office I don't directly handle do that type of direct inquiry marketing. We have an undergraduate admissions in a graduate admissions office that really does that direct marketing. But I can tell you what you can do with a chat BOT is as people engage with it, and the way that that you know, I am actually using it this way, is as people engage with your Chatbot, it's sort of like collecting their email address. A chatbot is really almost like another version of an...

...email newsletter or database. Right. So once people engage with every I've had five hundred people engaged with our our chap out on facebook and I have their names and their interest within, you know, my platform and I can message back to them, you know, and I know exactly the different segments of the university that they're interested in. I know how many people were interested in planning a visit. I know how many people were interested in applying to Hopkins for an Undergrad or Grad program. So I really think of a chat boy as like a as another spin on the old email marketing approach, because you can do a lot of segmentation with it and with the analytics that you have build natively within the Chat Bot. What have you found are the most popular things, questions, information that students have been looking for when engaging with your chat by and if any of those surprised you, yeah, so you know really quick. I've been running this chap at now since October, and what I found was a lot of people are really looking for useful information. They're...

...trying to navigate, you know, often times they're trying to navigate massive university websites and they're looking for a simplified entree into it. And so the most popular content for us is for foreign applicants. That's number one. People are also looking for. Another popular piece of content are our online programs. You know, it's no surprise that people are using online social network to research online education programs. So on my our links that I blast us at the Chat Bot to our online courses. That's also pretty popular. And then what I found was not as popular is, you know, a lot of university spent a lot of time generating news, like, you know, public relations, news releases stories. When I found was the people who are coming into our chap out we're really not interested in university news, you know, and I'm still going to be doing some more testing. So it may not necessarily be...

...the best channel for public relations, you know, sort of like generating positive news stories, but it's more of a one to one customer service channel, lead engagement type of experience, because I know students can interact with your chat bought directly on your Johns Hopkins University facebook page. What do you say about folks who say, well, should this just be there or should I have this directly on my Eedu site? And should my chat bought kind of be my virtual assistant to help folks navigate through site content as well? Yeah, I do think these types of chapot experiences should be kind of populating across the web and the best experiences that I have, I've had personally with these chat bots, as they really hybrid experiences between programmatics or of artificial intelligence engagement and then, you know, when the chap bout reaches its limit, a human...

...takes over. And so when you, you know, start to include these types of chat bots experiences across you know, your websites and other platforms, I think you really want to as a brand, as an organization, you really want to make sure that people don't come away with it, don't come away from your chap bout experience kind of mocking it and kind of feeling like it didn't help them. So that's where sort of having some careful, strategic human interaction a lot in the chapot process, I think is really important. It's awesome you guys. Any final advice for listeners looking to start digging into this and then potentially create a chap out of their own institution? Yeah, I think it's really important. I think when you are trying to keep up with the increasingly fast pace of social media, it's really important to look at how the next generation of users and students are using these different media options and to sort of understand that the mobile phone is a really become a central experience...

...and messaging has become a really, really important experience in the way people connect nowadays, and so it's always a it's trying to understand that. I think spending some time as a brand, as a university, to to really understand the mobile experience, I think is going to be strategically important. Because thanks so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you they have any follow up questions? Well, I I think the best place they can definitely friend me on Linkedin. It's Gus sentimentous and that's I would definitely love to kind of get some professional network in going there and help people out on this front. Awesome. Thanks against so much for your time today, Guss. Yeah, thank you, Eric. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth...

...playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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