Managing Chompers the chatbot at Allegheny College has become Jason Andracki’s favorite job responsibility.
“And not because I have been asked out on dates as Chompers, although it does happen from time to time,” Andracki jokes. “Usually you can get out of those conversations with an interesting use of emojis.”
Andracki is Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at the liberal arts school with 1,800 students in northwestern Pennsylvania. He explained his role as chatbot project manager in a recent webinar with AdmitHub Co-Founder and Chief Evangelist, Kirk Daulerio.
Allegheny’s nickname is the Alligators, and the chatbot, launched in February 2017, represents the school’s beloved reptilian mascot, Chompers.
Taking a bite out of the workload
Chompers has saved countless hours and eliminated “long nights at the office” previously spent cold-calling prospective students to gauge their interest. Instead, Chompers sends a text message and asks if they’d like to speak to someone.
Streamlining the recruiting process with a bot reduces staff stress and boosts efficiency.
“It allows us to focus on those students where we can still move the dial,” Andracki said.
Since launching Chompers, Allegheny has seen an increase in yield and an improvement in student diversity, according to Andracki.
Moving students to action is one way Allegheny uses their chatbot. For example, Andracki can program Chompers to send proactive messages encouraging prospective students to speak to an admissions officer or to submit their housing forms.
The results were immediate and impressive.
- Allegheny received 72 housing form submissions within 72 hours of a Chompers nudge. “That’s a real turnaround for those forms!” commented Andracki.
- After Chompers messaged students about an on-campus program, Allegheny saw more than double the registrations than for the previous two events combined.
Andracki suggests sending a welcome message to new students before sending a text message campaign. Chatbot managers, he said, must also monitor the dashboard more closely after a message goes out to respond to any questions not answered by the bot.
Not every message has a call to action, though. Chompers also sends out fun facts about Allegheny history or ways to get involved on campus. In these instances, the goal is to develop a sense of campus community.
Andracki sends out just one to two messages per week via Chompers, mindful not to “blow up” students’ cell phones.
But students can also initiate conversations with Chompers. Unlike human staff, Chompers can provide on-demand assistance, regardless of the day or hour.
The chatbot manager experience
There is one person on campus whose workload has increased slightly with Chompers — Andracki. But he doesn’t mind!
“We let down our hair a little bit and have fun with the messages we send,” Andracki said.
Andracki starts his day by reviewing the chatbot dashboard. He looks for interactions between Chompers and students that need additional input or follow-up information.
In those instances, he jumps in and becomes the voice of Chompers.
Those situations are rare, though. The chatbot handles nearly every inquiry immediately, powered by artificial intelligence and trained on the school’s most frequently asked questions.
“It’s going to be 15 to 20 minutes to look through the dashboard,” he said. “Some of it is just me scanning through and reading what Chompers is saying and seeing that Chompers has everything handled already.”
Since the school launched Chompers, only 62 messages were escalated to staff out of more than 27,000 incoming messages.
Chompers is courteous, funny, smart and responsive. He’s as helpful to students as he is to staff. He’s there for you whenever you need him.
It’s no wonder he gets asked out on dates.
Watch the recording of our webinar with Jason Andracki to learn more about his role as chatbot manager, and how Allegheny College uses their chatbot to enhance personalized connections: