Erica - A Virtual Assistant for Private Universities

  • Dilshani Costa ,Informatics Insitute of Technology Colombo, Sri Lanka (dilshani.2015219@iit.ac.lk)
  • Shyani Siriwardene ,Informatics Insitute of Technology Colombo, Sri Lanka

The initial interaction between a student (customer) and a university is the most crucial in the customer conversion process, where an unregistered student converts to a registered one. However, the competitive landscape that private universities are in adds more complexity to the conversion process as students have a plethora of options to choose from. For universities to compete, it entails that a strong engagement strategy should be in place to appeal to the young minds that makes up their target audience.

Traditionally, initial interactions are driven through channels that are unable to provide timely responses and the digital experience that students seek. Furthermore, human personnel having to monitor these channels closely ties them to repetitive, boring work that ultimately leads to poor performance.  This research focuses on the issues that students face with the current forms of engagement channels offered and its wider implications on the human personnel tasked with monitoring. Using existing literature, a thorough analysis was conducted into the research area and findings validated through industry surveys involving universities and students.  It was observed that there is a pressing need in universities to leverage technology during the initial interactions. Technology-driven interactions can improve customer experiences and better engage customers, which in turn will ensure successful enrollment. This paper presents, the recommended solution, the virtual assistant, that uses natural language processing (NLP) technology to catalyze the conversion process by managing initial conversations and providing timely responses.

Keywords— customer engaement, students, private tertiary education providers, virtual assistants, chatbots

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