AACC plans to add chatbot to assist students online


Shutterstock photo by Sebastien Decoret

AACC Response Center Director Shannon Washburn said primary aacc.edu pages will have automated chatbot responses to provide customer support to students around the clock.

Hannah Boring, Reporter

AACC plans to add automated responses to the chat function on aacc.edu in March to help answer common questions from prospective students. 

The chatbotshort for robotwill operate alongside a live operator who usually answers the questions.  

Students who type a question in the chat function on the school website may connect with a staff member or the new bot. 

The bot will appear on the most popular aacc.edu pages, including financial aid, admissions, registration and records. 

“[W]e wanted to be even more customer service oriented and be even more innovative in the way that we reach our students,” Shannon Washburn, the acting director of the AACC Response Center, said. “We want to be available 24/7, you know, seven days a week, 365 days a year.” 

The Response Center takes approximately 100,000 phone calls and 30,000 chat questions a year, according to Washburn. 

The bot will use the program Financial Aid TV, which will give students access to videos and step-by-step guides on topics like how to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and other financial aid resources.  

“You know, a lot of those questions [in the chat] are, ‘How do I fill out the FAFSA?’” Washburn said. “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a video on the website with step-by-step [instructions for] … how to fill out the FAFSA? And so, we have all those resources now, and that’s really awesome,” Washburn said. 

The live chat function isn’t going anywhere, though. When responding to the computer bot, students may request a connection with a live operator. 

[We will] definitely still have a real person,” Washburn said. “We will never want to get rid of that personal touch.” 

Students said the addition of the bot could help them in the future but they like chatting with humans on the site. 

“I get why it’s nice to have, like, an actual person because you can explain and help more with individual situations,” Mary Beth Gibson, a first-year transfer studies student, said.