Information Technology (IT) at the George Washington University (GW) provides dozens of essential services to students, faculty, and staff, including online learning and collaboration tools, educational and business apps, email and calendar, backup, and storage. IT runs a traditional service desk, with students getting assistance through email and phone calls.
Today’s students want to get what they need using the latest digital technologies—for example, incorporating cognitive automation technologies. IT recently conducted a pilot to determine the feasibility of using a chatbot to address two IT service support needs:
- Provide 24x7x365 support
- Reduce the number of routine calls service desk agents handle to free up time for more complex issues
Fortunately, IT upgraded its Remedy implementation to BMC Helix ITSM and added BMC Helix Digital Workplace. The upgrade put innovative cognitive automation capabilities in the hands of the IT staff. The staff began looking at ways to apply these capabilities to transform service delivery. Donna Hill, assistant director, service, configuration, and continuity management explains, “We identified the 14 most common support requests and set them up in “Martha,” the name we’ve given our chatbot. Instead of contacting us by email or phone, pilot participants chat with Martha via text or the web. She answers questions and responds to requests, walking students through any required steps, and, behind the scenes, automating the processes that fulfill the requests.”
Martha’s popularity far exceeded expectations. During the pilot, students chatted with Martha 4,581 times. It’s an impressive number considering that the pilot was limited to incoming freshmen and the 14 most frequently submitted requests. During that same period, the traditional service desk received 8,106 calls from all students on 200 requested services.
- 70,000 tickets/year and 26,000 students/year are served
- Martha proved the feasibility of chatbots in helping IT deliver effective 24x7 support
- Students surveyed would most likely turn to the chatbot before calling the service desk
- 88% of the participants wanted Martha to become a permanent service for the GW community
- Offloading level 0 and 1 calls to Martha frees up service desk technicians to tackle level 2 and 3 issues
- Keeping support costs in check by meeting growing demand for support without adding headcount
- Departments outside of IT now want to use chatbots to modernize service delivery for their users