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Since enabling Virtual Agent chatbot for support in April, the ITS Service Desk has seen a 58% reduction in chats that make their way to a live agent.

Erin Towne
Erin Towne

Using a script for a bot to help customers solve some of the most common issues has given the Service Desk breathing room to alleviate some of the increased demand for customer support during the pandemic, said Erin Towne, ITS Walk-In and Chat Service Desk Supervisor for the Service Desk.

Increased demand for chat

The Service Desk has experienced a 160% increase in chat contacts over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s been challenging for the Service Desk as it has been operating with fewer staff members.

By implementing Virtual Agent on April 8, the Service Desk hoped to provide the level of service that customers expect without adding a bunch of staff. It worked. The Service Desk has brought itself back to pre-pandemic — and manageable — levels of live-person chats by using Virtual Agent to support some of the most routine issues.

Started with 4 topics

The Service Desk launched Virtual Agent with four conversations — the bot scripts that help customers solve an issue. Those four conversations are for the most common issues: setting up or troubleshooting VPN and eduroam, Microsoft Office installation and password reset instructions.

Provides links to help articles

Some Service Desk customers call or hop on chat because they don’t know the right words to search for their issue on or they don’t want to skim through articles to find what they’re looking for. Virtual Agent provides a direct link to that knowledge article that walks customers through setting up eduroam or installing Microsoft Office, for example.

Screenshot of UNC Support Virtual Agent chat window
The Service Desk’s Virtual Agent chatbot welcome message

“It directs them to where they can receive support,” Towne said.

More topics coming

By Fall Rush, she’s shooting for the Virtual Agent chatbot to offer 10-15 conversations. Seven conversations are in development for expected release by June 30. The Service Desk has brainstormed another 23 as potential options, Towne said.

Grows staff skills

In addition to benefiting customers, the Service Desk’s use of Virtual Agent serves as a professional development opportunity for the staffers tasked with developing these conversations. Currently, two employees are working on the bot conversations. To create the scripts, they must understand how artificial intelligence works in a chatbot, how a conversation should flow, and what a person might ask for.

“It’s a really valuable skill for them to have,” Towne said.

Could be transformative

Use of Virtual Agent — both for customer support and staff development — could be transformative for the Service Desk, Towne said. It is forward-thinking work and exciting use of the ServiceNow platform. In addition, use of the chatbot helps meet the goals of the University’s strategic plan to save resources and automate.

ITS staffers who worked on this project were Jackie Wellbrock, Peter Mora and Daniel Nester, the IT Service Management team member who trained them.

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