Introducing Signal Vine's AI-Powered Virtual Advisor

by Jeff Mutimer | March 13, 2019
Introducing Signal Vine's AI-Powered Virtual Advisor

All good product enhancements start with the problem your customers are facing. We built our higher ed artificial intelligence (AI) solution by pairing automation with a human approach, the basis for Blended Messaging®. Then we spent time with our customers to understand where AI support would be most impactful.  This is a not so fictional account of those conversations:

Signal Vine: Take us to your happy place.

Customers: I have this awesome cabin in the woods or a beautiful walk on the beach or that special time with family.

Signal Vine: That sounds great but what we meant was what would make your job easier?

Customers: Oh, I'd really like to stop answering the same questions over and over again so I have time to actually engage with students on important issues.

Signal Vine: Oh, that sounds like you need some AI support to handle FAQs.

Customers: Great, but aren't things like chatbots still not entirely accurate?

Signal Vine: What if we did our take on it- improve accuracy by pairing AI with human support?

Customers: I'm still listening.

This was actually a fair representation of our discovery process minus copious amounts of whiteboarding and significantly more research.

We believe our Blended Messaging® approach will see a higher success rate than other AI or chatbot solutions currently in the market because we enable a human approach to responses when the platform doesn't have a high degree of confidence. Enter the Signal Vine Virtual Advisor.

The Virtual Advisor will automate responses related to admissions and FAFSA deadlines, registration, or requirements like GPA and course work, and deliver those messages where students are more likely to engage- via text message. That's not just a common administrator happy place, that's a reality on the Signal Vine platform.

A quick primer on AI and chatbots

[Artificial Intelligence] (AI): noun

: the simulation of intelligent behavior or the capability of a machine to act like a human.

“Almost all the economic value created by AI is through one type of technology, which learns inputs, outputs, or maybe A-to-B mappings… which is supervised learning.“ -Andrew Ng

Powered by data, the primary benefit of supervised learning is automation. Our customers can now automate responses that feel like the individual is actually responding. This is where “chatbot” comes in, it’s a simulated conversation.

But no one really likes talking to a machine right now which is why our Blended Messaging® approach makes sense.

How does the Virtual Advisor work?

First, manage FAQs: Our baseline Virtual Advisor offering, available to all customers, will use a group of frequently asked student questions collected through platform analysis. As shown in the image below, users can tailor their response based on the question. Add-on functionality will allow users to define their own FAQs and create responses.

higher ed artificial intelligence

Next, enable the Virtual Advisor: Users can activate the Virtual Advisor in the campaign set up just like any other user. Future iterations will enable multiple Virtual Advisors so that you can manage your automation by category, time period, or campus-wide initiative.

higher ed artificial intelligence

Virtual Advisor responds: When the platform receives student responses that are recognized as an FAQ at a high degree of confidence, the Virtual Advisor then responds and marks the student response as read.

Flagged responses: Student responses not recognized by the platform or recognized with a low degree of confidence are flagged in the program inbox so that advisors can reply with the one-to-one support needed.

How is this used on-campus?

We've collected FAQs across admissions, financial aid, first-year experience, student success, and services, advising, and alumni engagement to name a few. Our goal is to provide you with a virtual team member on hand to answer many of the same questions you receive from students all the time. Just a few of those include:

How do I sign up for orientation? What SAT score do I need to be admitted? When is the application deadline? What is a DARS report? When will I find out if I am accepted? Can I apply online? When is FAFSA due? What is FAFSA? When is the application deadline for spring? What is the minimum GPA needed? How do I apply for financial aid? How much is tuition?

Why did Signal Vine create the Virtual Advisor?

To support Blended Messaging®

We build on our value proposition by adding AI to automate outreach where it's accurate and helpful while still allowing for a one-to-one approach by advisors and administrators.

Customers are already managing FAQs in their workflow

Many of our sophisticated customers already maintain an FAQ list that advisors share so that they have a common approach and voice. Others have expressed a desire to free up time from standard questions so they have time for more value-added conversations. 

AI will transform so much of the future of work

Adding A.I. (artificial intelligence) AND machine learning will change the way we automate work and amplify our efforts. 

Why is this better than a chatbot?

Three primary reasons:

  1. BOTs are still learning to process information like a person and their success rate is low enough to frustrate students or worst case mislead them.
  2. Signal Vine’s Blended Messaging® approach leverages AI functionality to high confidence and then flags messages for advisor response that don't meet that criteria- instead of replying incorrectly.
  3. Your most at-risk students are the ones that don’t know they need help or are not actively seeking it. Chatbots are not engaging this group. Instead, proactive text nudges that provide new information paired with advisor support will help you reach the at-risk students that will make or break your enrollment goals.  

Want to learn more about the Virtual Advisor? Please request a demo below. Current customers can contact their Account Manager.

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