Being AI SAVY drives exceptional service in a digital environment

William Gage, Ph.D., Associate Vice President, Teaching and Learning at York University, sees empathy as the key ingredient in experiences that keep people happy and engaged.

“It’s too easy and too common for people to feel like a number. When you have as many people as we do [York University has over 50,000 students), you have great complexity and variance in what people need.”

Giving people the feeling that an experience is just for them is key, said Gage at the recent ITWC roundtable Ending the spiral of misery – Solving the problem of efficiency and excellent customer service.

When it comes to customer service, expectations have never been higher, said IBM AI expert Brian Loveys. “Nobody wants to wait,” he said of today’s self-serve, do-it-yourself consumer. “But the hard reality is that there are simply not enough humans to deliver customer service with top-tier speed and quality.”

Jim Love, CIO of IT World Canada agreed, but said that today there is a huge opportunity to leverage AI and other technologies to study customer interactions in real time at scale. “We always think of service and engagement in terms of cost, but it’s not just a cost; it’s also an opportunity to learn” from each encounter – to get better and to become more profitable and more adept at serving people.

DX, AI and Personalization – The Trifecta of Exceptional Service

“Our digital transformation (DX) was in large part about trying to provide the best service we could – to offer a platform for continuously improving the service we provide our students.” In doing so, Gage said, York University would be offering a student experience service that satisfies not only the students and their families but also themselves – the university’s own high standards.

Watch on demand: “Ending the spiral of misery – Solving the problem of efficiency and excellent customer service”

Watch on demand: Solving the problem of efficiency and excellent customer service

Gage said that at an institution like York University, it’s critically important to be able to offer people personalized “good fit” experiences – at scale – and to be ever cognizant of the links between experience, data, and digital transformation.

Learning Creates Opportunity

York University, said Gage, found an answer to its data and student service challenge in SAVY, a virtual assistant that leverages AI and mobile technology to deliver customized answers to a wide range of student questions about university life and the university’s programming.

“We’ve been able to create opportunities for students to better engage with us. Say a student wants to change or drop a course – they can just speak into SAVY” to get the process started. “A human will then dig into that.” The goal, said Gage, has from the very start been to avoid click-and-done engagements – to make them personalized and, overall, something students would categorize as being “memorable” or even “excellent.”

But there are additional opportunities for this AI-driven solution to gather and analyze other data. “Universities are awash in data. Historically, we lacked the kind of understanding we needed to have of how one set of data for one student relates to all others. These data sets were siloed – isolated from one another.” Gage said York University’s data and DX challenge were one and the same, with student experience being the central link between the two pieces.

Fast ROI and Great Service Experience

When it comes to service experience, it’s one thing to enhance a website or build a new app but quite another to turn these new pieces into results. For Gage, SAVY has allowed the university to engage students in just the right way at just the right time.

“We rolled things out a couple of years ago, just before the pandemic,” he said. “SAVY quickly became a primary way students engage with the university.”

As to results, almost 18,000 students have used or are using SAVY, which accurately answers around 90 per cent of questions students ask. “Perhaps more importantly,” said Gage, “it’s not just service anywhere but service at any time, with over 47 per cent of the questions students asked coming outside business hours.”

Watch on demand: “Ending the spiral of misery – Solving the problem of efficiency and excellent customer service”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Glenn Weir
Glenn Weir
Content writer at IT World Canada. Book lover. Futurist. Sports nut. Once and future author. Would-be intellect. Irish-born, Canadian-raised.

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