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Improving Student Service Using Artificial Intelligence

St. Petersburg College is a public college in Pinellas County, Florida. It is part of the Florida College System and one of the institutions in the system designated a “state college,” as it offers a greater number of bachelor’s degrees than traditional community colleges focused on associate degrees.
St. Petersburg, Florida
Institution Type
Community College
Number of Students
Customer Spotlight

Mike Bennett
Academic Vice President

St. Petersburg College’s (SPC) team of financial aid advisors was overwhelmed. Their staff takes on hundreds-of-thousands of phone calls and emails from students each year. Despite making every effort, the high volume made it impossible to provide the personalized advising and counseling they were accustomed to.

The team would leave on Friday only to return on Monday to a backlog of hundreds of service requests which would take them up to two days to dig out of, only to have another backlog of questions piling up behind them. They were stuck in a perpetual reactive cycle, preventing them from having meaningful conversations with their students.

Meet Pete

SPC launched Ocelot’s AI Chatbot (appropriately named Pete) in July 2018 right in the middle of a rush period for the Financial Aid office. The results were immediate. Right from launch, Pete reduced email, phone and walk-in support by 18%. SPC Financial Aid counselors finally had the pressure relief they were seeking.

What it did immediately was help us reduce the number of phone calls and emails. Right now, about 20 percent of our answers going to students are through the chatbot. It’s freeing up our staff for more in-depth advising or counseling.”

Adding Personalization Layer with PeopleSoft Integration

With the success of the AI chatbot, SPC decided to pioneer Ocelot’s PeopleSoft integration. This connection enabled that chatbot to add personalized responses to critical questions such as:

  • What are my awards?
  • What is the status of my financial aid?
  • Do I have any holds on my aid?
  • What are my outstanding to-do list items?
  • What is my SAP status?
  • What is my dependency status?
  • What is my EFC?
  • Do I have to complete Loan Entrance Counseling?

Further Adoption For COVID Response

When the pandemic forced the shift to virtual learning and operations, students and families needed answers to a whole new category of questions: Do I show up on campus for class? What if I get sick? Do I still have to pay my room and board charges if I am sent home? What if I don’t have internet at home?

While many colleges struggled to make the virtual transition, Pete supported the spike in student support and the chatbot quickly became the schools #1 customer service channel. And even as the the initial influx in questions subsided, Pete has remained the the top support outlet for SPC. Because it’s available 24/7 on any device, it became the “go to” resource for students.

Students are getting what they need – they are less stressed. Staff are able to focus. Answers are consistent and right. This product is a revenue generator – drives enrollment and retention.”

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