East Carolina University is a public university with over 23,000 undergraduates and 15,000 applicants each year. ECU came to Mainstay as part of GEAR UP NC‘s initiative to use an AI-powered chatbot for students interested in North Carolina public universities, particularly those in rural and low-income areas.

ECU’s project managers in the admissions office mentioned to the Mainstay team that they were extremely busy responding to repetitive, transactional student questions. If they could only decrease the number of FAQ-related calls that they received in the admissions office, they could focus on connecting with students personally for conversations that require face-to-face interaction.

They started using their new chatbot, “Pee Dee”, to interact with students, expanding their communications strategy to be more conversational and student-centric by including text messages and nudge campaigns with important, relevant information. After using Pee Dee for 2 months (July 2 – August 31, 2018), phone calls to the admissions office decreased to 7,357, compared to 8,492 in the same time period the previous year — a significant 13.4% decrease in call logs! Estimating 3 minutes per phone call, over 170 hours of staff time was saved.

This allowed the admissions office to spend that time connecting with students on more complex situations and visiting high schools and events to help students in person.

Here’s a look at some real interactions where students were able to ask questions and receive immediate, accurate answers at any time.

Some students even interact with the chatbot like it’s a friend!