Virtual Vic aims to improve customer service

Published September 8, 2021

Several UB departments have deployed a new AI-powered chatbot to their websites to provide answers to the UB community’s most-asked questions, 24 hours a day.

The first of its kind at UB, Virtual Vic leverages powerful AI algorithms to learn from information on web pages, then respond to questions about that information. At the start of the fall 2021 semester, Virtual Vic is available on web pages for UBIT, Parking and Transportation, Student Accounts and Career Design Center (formerly Career Services).

The cross-departmental team bringing Virtual Vic to UB is confident that an investment in this technology today will provide dividends into the future.

“AI has the potential to make UB more efficient by solving our most common problems,” says J. Brice Bible, vice president and chief information officer, “which in turn frees our staff to work on the more creative problem solving for which they’re better suited.”

Leveraging AI and other data-enabled technology is part of UB’s strategic plan for information technology.

To get Virtual Vic ready for prime time, the cross-departmental team asked UB staff members from across campus to train the chatbot by asking it questions and providing feedback on the answers it provided. The more questions and feedback Virtual Vic receives, the smarter it becomes, thanks to its ability to “learn” by leveraging information across the different UB sites where it is deployed.

Chatbots like these have been shown to make operations more efficient and effective at other higher education institutions. Representatives from the University at Albany told the UB implementation team they were able to serve 16% more customers thanks to their chatbot, and the University of Oklahoma reported reduced call center volumes of 30%.