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Library Live Chat Service

The Queen’s University Belfast Library Chatbot has recently been enhanced with Omnichannel - a new live chat service that is integrated into the Chatbot interface.

Students moving on McClay Library stairs

Omnichannel enables customers to connect to live chat with Library staff via the Chatbot widget.  Omnichannel is monitored by Library staff between 10.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday.  Simply type ‘chat’ during these hours to be connected to a Library staff member. 

Our live chat standard of service is to answer any incoming chats within 20 seconds, 100% of the time, and last year (2022-23) we met this standard.

The addition of the Omnichannel live chat service represents further progress in the provision of a digital service channel for Library customers.  

A Digital Journey

The beginning of 2020 brought the Covid pandemic and with it, unprecedented changes to the working landscape. With the country in lockdown, the Library's main objective was to continue to deliver a high-quality service within the parameters of remote working.

LibChat, a live chat service, was introduced to support students and staff in the absence of a face-to-face library service. LibChat soon became a key communication channel between Library customers and staff, enabling the Library to provide support remotely during the pandemic. 

LibChat was received positively with callers consistently leaving complimentary feedback, citing our helpful staff, and the positive difference it was making to their experience of studying from home. On our return to on-site Library services, LibChat remained in place and continued to be a valuable, well-used resource.

LibChat to Chatbot

In 2021, Digital and Information Services convened a group to pilot a Chatbot to provide support to Library customers via an automated online service. With the help of the Queen's University Belfast Digital Transformation Project team, and utilising best practice in implementing an automated chat service, the new Library Chatbot was added via a small widget on the Library homepage in February 2023, and is accessible 24 hours a day. 

Using natural language processing, the Chatbot is able to understand user questions and reply instantaneously with an answer selected from a knowledge base of Library Help FAQs. These FAQs are regularly reviewed and kept up to date. The addition of follow-up prompts to the knowledge base provides alternative suggestions when the Chatbot is asked a question. 

With the wide variation of customer groups and the fluidity of language, the Chatbot requires regular testing and amendments made to the knowledge base to enable it to answer customer queries efficiently and accurately. 

Customer Experience Feedback

Prior to the launch of the Chatbot a User Experience (UX) Activity was carried out to gather feedback on the usability, content, and accuracy of the Chatbot. The approach of UX Usability Testing was to identify any issues that might arise when using the Chatbot, particularly with regard to navigation and accessibility.

The UX feedback from Library customers was overwhelmingly positive; it was particularly noted how informative the links from the Chatbot were.  Respondents also commented favourably on the potential for live chat interaction with Library staff, giving impetus to the development of live chat via Omnichannel.

Overall, the positive feedback indicated that Chatbot would be a helpful tool for finding answers for Library customers.

Chatbot and AI in the Future

The future of Chatbot looks good - with its ever-increasing knowledge base of Library FAQs, it will continue to work as a 24-hour answering service, with Omnichannel live chat available during peak times.

The Queen’s University Belfast Digital Transformation Team are working with other directorates to expand the Chatbot knowledge base and are evaluating the feasibility of extending Omnichannel to other services across the University.

If you have used the Library Chatbot or Omnichannel, please let us know what you think.   As a new service, we would be also be interested in feedback on our live chat standard of service response time of 20 seconds:

by Caroline McCullough and the Library Omnichannel Group