Exeter College uses online payment solutions to improve the experience of its 11,000 students

In a drive to further improve the customer experience, Exeter College decided to implement WisePay’s online payment and booking solutions accessible to its 11,000 students, 24/7 365 days a year.  Designed to streamline accounting processes and free up staff time to better serve students, the solutions, which were tailored to meet the exact requirements of the College, successfully went live six months after the contract was signed and on the date agreed. The project was led by Juliet Tremeer, Head of Finance and the implementation managed internally by Richard Brine, Head of Information and Learning Services. Here they tell us more about the bespoke solutions they now have...

About Exeter College
Exeter College provides further and higher education courses for over 11,000 full and part time students across seven sites, mainly situated in the city centre but with one site located 50 miles away. Rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted for two inspections in a row, it was also named BTEC College of the Year in 2014. It offers many exclusive courses – it is the only education provider in the country to offer the FlyBe Diploma in Aircraft Engineering, and high quality catering courses from the Michael Caines Academy, inspired by the Exeter-born Michelin starred chef.

The challenges we faced
Our primary objective with the implementation of online payment solutions was to improve the customer experience for students by streamlining our existing payment processes. The subsidised travel scheme we run needed to be simplified. Annually, the scheme involves up to 2,500 students renewing bus and rail passes three times a year, which equates to up to 7,500 transactions. The old process typically required several phone calls per transaction and significant amounts of staff and student time. Similarly, cash or cheques would be collected by faculties from students and parents wishing to book and pay for the numerous trips, visits, resources and materials. This again, occupied a significant amount of staff time and effort.

We also identified a need to reduce the amount of cash carried across our seven sites, one of which is about 50 miles away. Cash used to be carried from each site to the central office and then to the bank by a security firm - we intended to replace this process with a more secure option.

A particularly unique challenge for us was the need for a separate payment system for our Haven Banks Outdoor Education Centre. We needed two bespoke on-line environments - one for the College and its students and one for Haven Banks and the general public.

The solution
We chose solutions which offered us the most flexibility and allowed us to customise our selected modules to meet our specific needs.

The services we purchased include packages to help with:

·         Travel

·         Purchasing course materials

·         Course bookings and enrolment

·         Trip payment and management

·         Student management (for automatic synchronisation with student database)

·         Communication (alerts, emailing and texting)

Our initial meetings were a collaborative effort. The Finance team met with the online payment provider and outlined our objectives, development plans and budget.  Within six months, of this meeting all initial streams were online and the remainder followed in line with the roadmap, timeframes and budget we had agreed.

The benefits
Students expect to be able to access information online, 24/7, at times that suit them. Our logs show that students access our Virtual Learning Environment service at times such as 2:30am and even on Christmas Day and we were keen that the Finance service should offer the same flexibility. By updating our payment processes to an online system, we can meet our students’ expectation that the College occupies the modern, digital, world in which they live.

Payment processes for students and parents are now significantly quicker, while the freeing up of staff means that more time can be spent further improving the student experience.

In terms of the support we have received, the working relationship between the provider and ourselves has been maintained to a high standard, which is excellent. Frequent in-depth conversations with the provider ensure that the service can better work to meet our needs in our roadmap for the future.

Online payment services have helped to modernise our business processes and assisted our Finance service in better meeting the needs and expectations of our students. For example, rather than just bolting on online payment to our travel scheme, we are building a whole new, more efficient, business process with the system as a key component.

The Finance service has improved its customers’ experience; expectations for a modern, online, system are being met and Finance team members’ time is freed up to deal with other matters of concern to our students. Overall, the introduction of our online payment system has been an extremely positive experience.

Exeter College is using online payment solutions provided by WisePay, a leading provider of cloud-based PCI-compliant online payment, enrolment, bookings, expenditure and communication services for education.

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