We are in the midst of a significant shift in the higher education giving and payment industry. The way students, parents, and alumni make payments and donations to colleges and universities is rapidly evolving with technological advancements. While it may seem difficult for an institution to modernize its giving and bill-pay processes, it is attainable if you look for these six fundamentals when choosing a bill-pay and donation platform.
Instead, make it easier and convenient for students to pay their fees and for alumni to give by offering every necessary avenue through a single vendor provider. Why don’t you expand your institution’s payment offerings? Digital wallets like PayPal, Venmo, and Amazon Pay will overtake credit cards as the most popular online payment method this year. Emerging options like voice assistants and chatbots are ways to increase customer service by allowing for quick, easy answers to many of the common questions, freeing your staff up to handle more robust student/alumni concerns. A complete solution, not only maximizes donations, but can also reduce account delinquencies and shortened days sales outstanding (DSO).
- Secure – Security should be on the top of your priority list as data breaches are both costly and difficult to handle from a PR perspective. Select a 3rd party solution that is Level 1 PCI Compliant and fully-hosted to alleviate your institution from the cost, burden, and risks associated with accepting electronic payments. Expect more from your vendor: a true payment platform will not be the enforcer of PCI compliance but will instead see themselves as the solution to PCI issues when their platform is engaged.
- Omni-Channel – Parents, students, and alumni all have specific payment preferences. Provide all the ways to make donations and payments, so every demographic is equally served. Digital wallet options including Venmo and PayPal open up payment avenues for the agency. Emerging payment channels like voice assistants and chatbots are additional automated ways to increase customer service (for answering common questions and taking payments), allowing your staff to manage more complicated student/alumni concerns. Taking advantage of omni-channel options will maximize donations and shorten DSO.
- Unified – Using a platform that is a unified provider with one integration layer eliminates the complexity of disparate systems and minimizes cost centers. Partnering with a vendor that is unified gives the agency complete control and visibility into every donation or payment in a single view. This set up simplifies and automates reconciliation. And better yet, you only have one company to call if anything were to go wrong within your giving or payment flow. Get a clear understanding of how any payment solution works and if the provider can offer the full flow natively or will have to involve third parties to provide the solution.
- Straightforward – Making donations or paying fees should be quick and easy. Select a platform that is intuitive and user-friendly for all users. Students, parents and donors want to dictate how and when they engage with your institution. Your electronic payment solution should be able to tailor a smooth experience across all bill-pay and giving channels and available 24/7. This is true for the back-end user interface as well. Your staff should be able to smoothly handle reporting and reconciliation in a single view without having to navigate between clunky interfaces. Meet your users where they are by offering a solution that is relevant to today’s payment landscape and offers options to increase adoption so that no payer/donor is left behind.
- Reputable – The payment provider you choose should have high client retention, exceptional customer support, and experience in implementing payment solutions. You don’t have to adjust your requirements to fit into a solution product a particular ERP or CIS vendor offers. Experienced providers are able to implement solutions quickly and expertly while understanding the needs of your unique business. If you’re offering 24/7 payment and donation options, your solution provider should be available 24/7 to help with any issues that may arise. Ensure the provider you choose understands the critical elements involved in a payment solution and has replicated that across a diverse portfolio of clients.
- Collaborative – Don’t choose a VENDOR… choose a PARTNER that aligns their solution with the specific business requirements of your institution. A solution provider that is fully configurable with future proof technology and industry expertise will best address your challenges of today and those of tomorrow. A partner that is fully invested in your college or university success will continue to innovate, as they are only successful if you are. Ask your partner how they have aligned their business goals with yours?