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Integrated e-commerce system streamlines processes for finance staff

TouchNet U.Commerce® simplifies payments and refunds at Tennessee Technological University
University Business, December 2014

Tennessee Technological University is known for being cutting-edge when it comes to STEM subjects. Many of its 11,349 students major in highly technical subjects such as engineering. Until 2006, however, how the institution’s finance department managed payments was not cutting-edge. “We had been cutting a lot of paper checks and wasting a lot of time in processing,” says Matt Smith, associate bursar.

After going live with the Banner by Ellucian student information system, Tennesee Tech looked at bringing in a singular online bill payment system that would integrate smoothly with that ERP. Previously, a variety of AR solutions for different functions from different vendors were in place. “We had custom interfaces, but the systems were not made to work together,” says Smith. To simplify processes, Tennesee Tech decided to implement the TouchNet U.Commerce® suite of products.

TouchNet offers electronic commerce systems for all transactions on campus. Tennessee Tech utilizes their Cashiering, Marketplace, Bill+Payment, Payment Gateway, SponsorPoint and Mobile products. During the implementation process, while Smith and his team did receive training on the different systems, “all of the products use the same interface and design, so the learning curve is not steep for each of individual products,” he says. There are many groups and departments around campus that need to collect money for various reasons; through Marketplace, clubs can sell T-shirts or the theater department can sell tickets for school productions. Groups can have their own online stores. “We want groups on campus to create their own stores in Marketplace, because we know our customers’ information will be safe because Marketplace is PCI compliant,” Smith says. “We hope that fact communicates to our students that we care about protecting their information.”

For students who receive an overage of financial aid, Bill+Payment allows them to receive their funds electronically, through ACH. “Ninety-four percent of our students chose the electronic option, which shows huge buy-in,” says Smith. And 74 percent of payments, including tuition, have been made online via Bill+Payment’s self-service option. Finance staff can set up Bill+Payment to accept staggered payments or to send out students’ 1098-T tax forms. Students can use Mobile if they would like to make payments from their smartphones. Those that prefer to make payments for traffic tickets or medical bills in person can do so; Tennessee Tech uses TouchNet’s Cashiering for this purpose.

There are inherent benefits from having products that were built to plug-and-play with each other, says Smith. “You manage everything from one place. You receive support from one place. The learning curve is minimal from system to system, because it’s all on the same platform.” TouchNet partners with ERP vendors such as Banner by Ellucian, so Smith knows that when Banner updates, all of TouchNet’s systems will, too. Smith appreciates how he can get a sense of the whole picture when operating under an integrated system. “I can go to one place and look at trends—I can see how many students are using Mobile versus making transactions in person, for example.” Using TouchNet U.Commerce® makes it easy for Tennessee Tech to stay PCI compliant. “Because they offer a hosted solution, TouchNet stores credit card numbers for us,” says Smith. “We don’t have to worry about the regulations.” Smith knows the leaders at TouchNet see Tennessee Tech as a partner. “I have access to a lot of open ears at TouchNet when my team has ideas for enhancements.”

For more information, visit www.touchnet.com.

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