Canadian Scholarship Trust builds self-service in portal

The Canadian Scholarship Trust Foundation has automated some of the data collection features of its Web site to reduce the burden on its call centre.

Toronto-based CSTF is a non-profit organization that manages Registered Education Savings

Plans — funds to be put towards secondary education — for 400,000 clients and handles $1.6 billion in assets. Twenty-five thousand students enrolled in universities and colleges around the country are currently receiving funds through the program.

Gaby Andari, the CSTF’s CIO, said that the non-profit organization receives 20,000 to 25,000 calls a month. During the school year, CSTF employs about 60 operator in its call centre — 40 in the summer months.

In order to cut down on call volume and automate some its key transactions, the CSTF began to rebuild its infrastructure from the ground up about three years ago using Oracle tools. “”We consolidated everything into our Oracle database, we rolled Oracle financials, and we rolled out another (Internet-based) application for the sales force using Oracle database as well,”” explained Andari.

Most recently, the CSTF moved over to Oracle’s 9i database and application server. Using portal tools inherent in the architecture, the organization was able to allow for self-service information delivery online for its clients. Changes to address, phone numbers and bank account information can be keyed in online and relayed directly to the database.

“”The idea is really to operate from one repository of information about your clients. We’re really interconnecting the database and application server products basically on a single architecture,”” said Oracle Canada’s vice-president for government, education and healthcare Henk Dykhuizen.

Since the site was relaunched about six months ago, 20 per cent of CSTF’s clients have chosen to go the self-service route. Andari predicted that number could rise to 90 per cent by next year.

Clients will still be able to connect to a call centre agent if they prefer, but now also have the option of a live chat session with an agent online, added Andari.

The next phase for CSTF will be to automate its communications with universities. In order to release funds to students, the CSTF must have confirmation from the universities that they are actually enrolled. This is typically accomplished through phone calls and e-mail.

“”What we’re looking for next year is to automate that process electronically so we can exchange information between us and all the universities across Canada or internationally,”” said Andari. This would also be accomplished through secure portal transactions.

So far, about a dozen universities have expressed an interest in becoming a part of the project, including the University of Saskatchewan, York University, Queens University, McGill University and the University of Manitoba.

The CSTF also communicates with the federal government, since the government will make fund contributions of up to $2,000 per child per year. Improvements to the CSTF Web site won’t affect that relationship since the government uses a secure file transfer system from ViaSafe for those transactions.

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