In a sentence: VITA Student needed an accounts payable platform that was easy-to-use when processing student accommodation payments, provided a single source of truth, and most importantly improved the student experience.
About VITA Student
VITA Student provides students with the highest quality accommodation experience while they’re studying. Born in 2012, it’s had a rapid rise with 23 buildings across the UK under its remit, and a recent expansion into Barcelona adding to its portfolio.
With 10,000 beds to be filled each year, around 1 in every 30 students in the entire UK will be staying at Vita Student.
Working in such a dynamic marketplace, with huge surges in demand concentrated over a few periods in the calendar, Vita Student needed a student accommodation payment platform that could:
1) Automate key functions to reduce administration time
2) Create a live ‘source of truth’ for the Vita Student team
3) Speed up and smooth out the payment journey for students to reduce any anxieties they had
“We came to TransferMate when the UK rules around debit and credit card facilities changed” said Nichola Collette-Yates, Head of Customer Engagement, Vita Student. ‘We had to make the commercial decision to completely switch off all debit and credit card facilities. The problem was… that left us with no payment system.”
This change meant that the only way a student could make payments was transferring the money directly into Vita Student bank accounts. This proved difficult for both customers and the Vita Student team alike and increased student anxiety in the run up to living with Vita Student.
Students would often pay in separate payments, rather than the full amount in one go, which made it hard to match the payment with the student. What’s more, payments made from people other than the student themselves – their parents for example – made it even more difficult to match up payments.
Being unable to confirm payments meant that students wouldn’t move through the system, and would instead be caught in limbo, causing multiple inquiries to the Vita Student team and lost bookings.
“Reconciling the money coming into the bank accounts directly was taking months at its worst point. Students were cancelling because we were querying payments with them and it was taking too long There was simply far too much manual work and it wasn’t a pleasant experience for the customer.”
This administration, manpower heavy process was costing Vita Student on the bottom line.
“As a business it was very costly to us because of the time we were spending process and reconciling payments. As well as that, we were losing bookings. We were having to cancel bookings and try to resell them at the last minute.”
The lack of automation and technology in place was also causing issues for the students.
“It was really difficult for them in that if they didn’t send enough money or there were intermediary bank charges that they didn’t know to account for said Sam Hardy, Customer Engagement Manager at VITA Student. ‘This meant we’d have to follow-up looking for further payments, further delaying everything, or writing it off as a bad debt. Of course, these mis-matched payments didn’t help with reconciliation down the line either.”
The whole process for the VITA Student team, and the students themselves, was ‘messy’ and they needed a new all-inclusive solution.
Create a live ‘source of truth’ for the Vita Student team
Before TransferMate, the data of all student accommodation payments was held on disparate systems, and often tricky to access.
This meant multiple inquiries going several ways – students asking the Vita team to confirm their payments, and the Vita team reaching out to students to provide further information, as well as the banks.
“The most important thing we needed was the ability to track the payments coming in. It was about having an easy place to go and look at a student’s status and having that viewable for us. We needed to de-risk our payment process so we could see what was due to land, who hadn’t yet started that process, who was engaging, and who wasn’t. Now everything’s on the TransferMate portal.”
This ability to track live data has positively impacted revenue, their ability to manage cash flow, and manage bookings more efficiently.
“It’s given us security around future payments and what’s coming over the next couple of weeks. The treasury department is happier because they have a much clearer idea of what cash will be coming through the door. Combining these two factors makes it easier to make key business decisions at the right time, which helps us maximise revenue each cycle.”
Automating key functions to reduce administration time
One of the core functions of the TransferMate education payments solution is how it removes the need for disparate systems. For the Vita Student team, they were regularly pulling big data files from their banking system, and then trying to match them up in another system. Reconciliation became a tedious and time-consuming task.
“It took significant amounts of time for the accounts team to manually reconcile everything – I really felt for them! Now we can do that all pretty much instantly, matching it all against the student’s account as well.”
Now, the team don’t have to leave the TransferMate portal to get the information they need. Automation and bringing the data together in one place has made reconciliation much easier and less complicated.
“It helps us structure our efficiencies within the team. We can focus on the areas that need it, whereas before, the time spent on finance reconciliation was hindering our ability to provide the impeccable customer service levels that we aspire to.”
Speed up and smooth out the payment journey for students
For the student, the process became much easier to track and control from their end, with a simple portal they could access to get all the information they needed. The TransferMate portal also gives students more payment options than before.
“It really makes it so much smoother for the student. Firstly, it makes it really clear what they’ve got to send in their currency and what references they need to put in there and which bank account to send it to. And then there’s simple features like when they click ‘Pay Now’ the pop-up window will pre-populate the boxes with all their information, so it’s super-easy for the students to make payments.”
“The other element is that because we have to spend much less time on the payment part, we can now concentrate on delivering those value-add elements to the students. That’s a big boost for team morale as well, because suddenly were focusing on the positive stuff, and not just chasing payments.”
The results have been outstanding. While Vita Student had its biggest and busiest year in their history, payment related queries from students were reduced from 8,299 to just 211. They’ve seen a 39% reduction in emails into their inbox, and now 86% of all payments come through the TransferMate platform.
The Final Word
“One thing Vita Student prides itself on is the experience. And if the experience of even just making a payment to us is difficult, then we failed at the first hurdle. We can transact now with ease. It’s a frictionless journey for all of our students across the world.”
Nichola Collette-Yates, Head of Customer Engagement, VITA Student
To learn more about how TransferMate can support student tuition and accommodation payments, contact the team today.