How Cloud Communications Helped this Credit Counselling Non-profit Continue Serving Clients During the Lockdowns

Company profile
Company profile:
The Credit Counselling Society is an accredited non-profit charity that helps Canadians with their money. Every year, CCS helps tens of thousands of consumers improve their financial standing by offering such services as credit counseling, debt solutions, financial planning and strategies, and education about how to better manage money.
Year founded:
New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada

People who find themselves with unmanageable debt often see no way out, believing their nightmare can end only in complete financial ruin. But every year, tens of thousands of Canadians find a better solution—by contacting the Credit Counselling Society.

Since the non-profit began offering credit counseling, debt management, and financial education services in 1996, the Credit Counselling Society has helped more than 700,000 Canadians improve their financial situations and learn how to more effectively manage their money.
To understand how important CCS’s services are to the lives of the 60,000 people it helps every year, consider just a couple of statistics about the dangers of debt. A study reported in Psychology Today found that people with unmanageable debt are three times more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. And as the Washington Post reported in 2019, the stress of student loans has caused 1 in 15 borrowers to have suicidal thoughts.
As CCS explains, the organization offers more than credit counseling and debt management. It gives people hope and helps them prepare for a better future. And with a mission that important, the company needed a more reliable phone system.

An on-prem phone system getting deeper into technical debt

Before the company made the decision to upgrade to a modern, cloud communications solution, CCS was becoming increasingly frustrated trying to keep its outdated phone infrastructure viable. As Director of IT Kevin Chow explains, “I was managing 300 servers to support 120 employees, and every phone on every desk was at least 8 years old. It was a total mess.”
But as a non-profit, CCS had to be mindful of its operating budget. Although the company charges a nominal fee for some of its debt management services, CCS relies on the credit granting community for more than 70% of its funding. Because the organization wanted to allocate as much of its budget as possible to its most important functions—serving consumers—CCS hung onto its legacy phone infrastructure as long as possible.
Eventually, though, the problems with the phone system itself began affecting the company’s ability to serve consumers.
Nor was this the phone system’s only problem. As Kevin explains, the system was so complicated and non-intuitive that it would take the team days to make even small configuration changes, such as updating routing instructions.
“Every command and feature of that system was buried in menus or submenus,” Kevin recalls. “When we couldn’t figure out how to make a certain administrative change, or if we worried that trying to do it ourselves would break something, we’d have to bring in a third-party support company that charged us an exorbitant hourly rate.”
And there was yet another challenge. CCS wanted to consolidate its communications applications into a single platform and have the ability to integrate workflow apps as the company rolled them out. But its on-prem phone system offered only limited team messaging functionality, no video conferencing capability, and no ability to integrate productivity apps.

Cloud communications solves all of these challenges…

When they migrated to all-in-one cloud communications from RingCentral, CCS found its phone system was no longer a daily threat to the company’s operations. Because it allowed employees to make and take calls from any device, through the cloud, CCS put to rest its biggest concern: business continuity. “We were finally able to stop worrying about a power outage in one office preventing every employee across the country from receiving calls from our clients,” says Kevin.
Also, for the first time, the company had video conferencing capability, which created significant operational benefits. For example, CCS’s education team is able to use RingCentral Video to host its educational webinars.
As Kevin points out, the company’s old phone system did offer webinar functionality, but the constraints on licenses made it difficult to host those sessions. “We had so few concurrent licenses that we had to host our educational webinars after business hours, so they wouldn’t conflict with another employee’s webinar usage during the day.”
But with RingCentral Video, CCS’s education team is able to host webinars anytime, without worrying about how many people can attend. “It’s been a game-changer for our education group,” he says.
CCS’s employees also benefited from RingCentral’s built-in team messaging platform to chat and share files with coworkers around the company. And the company began making plans to use RingCentral’s open API platform to connect its phone system with a new CRM solution.

… and keeps the non-profit’s operations going during COVID-19

As significant as those benefits were to CCS, RingCentral made its biggest impact on the company’s operations in mid-March 2020, when the pandemic led to lockdown orders across Canada.
Because the company was primarily concerned about business continuity, Kevin’s team had intentionally planned a slower-than-necessary implementation across the company. They wanted to migrate to RingCentral in phases, allowing one group of users to become comfortable with the solution before rolling it out to the next.
Then COVID-19 forced the company to speed up those plans. But as his team had discovered in the early stages of their implementation, RingCentral is designed specifically to enable a successful rapid rollout.
“We were in a leadership meeting preparing for the shutdown. The president turned to me and said, ‘How much time do you need to get the whole company ready to work from home?’ I said, ‘Give me half a day.’ He looked at me like I was kidding, but I wasn’t. The next morning, 100% of our employees all over Canada were working from home, helping our clients.”
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