Pittsburgh Technical College communicates with students in their preferred ways

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decrease in phone service costs

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decrease in service outages


2 days

to get Twilio SIP Trunking up and running

Pittsburgh Technical College (PTC) has been helping students launch new career paths with post-secondary degrees for over 70 years. PTC prides itself on being attuned to the job market, keeping its curriculum current to ensure its students are successful after graduation.

While the school evolved, its communications stack stayed the same, costing PTC time and money. Using Twilio, PTC overhauled its SIP-based call center and built out a live chat feature integrated with its CRM with ease. And it all started with a school art show.

Planting a seed

In 2012, William Showers, director of information technology at PTC, wanted to build an SMS voting service for an art show PTC put on. He did some googling and found his way to the Twilio SMS API docs. Shortly after, he had an app up and running. A seed was planted.

SIP trunking vendor woes

If students, parents, or PTC staff had a question, they could dial into PTC’s call center to get an answer. PTC was using a SIP trunking vendor to power the call center, but the vendor didn’t allow PTC to scale its communications hub the way it needed. When PTC wanted to add a new number for a new building on campus, it had to call the vendor, submit a proposal, and wait up to a week for confirmation. The vendor couldn’t move at the pace of PTC, so it went looking for other providers in 2015.

When Showers shopped for providers, he remembered the art show back in 2012. He went back to the Twilio docs, this time perusing through the SIP documentation, and found what PTC needed.

Choosing Twilio Elastic SIP Trunking

“All of the provisioning with our previous vendor was through a phone call,” said Showers. “Now it’s all in the Twilio portal. If I need another 800 number for a marketing campaign, I can get it in the portal. It’s grab and go. We used to wait a week.”

PTC’s previous vendor discontinued its dedicated SIP trunk and pushed its traffic over a public internet connection. This not only caused latency problems for PTC, it was a security issue as well. PTC wanted privacy in addition to scale, and a guarantee against latency. Now PTC uses a dedicated Twilio SIP trunk that ensures it has a reliable connection, scale, and security.

PTC recently launched a feature it couldn’t reliably ship before Twilio. It was one of the first organizations to sign up for E-911. In the event of an emergency, there’s no room for latency. There are strict guidelines around the availability requirements when implementing E-911. PTC didn’t feel comfortable building out the feature until it had a reliable provider.

Twilio’s E-911 offering gives PTC the ability to address emergency calls from anywhere on campus more intelligently and faster than before. When a student makes an emergency call from a phone on PTC’s campus, the emergency dispatcher sees where the call is coming from because Twilio passes that information to the agent programmatically. This saves invaluable time during emergencies where time is always of the essence.

“Twilio is much more stable than our previous provider. It’s been rock solid since day one and our bill has dropped a third of what it was.”

William Showers Director of Information Technology

Now PTC uses Twilio’s Elastic SIP Trunking to power its Asterix- and .NET-based call center. It only took 2 days for PTC’s team to push all the traffic to Twilio from 500 phones spanning from the main academic building to the dorms.

Since the switch, IT has had extra time and funding to build new communications solutions for the school.

Integrating Twilio SMS with its internal CRM

When you’re serving a student body, you want to meet them where they feel comfortable communicating. For PTC, and many other schools, that place is in the body of a text message.

“The audience we serve is a texting audience, a social media audience, a mobile audience—we want to make sure we can serve them,” said Bart Levitt, vice president of marketing at PTC.

Now PTC has a way to serve its students through Twilio SMS live chat. After building out its SIP integration, PTC integrated its internal CRM with Twilio’s chat client to enable staff to answer questions that students text in, straight from their browsers.

Going forward

PTC has revolutionized the way it communicates on and off campus with students, teachers, and parents alike. Today, it has a new call center and chat client feature. Back in 2012, that was something it couldn’t conceive of. All it took was a school art show to open up the door of innovation for PTC. Now the school has stepped through it.

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