The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) has a noble vision. The nonprofit, independent certification organization aspires to enhance society worldwide through quality counseling. Established in 1982, NBCC’s primary purposes are to establish and monitor a national certification system, identify those counselors who have voluntarily sought and obtained certification, and maintain a register of those counselors.
Its mission is to advance the counseling profession and enhance mental health counseling around the world, which it accomplishes mainly through its certification program. Constituents include counselors who have achieved a master’s degree in counseling. To date, there are more than 55,000 National Certified Counselors (NCCs) in 40-plus countries.
A nonprofit independent certification organization, NBCC wanted to transition an entirely paper-based application process into an online process with a high level of transparency and applicant self-service.
Additional goals included, increasing staff efficiencies, reducing application review times, enforcing the strict rules and ethics of the industry, and ensuring a fair and unbiased process.
To automate its application process, NBCC launched ProCounselor.nbcc.org using Abila netFORUM Enterprise™.
In less than one year from project launch, more than 4,000 applicants had applied and paid online, resulting in efficiencies in the processing of cash receivables and application review. It’s estimated to have saved at least 1,280 hours of staff time in the first six months. And, more than 10,000 counselors have renewed their certification online reporting just under 300,000 hours of continuing education.
Saying Goodbye to Paper and Pencil
With more than three decades of success certifying counselors, the leaders at NBCC were apprehensive about transitioning an entirely paper-based application process to an online process. At the same time, they knew technology would help them achieve much-needed efficiencies.
NBCC’s leaders remember the launch of their online certification engine through Abila netFORUM Enterprise™ as an uncertain time. After all, they had 30 years of history using a paper application; 30 years of state-operated procedures that were tried-and-true. They knew what they were doing. They were top in their field, helping create best practices in certification around the world, so taking that paper-and-pencil process and putting it online was daunting. If they built it, would anyone come? Would their constituents actually apply online?
In July 2014, NBCC launched Agilutions’ Credentialing Engine, an integrated netFORUM module that enabled the board to configure and manage its credentialing programs. The Credentialing Engine supports rules-based processes, and is integrated with all areas of netFORUM to automate the completion of requirements. It also extends netFORUM’s online features to provide candidates with a portal for submitting application materials, and offers graphical views of progress towards earning and maintaining credentials.
In the first six months, NBCC experienced a 19 percent increase in its application rates. Constituents came, and they were very pleased with what they found.
Processes Streamlined from Months to Minutes
In the paper world, when a counselor applied for a National Certified Counselor (NCC), the application path – including filling out the paper application, submitting it, getting it reviewed, and becoming eligible to take the certification exam – could have been a three-month process. Now, with the online certification engine, it can take as few as 14 minutes from application through review. NBCC’s constituents are very satisfied with the streamlined turnaround.
In addition to the online application process, constituents also now have a place in which to store and track their professional development. In the first six months of the program, more than 4,000, or basically 10 percent, of its certified counselors used the tracking system. A little more than 35,000 professional development activities were entered into it, totaling about 330,000 professional development hours.
And, even when counselors have to go through NBCC – for example, when requesting verification of a certification be sent to a third party like an insurance panel or state license report – that process is streamlined. Thanks to automation, what previously took about eight weeks, now takes just five days.
Staff Realizes Big Efficiencies
The NBCC team, too, is gaining some major efficiencies using netFORUM. In less than one year from project launch, more than 4,000 applicants had applied and paid online, resulting in efficiencies in the processing of cash receivables and application review. It’s estimated to have saved at least 1,280 hours of staff time in the first six months.
Just for one process alone, its monthly billing, NBCC has seen a reduction in staff time by 79 percent. It went from approximately 52 hours of staff time to do the monthly billing, down to just over five.
And, in the first six months NBCC processed approximately 20,000 payments, all through the netFORUM Enterprise system. All those payments previously would have been touched by someone on staff. That’s approximately 100 hours a month in staff time reclaimed.