Are Recurring Payments Causing You Pain?
Veterinary practices are realizing that their clients love wellness plans. In fact, Americans have loved membership-type programs in other industries for years. At the core of any membership programs’ success are the billing solutions and automation that allow consumers to make affordable monthly payments, rather than pay a large, upfront lump sum.
As practices implement wellness plans, they are discovering why choosing the right plan management software is so important. In the past, veterinary practices did not have the need for a recurring billing solution, and simple payment processing (moving money from a client’s account to a business account) was all they needed. However, practices offering wellness plans are realizing just how critical a comprehensive billing and missed payment management system truly is, in order to efficiently and effectively manage a program at scale.
Bottom line – to support a wellness program at scale you need an in-depth solution that provides expertise and advanced features both for billing and missed payment management versus just recurring payments. Simple recurring payment solutions will only lead to additional work and confusion, which unfortunately is the reason so many practices ultimately give up on their wellness programs.
What Is the Difference Between Recurring Payments and Billing and Payment Management?
At first glance, recurring payment and recurring billing seem like they are one and the same. However, as your program grows, and you have more than just a handful of pets enrolled in your wellness program, you will quickly find out there is a big difference.
As explained above, the function of recurring payments is to simply move money from one account to another with some regularity. Some PIMS solutions offer this and payment processors often provide this functionality. The key issue here is that the service simply processes a payment, and as long as everything goes fine, the money moves. However, you don’t necessarily get statements, accounting, or management of missed payments, chargebacks, etc.
Recurring Billing and Payment Management
Recurring billing is a well-established solution, integrating accounting, statements, recurring payments, consumer communications, missed payment management, and more. Given that the veterinary industry has historically not had many recurring billing business models, much can be learned by looking outside of the veterinary industry to industries and solutions that have been doing it for years. For example, a recurring billing platform allows for consumer statement and invoice generation, accounts receivable tracking, automation of missed payment management, consumer communications about billing activity on the account, handling of refunds, chargebacks and cancelations, and much more. There are also tools to help ensure clients can make their payments, such as choice of payment date, the ability to delay or skip a payment, the ability to pre-pay any amount towards the plan, either in-person at the practice or with the payment method on file.
Without missed payment management, a practice is provided with a list of missed payments and is then responsible for figuring out how to track these and manage them externally. This is just not practical, and because it is so burdensome, it can easily get out of control. For example, when Mr. Smith calls because he has missed several payments and wants to get back on track, you need to be able to easily see how many payments he has missed, whether there is a missed payment fee and be able to tell him the exact amount he needs to pay to reactivate his plan. This can only be done with a recurring billing solution with missed payment management.
Do Your Research: Choose the Right Plan Management Software from the Start
When considering a wellness plan management solution, make sure that you fully understand what the solution offers. While most solutions offer the basics, such as plan design, enrollment, basic renewal capabilities and recurring payments, it is important to do your homework and make sure that they are a true comprehensive recurring billing and missed payment management platform and that the software includes other advanced features specifically designed for managing wellness plans. Here are some important questions to ask when researching your options:
- Is it a recurring billing platform or just recurring payments? Does it provide all of the features listed above that are part of a recurring billing solution.
- Does the solution have a well-defined software module that manages all aspects of dealing with missed payments, from billing retries and outbound communications, to organized tracking and management and tools to get the pet owner back on track.
- What is the process when a payment is missed? Do they provide any client outreach or is it solely the practice’s responsibility?
- Are you able to get a single picture of your outstanding wellness A/R balances for your wellness plans? (which by the way, are NOT tracked by your PIMS system)
- Is the solution PCI compliant? And what happens if you need to switch payment processors – do they guarantee portability of your payment tokens?
- Does it offer smart renewal and optional services logic? What about the ability to add an option mid-plan with the costs spread over the remaining months?
- Can you be creative and build your brand? Can you create plans for other services/treatments, daycare, grooming, employee plans, etc.?
- Does it require added costs from third party vendors to connect and enable merchant processing?
- For larger organizations, can the system track multi-locations or multiple lines of business with varying levels of access and authority?
A well-run wellness program is a major endeavor, which is why it is so important to have the right plan management system in place from the start. Make sure to ask all of the right questions before choosing your partner, so that as your program grows, all of the features and capabilities you need are ready.