While many organizations have moved registration online, they still collect payments the old fashioned way. Whether it’s because they don’t want to pay for an online registration payments software, or because they don’t know how to go about offering automated online payments, the fact that so many aren’t doing it is crazy! While there is of course a cost associated with offering payments online as part of your online registration software, you more than make up for the cost in the increased cash flow and on time payments your applicants will send your way!
Below I’ve taken some common questions I’ve heard from clients and industry professionals on the fence about adding an online payments feature to their online registration software.
Question #1: Where do I start when offering online payments?
Find a software company that offers a registration software with an online registration payments integration option! If you already have a registration software, find a 3rd party payment system that can integrate into your website and into your process. It is important that you do not do any 3rd party payment redirects!
Checking the data of the 1,236,743 Regpack registered in 2014 showed that 27% of people will leave your process if you redirect them to a different site! Yep, you read correctly, 27% of the people that are actually registering to your program will drop when they need to pay just because you sent them to a 3rd party site (like PayPal or the thousands others that offer it out there) and did not have it integrated into your site.
PayPal is sort of an exception since people are familiar with them as a company and they do a half good job of redirecting you to their site for payment and then back to your site when complete. Note that when using PayPal the drop is still there but it is only 16.5% (still pretty terrible considering this is a person that has decided to go to your program and just because they are not sure what is going on are not paying you).
Note that when you use a method that isn’t integrated fully into your registration software, you make it harder to send invoices and automate the payment communication and email process as well, which is a huge point to consider! We get into the details of this in Question #2 below.
Questions #2: Online payments mean I have to send invoices. How do I do this?
It’s easy with a great registration software! Are you sick of me saying that yet? Sorry, but it’s true. An online registration software that already offers great communication tools and automates communication is a great start. When your payment system is integrated into your process, it makes sending any kind of payment triggered email simple.
You can see examples of a payment acknowledgement email here and a payment request email here. Basically you want to have a good system of triggered emails to keep your applicants in the loop and informed on their balance. When a user makes a payment, a triggered email should go out immediately populated with the applicant’s information, including their name, balance paid, balanced owed, due dates and a summary of their account when relevant. At set points throughout the application period, triggered emails can go out when someone has a payment due, when a due date is near, when an upcoming payment installment will charge, etc.
When a payment goes through, having a triggered email go out serves as an invoice. The email should show their name, the program or products they have chosen, the amount paid in this transaction, any balance due, and a link to their account/your website to check more information and complete further actions, like finishing their balance or submitting outstanding forms. This also serves as a way to confirm with applicants the products they’ve chosen and gives them time to add services or change things in time.
Really though, with a quality system, sending invoices is super easy and an automated payment and communication system makes it that much easier! Instead of writing each individual email or sending out a generic ‘payment received email’ (which usually gets a reply for more clarification about the amount that was received, what is the balance, etc which a triggered and intelligent email would already have included), you save a ton of time on your end and a ton of confusion on your applicants end when you automate payments and communication within your registration software.
Question #3: Is it really true that applicants will pay faster if I switch to online payments instead of collecting checks or taking credit card information over the phone?
It is! The obvious first point is that online registration payments mean INSTANT payments. You can collect payments 24/7 and not just when you’re at your desk. You don’t have to wait for the mail to deliver envelopes full of checks, or in some cases wait for someone to stop by with their payment. But that is not the only reasons that people will pay faster. When the payment is part of the application process itself the applicant understands that they need to do this in order to move forward. It is “just part of the process” and therefore you will see the following:
- 15-30 faster payments compared to not using online payments.
- 35% more payments compared to not using online payments.
**Data based on the information from +3,562 organization and 1,236,743 registrations done through Regpack in 2014**
When you offer payment plans or scheduled payments (see more in Question 4 below!) you make it easy for the applicant to enter a few details, check a few boxes and pay the correct amounts on the correct dates right then and there. No additional action required from you or from them!
Question #4: Should I offer scheduled payments or payment plans or does that make offering online registration payments more complicated and more expensive?
Easy is the name of the game. Not every single client can pay their balance in full while they are registering or sometimes they do not need to. With a good online registration software outfitted with an integrated automated payment system, setting up pre-approved payment plans is a cinch and gives your clients options to commit to paying in full, automatically!
Instead of paying a portion and then wasting time reminding them every month that they have x balance that they need to pay by this date (and then demanding they login and actually make the payment… who wants to do that???), offering payment plans up front is an easy way for applicants to choose the payment schedule that works for them, enter their payment details and be done! You now know when you’re getting paid and how much and you won’t lose applicants who forget to pay or don’t pay in full because the process is all automated for everyone!
Offering payment plans does NOT make things more complicated or more expensive, exactly the opposite! With a great software, you should be able to easily add those options on the payment form and that’s it! The software will know when to charge the applicant on their next payment due date (or all at once) and will even send out invoices automatically when your payment processes. This makes accounting so streamlined on your end, gives your applicants options and the security of knowing they are paying when they should be, without having to think about it!
Question #5: Won’t I open myself up to fraud issues, complicated refunds and just general issues of distrust when paying online?
Obviously make sure that the payment processor you go with offers good standards of security, but beyond that paying online is pretty standard these days. It is much safer than taking credit card numbers over the phone! By integrating payments into your existing registration software, you are ensuring trust and security in your brand and ensuring your applicants that all of their data, including their payment information is secure with you.
An automated payment system actually makes refunds easy! Instead of bugging accounting to send out a refund check, you can go into a quality payment processing system and automatically refund the right amount back to the payment method – checking account, credit card, etc. If refunds are an issue for you, make sure when scouting potential payment systems that they make this process easy!
The goal when automating online payments is to make YOUR life easier and make the registration process for your applicants as easy, streamlined and professional as possible. Why make them break the grove of completing your registration by having to get out their checkbook or call you to make a payment. Why have them bother you with questions on whether their payment was received if your automated system will automatically send payment invoice emails and payment acknowledgement messages.
When you automate your process, the right way, you not only save yourself time but you save money too. You ensure your cash flow is steady, you can work on other projects (that will increase your income because you now have time to do those projects) instead of micromanaging payments, missing payments or losing clients who never pay in full and therefore drop out. The beauty of technology is with little time and investment, it works FOR you so you can work on what only humans can do– growing your business and making meaningful connections with your clients!