Writing an effective email to applicants when they need to make a payment or still have an outstanding balance, is one of the most important steps to making sure you get paid as soon as possible.
Your applicants might not remember that they have an open balance for your program. Or they might want to pay but don’t know how your process works or they might not remember the exact deadline so they just haven’t gotten around to paying you.
Of course the big solution to getting people to pay is offering payment plans and automatic billing to your registration payments process. This allows people to pay their balance without anyone lifting a finger.
But even if you offer autobilling, not everyone will choose it. Which is where this email comes in.
A little email reminder can do a world of wonders for your cash flow and your user satisfaction by effectively communicating those questions marks to your applicants.
An effective email will outline the important points you want to communicate to your registrants: what they owe, how they can pay and when they should pay by.
Having an automated way to get these messages out helps a ton when it comes to time management on your end as well.
But writing a great email to make sure these points come across effectively isn’t as easy as you might think!
An online registration software that automates these processes is helpful! An online registration software that has an integrated payment system is key!
Anytime you send a payment related email to an applicant or registrant, including the right information is imperative.
A little fact of life: people do not like to pay (even though they know they need to…)! Making your payment request email clear, informative and with an obvious call to action is what is going to get you the best results.
In our previous post about how to write a great ‘personalized while still being automated’ email we told you to always keep your emails short and to the point.
So…yea, scratch that!
You don’t want to write a novel, but you definitely want to include as much information as necessary in a payment request email.
This will make sure your applicant will pay when they get the message and will not need to follow up with you in order to clarify any detail about their account or payment methods.
Here are some guidelines that will help you know if your payment request email is great or if it is just confusing:
- You will see a spike in payments within 3-5 days of the email going out. If you do not see that spike maybe you need to alter your email. Keep reading, I promise we give some great advice further down! 🙂
- You will have less than 10% of applicants coming back to you with questions. More than that means you are doing something wrong. Again, keep reading if this is you!
There are 5 elements that will make your payment request email effective:
- You email should give the registrant or applicant updated information about their account balance, order and their payment history. Without this element you will see up to 60% support calls and emails coming back to you asking why they need to pay. You will also see a low number of people actually going into their account and making a payment. This acts as your explanation as to why you are asking them to pay! If you could only choose only one thing to add to a payment request email this would be it!
- Outlining very clearly what methods of payments you accept and how they can go about paying. It’s in these cases that having an online payment solution, especially built in to your system is worth it! Online payments will boost the number of payments you receive, hands down! It’s science.
- Including important dates in the email so the applicant will know when payments are due and what happens if they are late. The email should be sent close to a payment deadline (but not too close, give people at least 5-7 business days to make their payment).
- Information about how the registrant or applicant can view the information online (so they do not need to contact you in order to figure it out). This is where BIG OBVIOUS LINKS need to show up. Make it easy for the reader to know where to click and what they are clicking on – “Your Account”, “Your Payment History”, “View Your Invoices”, etc are great phrases to use to get people to click and view their account and payment history. That page should then include an easy button or area in order to begin the payment process as well as clear, easy to read and understand, information about their balance due.
- Contact information to your payments team if the registrant or applicant has any questions and if they want to request a refund for any reason.
Now to the real stuff: An actual example you can copy and paste!
Below is the email template we provide for our clients that is sent to their applicants and registrants when they are requesting payment from an applicant.
The email should of course be automated, so the users information and payment details are automatically filled into the email text and the system will send it automatically on a schedule you decide on (1 month before program deadline, etc).
You can automate almost every aspect of this email with the right online registration software that includes an integrated payment system.
With a great online registration software, you can have the same email text and use it for several of your programs and events.
The system will fill in program names, applicant names, payment history, deadline dates, etc.
Below I will also go through each element and see how it addresses all 5 aspects above about the elements that make up an effective payment email.
Example of a GREAT Payment Request Email
So why is this payment request email good?
There is a lot going on in this email, so I want to highlight the most important sections so you know what is most essential to include in your own emails.
1. The first three sentences are magic!
Just to remind you so you don’t have to scroll up, they are:
- “We are thrilled that you will be joining us on Feb 3rd at the Program name!”
- “I wanted to personally update you that you have an outstanding balance of $2,400.”
- “The deadline for full payment is: January 14, 2019.”
Do you see what is happening here?
We first remind the user that they registered to your program and we are also throwing in the date it is happening. Basically we are orienting them about what we are talking about.
Then we tell them them they have a balance due and actually state the balance amount. Meaning, we are telling them there is an action that they need to do.
Third, we are telling them the deadline for payment so we are telling them until when the action needs to be done.
These 3 sentences will most likely be what the reader will see.
Most people don’t read through an entire email if they don’t think they have to so you want to make sure you grab them from the beginning.
It will also be the first thing the reader will see if they are reading the email on some sort of email client: such as Gmail, Outlook, their phone and so forth.
So even if the applicant doesn’t actually open up the email they are still getting the most important information: what we are talking about, what action they need to do and until when they need to do it.
You want to make sure these information is descriptive and engaging enough to get the reader to open the email, read it in it’s entirety and pay!
Note that the whole email is very informal yet also packed full of information.
It’s also personalized, it addresses their specific information so they do not think that it is a generic email which means there is a greater chance that they will actually open and read it!
For more info about making emails personalized see our blog post on that subject.
2. The payment request email includes an overview of their activity.
The great thing about automated emails is that you can include so many details in emails to your applicants without the hassle and time to copy and paste their information into each email.
This email provides a detailed list, should the reader be interested, of their past payment history as well as the exact items they have yet to pay for.
The payment request email includes important links.
The email should include easy to find links to the following:
- Their online account and dashboard page (specifically, the page they can make a payment and view their account).
- The main page of the program they are attending.
- Your email address.
- Your website.
- Your main social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, etc) — this can go in or below your signature line.
- A forgotten password link.
Everyone is busy and experiencing information overload, so don’t expect them to remember your site address or the exact page where they can access the payment system. Make it easy for them!
The link to the payment page (not a general link to your site) enables the applicant to act with one click.
Easy for them, better for you.
With automation, this step takes no time on your part, but makes your communication look polished and professional.
By also including the products they’ve ordered they can easily check as well that they are enrolled in the right programs or if they might have wanted to purchase a product but forgot.
Feel free to include a line under their product listing about another (related) product or product they might be interested in. You can experiment and do testing with this idea to see if you end up getting more products purchased!
Basically, everyone loves to know where they stand and the information provided here accomplishes that.
Some people don’t like having a simple email with a link to their online profile because it’s one extra ‘step’ to get the info they want.
By providing their payment history right in the body of the email, you take care of the people who might otherwise completely disregard your email and your call to action (payment!)
3. The email includes YOUR contact information.
Hopefully your email and supporting payment documents available on their dashboard is enough to not require the applicant to be in touch.
But just in case, including easy to see emails or phone numbers to contact you if they have a problem or general question about the payment goes a long way in the customer service department.
Try to make sure that if the reader hits ‘reply’ to this email, it will go to the right person who is most qualified to handle questions regarding their payments!
**Assume people don’t read your email from beginning to end, so make this information easy for them to understand.**
What NOT to send out as a payment request email to applicants.
If you have a user who has an outstanding balance, DON’T send them an email that does not have at least items 1 and 2 on our list (“information about their account balance, order and their payment history” and “Outlining very clearly what methods of payments you accept and how they can go about paying”).
Without these you will see up to 60% more support requests (people asking questions) and the email will not affect your cash flow.
An Example of a BAD Payment Request Email
What’s wrong with this payment request email?
While the email does confirm that user has an outstanding balance (an action to be completed) and mentions the program name, it offers little else.
It’s also personalized with the registrant’s name which is great but while it does tick some of the “do this for a great payment request email” boxes, it fails on a few fronts.
- It doesn’t inform the user what their outstanding balance is.
- It doesn’t give them any further details about previous payments or what they are paying for (i.e. a breakdown of what programs and other products they’ve ordered or registered for).
- It provides no links to check out their online account, to make a payment or even to your website!
It’s great that this email is personalized to the recipient. They are more likely to read the email since it’s addressed to them and therefore doesn’t scream “BULK!” which people usually hate.
But the rest of the text, unfortunately, does scream ‘bulk’. There is no mention a specific date when a payment is due or what they might have paid up until now.
There is nothing else personalized in the email besides their name and program.
A reader could think that since the email is so sparsely populated with relevant information for them, the message might not apply to them.
They might assume it was just sent to the whole group and not meant for them and then you’ve wasted the opportunity to request payment and still have to follow up with either a personal email (time suck!) or a phone call (more time sucking!).
If this person is smart enough to realize they probably do have an outstanding balance and the email’s message was in fact meant for them, they still are left wondering…how much do I owe, where and how can I make a payment, and who should I be in touch with if I have any questions!?
All valid questions and all items you can easily include in your email.
First off, like we mentioned earlier, links are REALLY important. You should always include:
- A link to your website in your email signature.
- A link to their online dashboard in the opening paragraph.
- Another link to their dashboard towards the end of the email.
- Most importantly, a line that shows exactly how much they owe (which can also be a link to the payment page).
If your registrant received these *bad* emails the first thing they’d probably do is hit reply and inundate you with a bunch of questions that could have been answered with a better structured email. Most people would respond, “How much do I owe?”, “When do I owe it by?” and “How can I pay?”
By including this information in your emails, most people will understand what is expected of them and complete the action without help from you which will save you time on support emails and leave you more time for real communication with your applicants, the type of communication that creates value and not frustration.
You will of course still have people in touch who want to verify information or ask further questions but that’s ok. Consider also sending out a great payment acknowledgement email to cut down on emails and phone calls from registrants wondering if the payment(s) they made was received and went through.
By freeing up your time for savvy people who would otherwise (with a great email) take care of things themselves, you now have time to give your attention to a more needy applicant. Or even work on other things to benefit your business! Win-win-win for everyone (Who got that “The Office” reference!?!)
Feel free to use some or all of the text we provided above in the payment request email template, as part of your own payment request email for your own business.