If a business struggles to collect customer bills and payments, the first thing we ask about is the payment policy.
What’s so important about having clearly defined payment policies and expectations? Simple: Everything.
Without a defined financial and payment policy your consumers and patients are left without an understanding of responsibility. Quite often this can lead to frustration and feelings of dissatisfaction with your practice or business. A payment policy helps you get paid on time.
How to Use Your Policy
People find it uncomfortable at times to ask for an upfront payment, especially if your team is not in the practice of doing so.
Begin by posting your payment or financial expectations for your customers or patients to review on their own. You might post it in the waiting room, include information in their packet, give it to them upon check-in; it is up to you. Patients and consumers are coming to your business or offices and asking for guidance or services; that guidance should begin with clear payment and financial expectations.
From PRC’s Chief Client Officer John Cook’s training program on Point of Service Collections:
You have to teach them how to ask for money. For example, I cringe every time I hear someone ask a patient, “Will you be paying for this today?” We hear it every day. And we know the answer will be, “No.” Do not give them the opportunity to say no.
You have to train your people to create service excellence. These are the soft skills such as how they greet the patient; how they receive the patient; how they connect with the patient; and how they interact with the patient. Then we have to assertively communicate the expectations of the patient and their responsibility to pay.
Creating an environment that is positive and creating a win-win for your customer is crucial. How you ask the question is almost more important than what you are asking.
Education is essential when training your employees and customers. Train your staff on how to ask and train your clients on what is expected of them.
What to Include In a Payment Policy
Avoid jargon; you want every customer to easily understand how and when to pay. Include the following in your payment policy:
- Any deposit, co-pay, down payment requirements.
- A specific payment date. “Net” days is confusing for many consumers, even if they are also business owners.
- Charges and interest rates for late payments. Determine whether you allow a grace period before you send late notices and include that information in your policy.
- The types of payment methods you accept (checks, which credit cards, etc.). In some cases, it helps to list forms of payment that are not accepted.
- Where to send payment or how to submit it, whether that’s online, via snail mail, at the office or other.
- Your contact information. List the direct phone number and email of someone who handles payments.
- Returns/Refunds if applicable.
- Early payments. Some companies offer a discount to those who pay early, as an incentive to pay faster.