Why Do Wellness Plans Need Recurring Billing Instead of Recurring Payments?
Many in the Veterinary industry do not understand the difference between recurring payments and recurring billing. Prior to wellness plan programs, there was no real need for a practice to understand the difference; however, with the growth of recurring billing programs like wellness plans, it is a must. Solutions that only offer recurring payments, which is the case with almost all practice management wellness modules, do not address the full set of issues that a practice encounters in a wellness program. So, what is the difference between the two?
General Overview By Tasks
Recurring Payments: Simply put, recurring payments allow you to set a recurring charge to your client. In wellness plans, that means each month a request for payment is sent to your client’s credit card or account – That is it!
- No monthly statements are generated explaining to the customer the charges (which could include late payment fees, prior month missed payments, etc.) and if they are, the assumption is made that it is always the same amount.
- No accounting transactions are tracked other than a simple “charged it” – no provision for automating tracking of missed payments.
- For payments that do not go through (roughly 6-8% nationwide), it is up to the practice staff to manually track, call customers and deal with the issues, manually re-debiting accounts, etc.
- Since you don’t want miscellaneous credits affecting the wellness accounts receivable balance, you have to track your wellness balance manually, outside of the system, and when payments span multiple months, have to accrue multiple months of billing.
- Any missed payment fees, to cover your valuable time chasing down issues, must be manually assessed and accounted for.
What Missed Payments Mean for Your Wellness Program: If you have 300 plans and 7% of payments have an issue, that’s 21 plans. At an average of 2 calls per pet owner, you are tracking 21 missed payments each month, making 42 phone calls, and having to manually accrue next month’s billing if the pet owner does not cure the issue in time. AND, you get to manually calculate accounts receivable each month. A real headache!
Recurring Billing: Recurring billing starts with a complete accounts receivable system at the core, so you can easily track and account for everything! Key features of recurring billing include:
- Monthly statements including your carry-forward accounts receivable balance – i.e. if a missed payment was not corrected last month, a missed payment fee is automatically assessed, and if you go into the next month, next month’s amount is also added to the statement balance.
- Statements are available on the practice branded pet owner portal, allowing pet owners to understand the specifics of any balances due.
- Proactive payment reminder emails are sent each month, 3 days prior to the recurring payment.
- If a payment is rejected, the software automatically reattempts over the next 7 days, curing many of the common issues with payment issues.
- When the pet owner calls, payment tools are available to help get the pet owner current and potentially avoid missed payments. Features include:
- Delaying the current month’s payment before a miss occurs
- Taking partial payments, with the remainder automatically becoming part of the balance charged the following month
- Ability for practice to take payment directly (e.g. cash) and have the system not take the current month’s payment
- Point-and-click adjustment of day of the month to debit
- The underlying accounting system tracks all activity including A/R balances, missed payment fees, etc.
- Missed Payments are tracked in a sophisticated, but easy to use, workflow, with VCP providing call center support to deal with your calls, with software features to let you keep your finger on the pulse of what is happening.
EXAMPLE: So, what does this mean to you?
With just recurring payments, you lose visibility into the accounting aspects of your program (A/R balances, tracking missed payments and corrections, accruing balances, etc.), spend more time communicating with pet owners about billing anomalies, have to manually track down pet owners with missed payments, manually manage the whole process and most importantly, consume more of your valuable time.
As if the tasks mentioned above aren’t enough, let’s look at what managing missed payments can mean to you:
EXAMPLE: Your wellness program has grown to 300 plans. On average there would be 21 accounts with payment issues to address each month.
Systems with Recurring Payments Only:
- 21 payments would fail, the practice contact would receive an email with a list of the failed accounts or have to remember to log into the processors portal to figure that out
- You will typically have 2 calls per missed payment, tracking the person down and them calling you back, so 42 phone calls during the month
- Any assessed missed payment fees need to be manually added to the amount owed
- If payment is not cured within the month, you need to manually add the next month’s payment to the amount you need to collect
- You have to manually do each debit to get the accounts current
- Just when you think you are getting ahead, the next weeks email comes in and you have to track which payments are due when, growing your list of items to track
- You have to build your own system to track all of the above, typically done in Excel
System with Recurring Billing and VCP:
Let’s look at the same case with 21 payments that failed. Immediately your VCP solution would jump into action.
- All clients are notified that there has been a payment issue
- Those that failed due to daily limits would automatically be charged the next day
- Debits for cards with temporary holds would be reattempted several times looking for the temporary hold to be removed
- Lost cards would be noted, and alerts sent out to pet owners to notify of payment failure
- Approximately 30% or 7 issues would be resolved automatically without team involvement
- For the remaining missed payment, the VCP call center team reaches out to remaining pet owners and resolves the rest of the issues (except for customers that can’t get current)
- In this example, your team may need to follow up, on average, 1 pet owner per month
- All activity around wellness is tracked in industry standard general ledger accounts so that you can easily monitor/manage all aspects of your wellness programs – including things like – A/R balances, revenue for services delivered and services that expired, cancellation settlements, and more
Just as the right PIMS system is vital to the smooth management and documentation of medical history and communication, so too is a recurring billing platform critical when it comes to successfully managing your wellness program. At VCP, our focus is deploying the best Wellness Plan programs available, focusing on delivering the leading software for the practice of wellness and the innovative process, tools and automation for the Business of WellnessTM.