Why You Should Rethink Offering In-House Payment Plans

Posted by UGA Finance | February 15, 2017

As a business owner, you do your best to lay out the benefits of your product and make certain that your client is well-informed about the product and the value you are selling, but in the end you know that business is sometimes lost simply due to sticker shock. Your client just cannot afford to shell out that much cash at once, and you both walk away empty-handed – they lose your product, you lose the sale, and you lose any potential referral business down the road. So what do you do? Lose the customer? Gosh, no – that’s a terrible answer. Perhaps you should offer them an in-house payment plan. Sure, you may not get all of your money upfront, but you will [probably] get it, and you will keep the customer, right? In fact, you may even get more business because this additional service is so awesomely convenient that they come back for more, and they tell all their friends about it. Convenient for whom, though? What additional planning and operational costs will you have to incur in order to offer this additional service? As it turns out, there is a lot to think about.

How will you manage these accounts?

If you’re in a service or healthcare industry, chances are good that you already have someone on your team dedicated to managing accounts receivables; perhaps that’s you, or you have an office manager, or maybe you’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated accounts receivable team.

Maybe you’re in the retail industry, and you haven’t yet had the need to offer your customers any payment options – they come in, see something they need, and purchase it outright…or maybe they don’t, because it’s too much of an upfront investment.

Know the Statistics Results of a recent consumer study showed that more than 80% of respondents stated a business’s ability to offer financing options greatly influenced their buying decision – and nearly 50% of consumers who used financing for a purchase spent more as a result.

Regardless of your industry, and whether or not you have an accounts receivable team already in place, there are some decisions that you’ll need to make and business processes you’ll need to implement before you’re ready to offer any sort of in-house payment plan options to your customers. These decisions will determine the head count, structure, and tools used to manage these accounts.

What type of payment plan(s) will you offer?

Many companies offer a plan that requires a certain percentage of the sale upfront, and then a monthly payment for a period of time until the balance is paid in full. Having a basic payment plan structure in mind is a good start, but what else do you need to think about?

Have you thought about offering a promotional plan to bring in new business? Deferred interest plans such as “No Interest if paid in full within six months” can bring customers in the door and increase your company’s sales.

Offering these payment options will increase sales, and you’ll likely incur costs in the process of managing an in-house payment plan. Therefore, it’s only fair to apply reasonable finance charges like one-time application fees, interest, late fees, etc. to the plan. Remember, any bank would charge you for a loan, so why shouldn’t you do the same for your in-house payment plan accounts?

Will your payment plan differ based on the credit worthiness of your customer?

Well, now, that is a great question – shouldn’t you be checking your customer’s credit score before offering an array of in-house payment plan options? How do you even do that? And once you know their credit score, how do you understand it in order to determine risk? Does your offering change, based on the level of risk? At what threshold do you determine that your risk is too great to offer an in-house payment plan to a customer with a less than perfect credit rating?

UGA Finance offers convenient account options and attractive offers to present to your customers!

Let UGA Finance help! Call us today at (877)233-6999 or email sales@ugafinance.com

UGA Finance offers credit-based financing options for your customers, with the convenience of an online portal to guide you and your customer through our simple financing process!

Does your plan conform to state and federal regulations?

It’s important to know that if you offer an in-house payment plan, it could be viewed by state and federal regulations as a loan, and thus be subject to conform to all requirements of the Truth in Lending Act (TILA), which was established in 1968 to protect consumers and require lenders to fully disclose all terms and costs associated with borrowing.

Know the Facts Truth in Lending Act/Regulation Z section 1026.2(a) defines a creditor as “A person who regularly extends consumer credit that is subject to a finance charge or is payable by written agreement in more than four installments (not including a down payment), and to whom the obligation is initially payable…” – be aware that this applies to in house payment plans, whether or not any finance charges are applied to the account!

You will also need to know any additional state regulations, keeping in mind that if you operate in multiple states, you’ll need to know each state’s rules, including:

  • For each state in which you do business, does the operating state require a company to register with them prior to offering this service? What are the application, maintenance, and renewal requirements for each state?
  • How much interest can a business legally charge a consumer for the convenience of a payment plan? Maximum Interest Rate laws differ from state to state, and you need to know the rules – or your company will be subject to potential lawsuits, and fines, and negative media scrutiny.

If you’re in a healthcare field, you have to additionally make certain that your solution is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which sets standards for the privacy and security of health information, including any type of electronic data interchange (EDI) between computer systems.

UGA Finance keeps up to date with all federal and state requirements, and we’ll help ensure you’re in compliance every step of the way.

Let UGA Finance help! Call us today at (877)233-6999 or email sales@ugafinance.com

Regardless of your industry, you’ll also need to be sure that your process does not in any way expose personally identifiable information (PII), which is any data that could potentially identify a specific individual, and must be kept secure to prevent misuse of consumer data.

Knowing the rules, and partnering with a company like UGA Finance will help protect your customers and avoid making costly business mistakes.

How will you manage statements?

Do you have a system in place to manage mailing monthly statements? Your team may manage monthly customer account statements already, particularly if any of your clients periodically carry a balance. But once you introduce a formal in-house payment plan, you can expect your systems to require much more structure and diligence.

You’ll need processes and systems to effectively manage customer account balances, due dates, application of interest rates, late fees, and any additional charges you may need to factor in. Then there’s also the process of managing statements – printing paper statements costs time and money.

UGA’s online uPortal allows businesses to see all their consumer account activity, manage approvals, and access portfolio summary reports!

You could alternatively offer an electronic statement, but you will need a system in place to manage this process, which must adhere to the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act), which requires a company to confirm consumer consent and technology requirements in order to receive electronic statements. And of course, you will still need to have a paper backup option for those clients that prefer not to receive or manage their bills electronically.

Let UGA Finance help – we’ll manage the accounts and billing statements for you with our comprehensive billing platform.

How will you accept payments?

You probably already accept various types of payments at the point of sale – cash, check, credit cards, and debit cards. If you accept credit and debit cards, then you’re already familiar with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS), which establish controls to protect consumer credit data and reduce credit card fraud.

UGA’s online uServicePortal allows consumers to access their account, view eStatements, setup useful account notifications, make online payments, and enroll in auto-pay!

Let UGA Finance help! Call us today at (877)233-6999 or email sales@ugafinance.com

Will you allow online payments? If you’re offering electronic statements, then you probably want to expand your payment options to accept electronic payments.

You’ll need a way to accept these payments and apply to the customer’s in-house payment plan account, possibly via your company’s website.

Will you establish an auto-payment option? Yes, you should! This is arguably the best way to guarantee a payment on the in-house payment plan is made regularly and on-time; in fact, at UGA, we have found accounts that are signed up for auto-payment may decrease the risk of default by up to ten percent. In order to offer this option, you’ll need to present a way for your customers to enroll in an auto-payment, so that funds can be deducted directly from their checking or credit account and deposited into your account – not to mention updating their in-house payment plan account to accurately reflect the payment.

UGA Finance has secure online account management portals for both you and your customer, so your customers can manage their accounts online, and you can stay up to date on the status all of your customer accounts through our portfolio summary reports!

What happens when someone doesn’t pay?

In a perfect world, every customer pays the expected amount at the expected time. But we know that just doesn’t always happen, so what do you do when payments don’t come in?

UGA Finance team of professionals will manage late and bad debt promptly and professionally. Let UGA Finance help! Call us today at (877)233-6999 or email sales@ugafinance.com

If a payment is just simply late, you can and should encourage payments. Start by sending a payment due reminder statement. Reach out to the customer via phone to attempt to collect a payment. Apply a reasonable late fee to the account; implementing a late fee policy encourages your customers to pay on time before late fees are applied.

What if, however, the account is not just late, but the customer is several payments behind and then stops payments completely? These accounts are considered in default and must be managed separately and differently from your up to date accounts.

How will you manage truly bad debt? Is your team prepared to have those uncomfortable conversations with your clients? Have you done the research on the collection laws for your state? Let UGA Finance manage your clients’ late and bad debt promptly and professionally. We have the experience to have those difficult questions, and we’ve done the research to know the regulations.

Also, if you’re already struggling with bad consumer debt accounts and looking for a solution, UGA Finance can help there too. Our debt recovery group is a professional team of solution advocates who will work with your customers to resolve the debt and preserve your customer relationships.

Let UGA Finance help.

There are indeed a lot of details to think about when it comes to offering an in-house payment plan. You may be prepared to manage it all – or maybe this isn’t this something that your business is able to or wants to manage.

Take advantage of the benefits of partnering with the UGA Finance team today – online tools for you in the uPortal, for your customers in the uServicePortal, and other benefits we haven’t even touched on. Ask us how your consumer billings can create a verifiable financial asset that can be used as collateral for your business – or how easy it can be to turn your current In-House portfolio into cash for your company.

Call us today, and let’s start the conversation! (877)233-6999, email sales@ugafinance.com, or send us your contact information, and we’ll call you!

You know your product. UGA knows finance. Let’s take your business into the future, together.

 



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