Best Practices for Using Email to Collect Payments

Best Practices for Using Email to Collect Payments
Businesses have a problem. For decades, paper bills and telephone calls have been the standard when seeking payment from customers. Now, faster, more convenient communication options are available (and expected) by consumers. Using email to collect payments is popular, simple to implement, and creates a quicker way for people to pay their bills.

Using Email to Collect Payments

Using email to collect payments has been around for some time but many companies are just beginning to adopt the practice. If your company is considering using email during the payment process, here are some reasons to take the leap.

Faster Than Mail
Of course, the most obvious advantage of using email for payments is speed. You can send payment requests or signature authorizations to your consumers within minutes. Eliminating the time for mail to be sent, received and returned shortens your revenue cycle and facilitates faster bill payment for your consumers.
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Preferred by Consumers

Over recent years, consumers have begun to ask for more digital solutions from companies. Choices for digital engagement, like online payment portals and email notification opt-ins, have become more popular than ever.

Part of this trend is because our world is becoming more comfortable with technology. Another part, however, has been driven by COVID-19 and the world’s unexpected demand for simpler, contactless ways to interact.

As your competitors offer more digital options and experiment with new ways to engage, you may find yourself out of favor with loyal customers if you aren’t listening to their requests.

Convenient for Businesses

Using email to collect payments isn’t just helpful to your customers. Adding an email option to your offerings will:

  • Cut down on mailing costs and letter vendor fees. Many email solutions cost significantly less than the expenses associated with paper mail.
  • Give employees tracking and payment status information. Through electronic communications, staff can track whether a message was received, opened, clicked on and more.
  • Make it simple to share statements or other documents with consumers that they can review while on the phone. Agents can send payment terms, outstanding balance information or more to an email address for consumers to immediately review alongside an agent, boosting your trust and transparency.
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Email Cadence

After deciding on the correct payment communication tool for your business, your next consideration is which workflows you intend to send by email. Some of these may be single email templates sent on a one-time basis, but others may require follow-ups or internal monitoring to succeed.

Those collecting late payments should keep in mind any industry rules that apply to your communications, such as Regulation F. Also think about the digital customer journey, and how the experience will feel to the recipient. Consider:

  • Send times - you may be required to send (or not send) emails at certain times of the day. Adhere to guidelines and also try to send your emails at the most convenient time for the consumer.
  • Number of emails - you may be restricted on how many times you follow up with consumers, or you may simply create your own parameters for how many times (weekly, monthly or total) you will reach a consumer by email for each workflow.
  • Email spacing - pay attention to the length of time you leave between emails. If you are trying to prompt a customer to resolve a late bill, this point is essential. Emailing too often may make your consumers feel annoyed or even like they are being harassed.
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Email Payment Workflows

Along with customer satisfaction and saving money on stamps, adding email to your company’s payment options gives you greater flexibility in your workflows. Here are some different ways your organization can use email to speed up payments and increase how much you’re collecting.

Down Payments and Copays

Contractors, healthcare facilities and other companies that offer services before receiving payment may sometimes require a down payment or copay in advance.

Sending a payment request through email along with contracts shortens your workflow and keeps everything in one place for your consumers.

Sending invoice information is one of the most straightforward uses of email in payment collection. For those who elect to get notifications electronically, your company can skip traditional billing methods and deliver payment details directly to a consumer’s inbox.

Payment Reminders
Do you offer recurring payments to consumers? All accounts receivable departments and agencies that collect high dollar payments should. If so, email can be used to send payment reminders prior to each recurring charge to a consumer’s credit card or bank account.

Payment Authorizations

Companies that facilitate Electronic Funds Transfers (ETFs) are required by law to comply with Regulation E. This regulation states that EFTs – which include taking payments from a consumer’s bank account – must be authorized by the consumer prior to the transaction.

If you use email messaging, payment authorizations can be instantly sent to a consumer’s inbox rather than their home address, allowing them to give payment consent within minutes.

Document Review
Misunderstandings happen. Sometimes, a customer may not agree with what they owe, or would like an itemized list of their expenses. Email is an excellent way to share documents with a consumer instantly, to view and discuss with an employee.
Best Practices for Using Email to Collect Payments: Email Payment Workflows

Opting In and Out

Using email to collect payments can boost revenue and customer satisfaction but mishandling those who opt-in and those who decline, is essential to success. Make sure you have adequate reporting on who is opting in or out of your emails.

Use these reports regularly to manage consumer consent. It’s your duty as a business to understand how consumers want to be contacted and be prepared to honor their wishes. For example, a consumer opting into email communications only should not receive phone calls.

Building and Maintaining Trust

Another component to sending consumer emails is the need to build trust. Customers may forget they signed up for emails from you, or even forget they patronized your business. In the case of debt collection, you may even be less familiar to consumers.

Remember, scammers are becoming more prevalent through phone calls and text messages, but they haven’t abandoned the inbox. If your company’s emails don’t look professional, you will quickly lose trust and potentially miss out on revenue.

Proofing Your Emails

All written, consumer-facing communications should be read and edited internally before being sent. Many spam or phishing emails can be identified by certain hallmarks. To differentiate yourself and create the best first impression:

  • Avoid grammar and spelling errors - many scam emails are poorly written, so misspellings in your company’s email may cause red flags.
  • Consistent branding and style - whenever possible, try to keep branding and style consistent. Don’t refer to your company by an acronym in your emails if you don’t refer to it that way on your corporate website or elsewhere. This could cause confusion.
  • Avoid false urgency - many consumers have been taught that false urgency is a common thread in phishing and other scams. In addition, making an email sound urgent may have more severe consequences, depending on any industry regulations your company adheres to.
Best Practices for Using Email to Collect Payments: Proof Emails

Complete Invoices

When sending your invoice, be sure include all of the elements a customer may potentially need to know:

  • Account number
  • Line items as needed
  • Bill total
  • Due date
  • Consumer name
  • Company name

Most companies aren’t ready to abandon the channels they’ve used for so many years – and that’s okay! Adding email to an existing payment collection model is an excellent way to enhance current practices, fill in gaps in your procedures and speed up revenue cycles.

PDCflow’s FLOW Technology helps businesses send documents and request signatures, payments and photo uploads to customers by email or SMS text message. FLOW lets you verify recipient identity, track the status of sent messages and more.

To compare how FLOW Technology stacks up against lower tech modes of communication, download our Traditional VS Digital Communication for Accounts Receivable Comparison.

Download Traditional Vs. Digital Communication Comparison 
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Hannah Huerta - PDCflow Marketing Specialist
Hannah Huerta, Marketing Specialist

Hannah Huerta is a Marketing Specialist at PDCflow. She creates content for the accounts receivable and payment industry.

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