Your business needs a lot from you, and you welcome any opportunity to put tasks on autopilot.
We have good news for you: recurring payments allow you to collect money from your customers, with little to no elbow grease required.
Intrigued? We thought so. We’re digging into everything you need to know about using recurring payments to streamline your business, stabilize your cash flow, and keep your customers happy.
What is a recurring payment?
Recurring payments happen when a business automatically charges a customer on a set schedule. These automatic payments are typically charged to a customer’s credit card or debit card or are deducted from their bank account through an ACH transfer.
You probably make a few automatic payments each month yourself. Think about your Netflix subscription payments. Or your gym membership. Or your monthly meal subscription box. Those are all examples of recurring billing, as you’re being charged on a set payment schedule on an ongoing basis.
What are the benefits of using recurring billing?
Recurring billing is fairly popular among consumers. In 2017, the average customer paid a little over six bills per month automatically.
Why did they go that route? Well, automatic payments offer several benefits—for both the consumer and the business.
Increased convenience for customers
There’s no shortage of payment options out there, but the recurring payment option is the only one that takes all of the burden off your customers.
You store the customer’s payment information in your payment gateway and automatically charge them on a set billing cycle. Your customer pays for your product or service without lifting a finger or going through a lengthy checkout process.
That added convenience can boost your customer retention rate—and, as a result, your profits.
Reduce late or missed payments
Since automatic payments can happen without the involvement of your customer, you reduce the potential for late or missed payments.
When 46% of consumers admit that they’ve paid a bill late when they opted to make a one-time manual payment, recurring payments eliminate the potential for error and forgetfulness.
Save time and eliminate administrative headaches
As many as 40% of business owners say that bookkeeping is the worst part of running a small business, and nobody enjoys chasing down money from their customers.
When you automate your payment processing, you save yourself time and hassle. You can securely store your customers’ payment details and collect your hard-earned money with little to no manual effort.
Stabilize your cash flow
You know that cash is king in your business, and cash flow issues are cited as the cause of business failure 82% of the time.
When customers don’t pay on time, you need to stay afloat by finding money elsewhere. In fact, 57% of small business owners say they use personal funds to cover cash flow twice a year or more. Recurring payments happen predictably, leading to much more consistent and stable cash flow.
What kinds of businesses use recurring payments?
Many different businesses use recurring payment plans—from e-commerce companies to service providers. Daycare centers, gyms, SaaS products, utility companies, professional services…the list goes on and on.
Recurring billing can be used by a variety of industries and business models, provided you meet two criteria:
- You work with repeat customers.
- You work with your repeat customers on a regular basis.
So, if you own a café and work with a corporate client a few times per year as needed, that’s not a great fit for recurring billing. But, if you cater their same luncheon every month, you could set that up on a recurring payment plan.
Best practices for using automated billing
The very premise of recurring billing is that it’s supposed to be easy. But, that doesn’t mean you can roll it out and watch as the magic happens. There are a few best practices you should know to do this right.
1. Set up reminders for account updates
You’ve probably had it happen before: Your credit card expired, and you were mailed a new one with a shiny, new expiration date. You had to update that payment information in dozens of places, and of course, you forgot one. You received an email saying your online payment couldn’t be processed because of incorrect payment details.
It’s a familiar plight for your customers too, which is why you should use your payment solution to set up alerts when payment information is incorrect or about to expire.
That way, you can notify your customers when they need to update their credit card information—before you even try to process their payment.
2. Offer flexibility with payment schedules
You’re concerned about your business’s cash flow, but remember that your customers worry about managing their income and expenses too.
That’s why it’s helpful to offer different payment plans and frequencies. Particularly if your products or services are more expensive, some customers might not be able to cover a large monthly charge. Breaking that into weekly or biweekly payments might be more manageable.
Be flexible with the payment schedules you make available to your customers, so they can choose the frequency that’s right for them.
3. Make it easy to cancel
While recurring billing should hopefully boost your customer retention, there will come a time when a customer wants to pause or cancel their payments. When that happens, they shouldn’t need to jump through endless hoops.
Unfortunately, 42% of consumers say they’ve found it difficult to turn off recurring charges. If the payment process is easy, the cancellation process should be too.
Whenever you enroll a new customer in automatic billing, provide them with instructions to update their payment information as well as cancel their payment subscription when they need to. Hiding those details will only breed frustration.
4. Maintain a connection with your customers
Your billing and invoicing might be happening on autopilot, but remember that businesses are still built on relationships.
Remember to maintain a personal connection with your customers. Send a regular newsletter or a holiday card. Check in with them periodically to ask for feedback about your product or service.
Do what you can to continue to foster that relationship and fuel brand loyalty. Your payments are low touch, but your business shouldn’t be.
Get your money, without the headaches and hassles
There aren’t many aspects of your business that run without your involvement. But, when you set up recurring payments, you can put your billing on autopilot.
Doing so means less work for you and a more streamlined experience for your customers. How’s that for a win-win?
This content is for information purposes only and should not be considered legal, accounting or tax advice, or a substitute for obtaining such advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by state or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit Inc. does not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit Inc. does not warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.
We provide third-party links as a convenience and for informational purposes only. Intuit does not endorse or approve these products and services, or the opinions of these corporations or organizations or individuals. Intuit accepts no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content on these sites.
Featured Image Credit: Doucefleur / iStock.