Collecting money regularly

PaySimple upgrades automatic billing services.

Every business owner and accounting manager asks the same question: How can I bill and collect more money with less hassle?

Surveys show that half of all small businesses have trouble collecting money regularly. So I called Eric Remer, CEO of PaySimple, a company that specializes in automating regular billing processes and collections, to find out about the company’s just released services and software upgrade.

“We found about 50% of U.S. households pay one or more monthly bills automatically, like cable service,” said Remer. “Why can't small businesses be as efficient with something like car payments as the cable company is with automatic billing?”

While PaySimple handles every kind of invoice, it focused on recurring payments for companies like health clubs, schools of all kinds, security services and even Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers. Just about any company or government agency with recurring billings can save time with PaySimple's services.

The upgrade focuses on four areas: payment processing, batch operations, transaction reports and system management. Clients use Web forms to manage the SaaS-based PaySimple, and can create one-of invoices or schedule a regular invoice for a nine month school year or a sixty month car payment. Payments through the system can be made by the customer clicking on a button in their invoice and paying with a credit card, or electronic bill presentment through the Automatic Clearing House (ACH) system like big companies.

Invoices can restrict payment to one option or let the customer pay a different way each month, if they wish. Restrictions go as deep as limiting which particular credit card account may be used to pay a bill, which helps stop the unfortunate sneaky practice of company insiders redirecting or appropriating customer payments.

Some companies use PaySimple as a CRM application, tracking ordering and payment history online through the customer overview tools. A limited amount of e-mail marketing comes with the package, including an option to send a note a few days before the automatic withdrawal so the customer’s bank account isn't caught short. E-mail templates, including adding images and logos, help your customers appreciate the professional process, as do optional thank you e-mails.

Interestingly, non-profit groups leverage PaySimple to make donations easier, and automatic donations less variable. It's one thing for a church member to forget to bring a check one Sunday, but much harder to stop an authorized automatic payment.

Beefing up management and reports should always be at the top of all new versions for any software product or service. PaySimple added a pre-written report with a name I can clearly understand: “Where's My Money?” How's that for a back to basics approach to cash flow planning?

Custom report options abound, but “90% of customers use the default reports only,” Remer said. That matches what I see in similar situations, as most users don't spend the time to create new reports unless the packaged report templates really stink. For those interested, every piece of data in the PaySimple system can be used in customer reports, along with customized filters, promises Remer.

Regarding PaySimple’s auditing process becoming compliant with Payment Card Industry security rules, Remer said companies using PaySimple for sending invoices and processing payments already pass 80% of the security tests required by PCI. Since PaySimple works on the SaaS model, customer financial data stays inside their system rather than scattered over multiple computers inside subscriber companies.

“How much does all of this cost?” seems a fair question about a payment service. The answer? $199 setup and $20 per month, plus a small transaction charge. Upcoming fee schedule adjustments, promises Remer, will help customers with fewer transactions justify signing up for the service. Unlike bill presentation services, PaySimple includes the gateway to all manner of financial transaction services with banks. More than just an invoice service, Remer promises PaySimple will be a revenue-enhancing service.

Customer retention should be a great sales tool. According to Remer, “once a company signs up, the attrition rate is less than 1% per month.” If PaySimple customers weren't saving time and money with the service they wouldn't keep using the service. Better invoicing and payment processing means better cash flow.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022