By: Gene Marks
Don’t you just love calling on deadbeat customers and being given excuses like “your invoice got lost” or “we only process checks once a month?”
Kimberly Martinez has seen this movie, and she hated it. Her $2 million (sales) fashion accessories firm Bonitas International sells lanyards, “organza bags” and other things my teenage daughter and wife would buy. About a year ago Martinez’s wholesalers were taking their sweet time paying her and she was about ready to explode.
Then Martinez signed up for American Express’ AcceptPay electronic invoicing and payment service. If what follows sounds like something crafted by a guy on AmEx’s payroll, please rest assured I’m not. What I’m doing, with Martinez’s help, is trying to help your company be a little quicker, better and wiser.
AcceptPay lets Martinez send customized invoices to her customers via e-mail. She imported a customer list so the amount of time it took for her to get up and running was minimal. Some of her customers get recurring invoices too, which the service allows her to automatically set up, so no billings fall through the cracks. Martinez requests a return receipt to make sure all is well. (For those especially intractable accounts, she has someone from her office call just to make sure the bill was received. It’s so easy to blame non-receipt on those evil spam filters, isn’t it?)
As for getting cash in the door, the invoices carry a link that customers can click to make a payment right then and there–like buying a book at Amazon.com. (The service accepts any credit card, not just American Express.) With a little effort, the service can also be set up to initiate immediate transfers from a customer’s bank account, if so authorized.
Simplicity has its benefits. For starters, Martinez doesn’t have to maintain or manage her customers’ credit card numbers. “That’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen, isn’t it?” she asks. Absolutely: Mismanagement of personal data, particularly credit card data, has been a growing liability for small businesses. AcceptPay is the Excedrin to that headache.
Online invoicing/payment saves time, too. The customer does the data entry; payments are recorded automatically. Martinez can synchronize this data directly with her QuickBooks accounting system. Receipts are automatically e-mailed to customers for their records. And because AcceptPay is an online service, the data can be accessed from anywhere.
“My customers love this,” says Martinez. “They don’t have to process checks. They’ve cut down on their own paperwork.” Best of all, she adds: “They can pay us quickly.”
Since she started using AcceptPay, Martinez says that her average collection time has dropped to 53 days from 70–a 24% improvement. On a typical $100,000 accounts receivable balance, Gonzalez has earned a couple thousand bucks in interest a year on that extra cash.
AcceptPay costs $20 per month for unlimited everything (invoices, receipts, you name it). Transaction fees on credit cards still apply, but they always applied. A couple of hundred bucks a year to save a few thousand seems like a pretty good deal to me.