Payment procrastinators

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May 01, 2008

Q. What do you do when clients say at checkout they want to pay later?


Pam Stevenson
First, establish, communicate, and enforce protocol for collecting payment for services and products, says Pam Stevenson, CVPM, a consultant with Veterinary Results Management in Durham, N.C. Then consider the situation. Is this a new client? Has she visited at least four times in the past two years? Has she bounced checks or delayed payment before? Have you maintained a relationship with her? The answers determine her risk level and the most appropriate action, she says.

For high-risk clients, you might recommend insurance to help with future care and ask them to prepay or apply for outside financing, such as a third-party payment plan. If they're declined, you know you may not receive payment.

For low-risk clients, request a check or signed credit card imprint to hold. Even your best clients should sign a payment agreement that explains your fees for open accounts, held checks, or other arrangements. Once clients understand borrowing money from you costs more than a credit card charges, they often rectify their account, Stevenson says.

"Do your best to communicate your payment protocol and policies, and know you still won't be 100 percent successful," Stevenson says. "If clients don't pay in 60 days, your chances of collecting payment are slim. Send those accounts to collection, mark the records 'prepay cash only,' and move on."