Portals, the gateway to a business. When I think of portals, my mind goes straight to the ever-important payment portal. How can I make it easy and convenient for my customers to pay me? What better way than to provide them with a payment portal? It’s all about them. Or is it? Payment portals allow YOU, the business, to get your money quicker and with less work.
I like the full-service payment portal. Customers can see their invoices, print them off, export them if they want to, select what they want to pay and send a message to their favorite credit manager. On the flip side, the portal applies the payments whenever possible, is always available, and allows the money to flow in. Cash flow. Love it.
There are all flavors of payment portals out there. My favorite, which we have already discussed, the straightforward, portal that takes the customers money, no AR automation functionality, and you apply the money and then there is everything in between.
Do you want to take credit card only, ACH, bank draft, allow customers to use credits or overpayments, make advanced payments (for those all-important COD customers or down payment accounts), what is your expectation?
The challenge is not with all this pay portal goodness. Portals are awesome. The challenge comes from identifying and researching it. There are tons of software companies out there for this function, and more, you have to narrow it down to which of those you want to learn more about. Which means talking to a sales rep. Now, I love sales people but this process is exhausting. You reach out, ask for some pricing, because before I invest an hour or more in watching all the wonderful goodness the product has, I want to know if I can afford it. Is this something even in my price range?
And while we are at it, can you give it to me in the ENTIRE package? Not “somewhere around $X per month”. What is the integration fee, if any, is there a charge for each user on my team, is there a monthly service fee, is it based on number of invoices, do you take a percentage of each payment, does the price differ based on payment type, how long has this software been in the market, can I talk to some others who have my same ERP system and the product?
Biggest frustration is watching a demo, being shown what the company wants me to see and then STILL not getting a price. Now I have to get them a bunch of information, usually invoices numbers, size of each transaction, credit card data, how many kids I have, do they still live at home, etc. Ok, not quite that bad but you get the idea.
To save yourself some irritation, figure out exactly what you are looking for, ask around to others in the industry, see who others have vetted out and the experience. That will save you a lot of time. Then get your most tech savvy person in the company to start qualifying software. Narrow it down to your two favorites, bite the bullet and invest the time to do the walk through. Ask to “drive”. I don’t want to see the sales person or one of their trainers show me, turn the controls over to me and let me play in the system. That will show me right out of the gate how this is going to go. It always makes me giggle to hear the response when I ask to drive. Throws them back a step. What is the fear there my guy? If I can break the demo, you have some work to do.
Now get out there and get the cash flow machine you deserve.
Thea Dudley is an expert credit and collections officer, having spent 30 years in the construction field working for contractors and distributors. See her full bio here.
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