As a martial arts business owner, no matter how diligent you are about explaining your membership and payment terms up-front to new members, you may sometimes encounter delinquent accounts. You want to help your students and members, but you’re busy teaching classes and running the business. You don’t have time to chase down customers or make countless follow-up calls.
With Kicksite martial arts software, members that fall behind on payments are notified via automated message each time they decline payment, and the admin will receive an automated message email each time a member’s payment declines. Setting up these automated messages are helpful for a lot of martial arts business owners, but sometimes those automated messages are not enough.
Fortunately, there are some tips and best practices you can use to stay on track. Today, we’re highlighting how to collect timely payments and retain your members.
Offer ACH Or Auto Payment For Convenience
Late payments are often the result of forgetful members. To avoid delays in collecting dues or class payments, offer a variety of convenient payment options. Automatic pay by card or bank account are efficient pay methods for your students and ensure you collect regular payments. To make things even easier, help them set it up while they are with you in-person, so you guarantee it is up and running smoothly before they even start their first class.
Set Firm Terms & Conditions
As part of your membership agreement, you should have an outline that dictates a clear plan of action for late and delinquent payments. Be clear about your preferred methods of payment, as well as late fees and a timeline to pay. Don’t assume new members will read the fine print, either. Instead, make a point of reviewing the terms with them in conversation.
Sample terms you might consider:
30-60-90 Day Timeline Before Adverse Action is Taken
Consider creating a short, mid, and long-term timeline for payment terms. Tier late fees or additional charges according to the severity of the lateness. In doing so you, you’ll create a working timeline that is comparable to a minor oversight in payment versus intentional delinquency.
Late Fees Can Be Calculated By Percentages or Static Charges
You can structure your late payment terms as a flat fee to be accrued per day, week, or month. Many agreements assess percentages of dues owed by late fees instead. For purposes of your martial arts business, identify which late pay structure works best with your martial arts software platform, and be sure to outline the details clearly with each new member.
How to Have the Difficult Conversation
In your gym or teaching facility, your students can become like family. Your members can feel like relatives or close friends, and you enjoy a special bond as you help them build confidence and skills in jiu-jitsu or taekwondo. It can be tough to have a conversation with a member or customer who owes money. It’s important to remember to always come from a position of partnership. Try to communicate your willingness to be accommodating but be firm in sticking to your terms. Understand that people can fall behind on their bills. Working with them to help them through this rough patch can preserve your customer relationship for the long term.
- Offer an installment plan to help them catch up.
- Be a good listener, to better understand the situation.
- Don’t be afraid to suspend memberships and classes temporarily until they’re caught up.
- Remember to be patient and kind, but not a doormat.
Setting Up a Calendar of Reminder Messaging
You’re busy teaching and training, and it can sometimes be hard to stay on top of the various pay cycles you have in place. Consider setting up a reminder for yourself to organize your communication efforts with customers and members. Carve out 30 minutes a week to follow up with delinquent customers, or make a point to hire someone to help you with this. In offering reminders for yourself or a staff member, you can quickly identify customers who might not be able to pay, versus the genuine member oversights.
Not Returning Calls? Text Them.
According to an OpenMarket survey, Millennials prefer texting over talking on the phone because it is more convenient and on their own schedule. If your customer is not returning your calls, it may be time to start texting them instead. With Kicksite martial arts software, you have the ability to text your customers directly through our martial arts software system.
Worst Case Scenario
You may find yourself in the worst-case scenario. There may come a point when you decide the customer is unable to be retained. You may decide that the owed amount isn’t worth pursuing further. Before you make that decision, consider your options.
Consider Legal Action
You can seek legal assistance in taking action with the courts. Be mindful of attorney fees, court, and filing costs, along with the total amount owed. Do the math to determine if proceeding is the best course of action.
Persistent Follow-Up Delegation
Sometimes, if a customer owes money, they’ll learn how to dodge your calls and emails. It may be helpful to hire someone else, even part-time, to help reach out on your behalf. An unfamiliar and stern voice of a stranger might get the bills paid.
If you’ve tried everything from calling to certified mail, it may be time to move on. You may have to turn the debt over to a collection agency. When all other efforts are exhausted, don’t be afraid to walk away and chalk it up to lessons learned.
Remember, you’re in the people business as a martial arts business owner. You pride yourself on connecting with students, members, and their families. Follow that same relationship-building approach when it’s time to ask for payment. Remember to be organized and deliberate with your messaging. Communicate clearly about your membership and class terms. Offer reminders for them and yourself to stay on track. As you learn your best process, be diligent about documenting everything from balances to conversations. In doing so, you’ll find that you’ll spend less time chasing down payments and worrying about non-paying customers. Which means you’ll have more time doing what you love most.