Monday, April 21, 2014

How To Get Payment In Full

Often our clients will ask us how we are able collect on the accounts they assign to our office. They wonder, when a patient or consumer pays their balance in full with our office, "What did they do differently?" Or "Why didn't the customer pay our office?"

It can be frustrating to work with a consumer or patient for several months; just for them to blow you off in the end. Here are some of our tips for asking and collecting payment in full.

  1. Review the account. Read all the notes including insurance information. Make sure insurance was billed properly. Often times a service incurred at one facility involves multiple medical providers who bill separately. If you do not have insurance information available, and unable to get information from the patient, try contacting the other providers involved. Did they receive the insurance information? Also check online data bases to see if the patient has state insurance.
  2. Check for property. This is a very fast and easy step. Most assessor offices have information available online. Search for the county assessor's website online and determine whether or not the customer owns property. Property can be an indicator of the ability to pay in full.
  3. Contact the customer as soon as possible by telephone. Don't assume the monthly statement you are sending out is being read or even opened. We often hear people say "I never received a notice." By telephoning the customer directly we can avoid the "I didn't know" scenario.
  4. Expect payment in full. Often times we unintentionally give customers a way out of paying their balance in full or within a timely manner. We simply ask the wrong questions. Always assume the patient or customer wants and can pay their balance in full and ask questions that get "yes" answers.
  5. Ask customers to use a credit card. Immediately after you identify yourself and the debt owed to the customer ask the customer if they would like to put his or her balance on a credit card. Explain that putting the balance in full on their credit card will save them time and hassle in the end. If insurance is pending, reassure the patient that once insurance pays, they will receive a refund.
  6. Suggest refinancing their property. If you locate property suggest that the customer refinance in order to pay off outstanding debt and most times reduce their monthly mortgage payment at the same time. Let them know that when they refinance and consolidate their debt, they will actually be paying out less money each month and saving money to pay additional or unexpected expenses.
  7. Advise of credit reporting. When customers pay their balances in full they are protecting their credit. Explain that in the event their account is sent to collections their credit report could reflect a negative reporting of the debt you are calling about. This negative report could prevent them from purchasing items on credit or result in them having to pay a higher interest rate.
  8. Family and Friends. If the customer cannot pay in full on their own or with a credit card suggest they talk to family or friends for help. Most people have someone they can turn to when they need to borrow money.
  9. Ask about liquidating small assets. One very good resource for quick cash is a garage or yard sale. Everybody laughs at this suggestion, however we've seen many people pay their accounts in full using this easy and effective method. Everybody has old stuff they don't need or use anymore and consumers may not realize that they can sell their old stuff to get money. A yard sale can easily generate $200 to $1,000 in only one weekend making it a worthwhile venture. Consumers can also utilize pawn shops to sell old guns, tools, musical instruments and DVDs.
  10. Suggest they borrow the money from a bank or other lending institution. Refer patients with a good income and assets to their bank for a debt consolidation loan. Consumers often don't realize what they are asking when they ask to make payments. They are asking you, the creditor, to act as a bank lending them credit. Unless you are going to charge interest, we wouldn't recommend this. It is far better for the consumer to borrow the money and protect their credit.
  11. Find out if the consumer is making a car payment. If the consumer only owes a couple of hundred dollars, deferring their car payment is an easy way for consumers to find some extra money to payoff a debt. Many loan companies allow the customer to defer ONE car payment a year without it affecting their credit rating. The customer should contact their loan company first and ask about deferring the current payment due to the end of their loan. This allows customers to "skip" a car payment and free up money to pay off their account. Not all companies allow this so it's important that the customer discuss with the loan company first.
  12. Offer to adjust the balance. Sometimes all it takes is a little cooperation to get the consumer to pay their balance. If the consumer seems upset and angry, writing off part of the balance can help resolve the dispute in a quick and efficient way. If you have the ability, offer a 5%, 10% or even 15% write off if the customer pays their balance in full. If you add interest or late fees, offer to write those off.
  13. Get rid of objections. Many times customers won't pay because they believe a third party, such as insurance, is obligated to pay. Educate the consumer and let them know what has already been done and what can be done now. Making things easier for the patient or consumer will result in faster payment from them or their insurance company.
  14. Hang tough! No matter how hard we try, or how many concessions we make, we cannot please all consumers or resolve all disputes. However, when we've provided all the information and done all we can to assist the customer, sometimes the best course of action is to simply hang tough. This means not giving in too soon. It's okay if you are not able to make an arrangement on the first telephone call. Gather as much information you can, advise the customer of the debt and then end the conversation. Let the customer think about it and follow up in a couple of days. You may be surprised at how many people call you back with payment in full.