Most business owners would prefer not to spend their evenings doing cash collections. Signing up to use GoCardless is a step in the right direction, but saying goodbye to time-consuming cash collections is only achievable if the majority of your customers opt in to paying through GoCardless. We spoke to two cleaning business owners, Pete Bodington from Premier Window Cleaning, and Michael O’Dowd from M&M, about how they encourage their customers to pay by Direct Debit through GoCardless for CleanerPlanner.
Establish a seamless sign up process
Before approaching customers you’ll need to make sure that you have a seamless system in place to allow customers to sign up to Direct Debit with GoCardless. Whether that’s asking them to enter their details on your website, entering them on a tablet while speaking to them on the doorstep, or emailing them a link to pay, making this process easy takes away any friction and gets customers set up more quickly.
Once you’ve chosen your system, be sure to test it before rolling it out to your customers. Pete Bodington from Premier Window Cleaning in Cheltenham explains: “Before we put it in front of our customers, we spent a lot of time testing the service as if we were customers. It helped us understand exactly what the customers were seeing.”
You can also use software like CleanerPlanner. CleanerPlanner integrates with GoCardless and links your Direct Debit payments to your customers and jobs you do for them, making it even easier to know who has paid at any one time.
Explain how Direct Debit works
80% of Brits have at least one Direct Debit, so the majority of customers will be familiar with it. However, Michael has found that “while the overall response has been very positive, customers don’t expect a window cleaner to offer Direct Debit”.
This is because in the past Direct Debit wasn’t accessible for small businesses. The emergence of companies like GoCardless has made it possible for thousands of small business across the UK to use Direct Debit.
It’s important to emphasise that these Direct Debit payments will only be taken when a clean has been completed, unlike a monthly Direct Debit for a phone contract or energy bill, for example. So, if you clean a customer’s windows twice a year they will only see two payments annually. “If I don’t do the clean then I won’t take the payment,” Michael explains.
You can also explain to your customers that any payments will be protected under the Direct Debit Guarantee. Under the guarantee, customers can request a refund for any payment they believe was taken in error, they also have to be notified before a payment is taken.
GoCardless send notifications by email 3 days in advance, giving the customer a chance to raise any issues about the payment before it is take from their account.
Show that GoCardless is a trusted provider
Entering bank details online can make some customers think twice, so it’s important to reassure them that their details are in safe hands. GoCardless processes over £5 billion in payments annually for more than 40,000 organisations including The Guardian and HM Government. Having these credentials in your mind can help to reassure customers should they ask about it.
Michael’s advice is to “keep the explanation short and direct them to your website,” so that customers can look over any additional information in their own time. Our Direct Debit guide for payers is a useful link. If a customer wants more information, you can also reassure them that any payments made through GoCardless are protected by the Direct Debit Guarantee.
Michael uses the “Pay by GoCardless” widget that his software, CleanerPlanner, provides on his website and also directs customers to the GoCardless website.
Explain how it will make customers’ lives easier
You will have already started to see the benefits that using GoCardless brings to your business: no more chasing payments or unpaid bills and no more evening cash collections or hours checking for customer payments on your online banking. But Direct Debit doesn’t just benefit your business, there are a whole host of advantages for customers too.
Once the Direct Debit is set up:
The customer no longer needs to remember to have cash on them when you visit;
they don’t need to remember to send a bank transfer or set up a standing order; and
they won’t need to be chased for payment when they’ve forgotten it.
“Less and less people have cash on them these days,” says Pete from Premier Window Cleaning. In fact, one of Pete’s new customers only chose his company because they could pay even if they were out of the house.
Overall, “customers love it because they don’t need to think about it,” as Michael from M&M puts it.
Offer an incentive
Given the time and cost -saving benefits of GoCardless, you may want to pass some of these savings on to your customers as an incentive to sign-up, for example a free or discounted window clean.
For a limited time, Premier Clean offered customers who chose GoCardless 10% of their next clean.
Pete from Premier Window Cleaning offers a free clean for all new customers who sign up to pay by Direct Debit. “For the amount of time we save, it’s worth it,” he explains.
Signing up existing customers
Once you have decided how you will integrate paying by Direct Debit in to your onboarding process, make your current customers aware and encourage them to switch.
The example email below uses the tactics we have discussed to explain the system and its benefits to existing customers.
At [COMPANY NAME] we’ve been thinking about making life easier for our customers.
One way of doing this is making it much easier to pay. Rather than having to ensure you have cash when we visit or sending bank transfers each time we clean, we now offer automated online payments, via Direct Debit.
GoCardless is a Bacs approved Direct Debit bureau that allows you to set up payments to be taken automatically whenever we finish cleaning your windows. They work with over 40,000 business across the UK including The Financial Times and Virgin.
All you need to do is enter your details online here [enter link to Direct Debit signup page] and that’s it - your payments can be processed automatically after we have cleaned your windows. You will be notified before each payment is taken, and we’ll only take a payment if a job has been completed.
[For every customer that signs up to pay through GoCardless we’re giving 50% off their next clean.]
If you have any questions, you can find out more details on the GoCardless website or get in touch with us on [phone number].
All the best, [Name and Company]
Signing up new clients to GoCardless
When it comes to new customers, we recommend introducing GoCardless at the start of your business relationship, encouraging them to sign up to Direct Debit from the beginning.
Both Pete and Michael now require all new customers to sign a GoCardless mandate ”after [the] first clean at the very latest” - something which Pete makes clear in his initial email to customers.
Michael says he’s had “less than 1% drop-off” from customers who can’t pay by GoCardless. It’s a tiny minority but he does make some exceptions for example, elderly customers who aren’t familiar with paying for things online, or people who don’t have wifi in their house.
Other than the few exceptions, Michael says, “if they can’t sign up to a mandate then you have to question if they’re going to be a committed long term customer”.