Few things strike terror into the hearts of orthodontists and TCs more than the idea of asking people for their bank account or credit card info to set up a recurring payment. One possible exception is the idea of extending financing beyond treatment time! Our nature is such that we only remember the times that things didn’t work out and, worse than that, we almost always focus on what could go wrong instead of what usually goes right! However, to win the Shopping War we must provide great customer service, an exceptional product and make our fees affordable. If we are going to extend financing to keep a reasonable case fee while remaining affordable, we need to have our patients on auto-draft. ALL OUR PATIENTS!
Here’s an example of how that conversation goes in our office. Hopefully this will be useful to those of you who are struggling to implement universal auto-draft and trying to convince resistant patients and TCs (yes, TCs can be the impediment in many cases so you must be sure your TC is on board!) that auto-draft is the way to go.
TC: Ok so now that we have agreed on how much down and how much a month, we will just need a checking account to set up monthly payments and get started. (We want a checking account because fear of an NSF charge will move your payment to the top of the pile and the fees are lower than a credit card)
Mom: But I don’t want you to draft my checking account.
TC: No problem, you can use a credit card to do auto payments.
Mom: I don’t want to do that either.
TC: No problem, you can pay in full and get a X% bookkeeping credit.
Mom: I don’t want to pay in full.
TC: Not a problem at all, you can sign up for care credit or a local bank and they can give you a payment plan. You just need to fill out this application and have a credit check.
Mom: I don’t want to pay interest and I don’t want to do a credit check.
TC: I understand. It’s better with no interest and that’s why Dr. Burris allows all our patients set up monthly payments with no interest and no credit check. All we need is a bank account to set up monthly drafts… (And the cycle starts over again).
After going a couple rounds if mom doesn’t get it on her own the TC says, “Mom, Dr. Burris believes everyone deserves a great smile and that is why he offers in house financing with no interest and no credit check. We are not a bank and we don’t have the ability to keep up with all those payments without using auto-draft. I’m sorry but it’s just beyond our ability. So to make affordable financing possible we need to use auto-draft. We are giving you a 6000 dollar loan with no collateral and no credit check and no interest. I’m sure you understand.
99 percent of the time this solves the issue and we move on. Every once in a blue moon a mom will stand up and walk out over auto-draft. If that happens the TC will tell the mom that the doctor will be consulted. In these cases we give in and let mom have a coupon book because it’s not worth losing a case over!
The key to making this work, however, is to have a hard and fast rule that EVERYONE IS ON AUTO-DRAFT. PERIOD! If the TCs think they have latitude here, they take the path of least resistance and let everyone who protests out of doing auto-draft. They have to believe in what you are doing. They must believe auto-draft is necessary. It is vital that your TC believes that auto-draft is essential to extending financing and that extended financing is key to increasing access and affordability. The TCs also have to believe they will get fired if they let people avoid auto-draft on a regular basis. I can tell you that we’ve had to fire many, many TCs for refusing to get on board with universal auto-draft because they believe, “most people won’t do auto-draft.”
It is crucial to get all your patients on auto-draft if you want to offer extended financing. PERIOD. It is crucial to offer affordable financing if you want to maintain a healthy, fair case fee. To believe you will be fine without adjusting to the new reality or that doing what you’ve always done will work in the future is folly.