Before you answer this question, ask yourself from your own personal experience:
Which bills do you pay without question?
Which bills do you set aside?
Which bills do you call for more information?
Pay without question. These may be the bills you know will have the same or very close to same balance month to month. You may even have these on an automatic payment schedule, e.g. Cable or Cell Phone.
Set aside. Maybe a bill for a larger amount, one you don’t want to pay until the absolute due date or one without late penalty, e.g. an outstanding balance for a dental visit.
Call for more information. You just don’t understand the itemization. How much of the bill is due and when, and what are your payment options if you’re unable to pay the outstanding balance in full?
Now ask yourself the same questions about your institution’s tuition bills. If they fall into either the second or third group you have a problem. Bills that are late and generate lots of calls aren’t working the way you want them to. Of course there will be times when a student or parent might have to call regarding a charge or to discuss payment, but if your bill is clear and concise it should be effective making calls to your office the exception and not the rule.
While bills may be the one thing that most of us receive on a regular basis in our mailbox or more recently online, we probably don’t give a lot of thought to what goes into creating an effective bill. Mark Carney, Executive Vice President of Technology and Product Delivery for Tuition Management Systems, who delivers over 1.5 million bills each year through a combination of paper and electronic delivery, has done just that in a new ebook entitled Creating Bills that Prompt Payments. Carney, who is responsible for overseeing the Professional Services and Implementation teams at TMS has given bill creation a great deal of thought.
A Call to Action
A bill is, after all, primarily a Call to Action. You owe, please pay. It can also serve as an important tool to communicate other important information. But, if your bill is badly organized, overcomplicated or contains too much extraneous information, your message can be lost. The result isn’t just unpaid bills. It can also mean a spike in call volumes to your Business Office and even potentially jeopardize a student's access to classes.
Less is More
To best serve the single purpose of a call to action, Carney advocates for a minimal approach encouraging the bill designer to avoid anything “that may deflect from the primary objective.” Carney points out the irony that, while a bill is by far the most likely place for a message to be read, if your bill contains too many messages, or messages are poorly placed, it may simply result in further confusion.
Effective Bills Result in Payments
In addition to sharing best practices of good bill design, layout and messaging, Carney looks at other questions on the minds of administrators when it comes to billing like e-bills vs. paper bills, and the protocols for sharing a bill in keeping with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) - a critical piece in getting the bill paid. Carney also explores: Real Time vs. Point in Time Billing and whether billing should be done at your institution or outsourced. Lastly he takes an in-depth look at payment methods as well as choosing the appropriate channels from the variety of those now available to make your bill easy to pay for your students and their families.
Let’s face it. There’s no question that almost all of us suffer from a little attention deficit these days. The constant barrage of information can be very distracting. Distraction is the last thing your Business Office or Accounts Receivables department wants a student or parent to experience when they’re looking at and getting ready to pay that all important tuition bill.
For more information on How to Create Bills that Prompt Payment, download the free eBook now.