Child care administration isn't easy, especially when it comes to billing. Money is a sensitive topic for families, payment systems are complicated for administration, and we're all subject to human error and forgetfulness. Optimizing your child care billing process means dealing with all these factors.
When optimizing your billing we recommend that you:
- Make payments fast and convenient for parents by using reminders, a variety of payment options, and policy enforcement.
- Streamline your billing process internally, including taking advantage of automation and payment options.
Here are 10 child care billing tips for faster, more efficient billing.
Tips for working with parents on child care billing
1. Enforce your policiesDo not be afraid to set a hard line and stick to it when it comes to payments. You should outline your policies clearly at the time of enrollment and be straightforward about the consequences of late or missed payments. For example, be up front about:
- Your grace period
- What happens when parents miss a payment
- Whether parents can lower the number of hours a child is in your care mid-session
If a problem with payment occurs, it can be tempting to give parents leeway, especially if they have a long relationship with you. But in reality, that makes things messier for them, other parents, and you. If other families discover that you haven't applied your policies the same way across the board, they may expect leniency or feel favoritism is at play, which can affect relationships at your center.
It might feel uncomfortable to enforce your policies, but remind yourself that doing so is the fairest option to you, your staff, and all families at your center.
2. Let parents pay digitally
Make it easy for parents to pay for child care by offering digital payments. Digital payments are more convenient than cash or checks, as parents can pay from anywhere as soon as they receive your bill.
Digital management systems empower even a small child care center to offer digital payment options. A platform like brightwheel can help you accept and manage digital payments from credit cards or directly from bank accounts, and gives parents the option to view and pay their invoices at any time. Removing barriers from making payments can help you collect more timely payments from busy parents.
3. Regularly remind parentsSometimes parents just need a reminder, so build these into your center's routine. Choose a day every month to remind parents that payments are due soon. On that day, use several different types of reminders:
- Put up a sign on your door
- Remind parents verbally at pick up or drop off
- Send kids home with paper notes
- Automate a reminder email
You are doing parents a favor when you take the time to remind them to pay their bills. With this mentality, remind away!
4. Include late notices with daily reports
A late notice in the “Notes” section of a daily report form is easy for staff or a manager to write, and confidential for parents to read.
Additionally, parents know to look at the “Notes” section for important information. By incorporating a late payment reminder into this form, you avoid handing a parent yet another sheet of paper at the end of the day that can end up lost or crumpled.
Of course, this isn't the only way to deal with late payments. If you have a lingering outstanding payment or chronic problems with a family forgetting to pay, a small daily report note alone will not solve your problem. However, a reminder the first day after payments are due can be a good nudge in any payment grace period — remember, everybody slips up sometimes and forgets important tasks, and parents are no different.
5. Open communication early
While you should be fair and consistent in enforcing your payment policies, working with families to identify and solve problems before they become the bane of your billing is the best way to approach sticky situations. If you notice a recurring problem collecting payments from a family, open communication early.
Arrange a time to speak to a parent face-to-face. Emails and push notifications are great for reminders, but speaking with parents directly is the best way to raise concerns and speak with parents. It will be a tough conversation, but a necessary one, to ensure your facility can provide excellent care for every child.
Tips for streamlining your child care billing process
6. Automate invoices
Automation can save your child care center staff time and energy, because it takes care of recurring tasks that can take up time every month. When it comes to billing, automating invoices can be a low-lift way to streamline your administrative tasks that saves time whenever a payment is due.
One way to do this is to set up a recurring payment plan for families, which are simple to create in a system like brightwheel. Brightwheel automatically generates invoices for your families that are set up with a recurring payment plan, and you choose when those get pushed out to parents. Keep in mind that automated invoices differ from automated payments, in that automated invoices notify parents their bill is due, and automated payments make a withdrawal automatically.
7. Automate payments
Autopay is not just convenient for parents, it's also a great tool for lightening your administrative load. It means parents have their card or bank account charged on a certain day of every month to cover the cost of child care.
This can help you get in more payments on time every month, which makes your life easier. Knowing every payment will be automatically made at the end of your pay period means you can get down to balancing your books, and spend less time following up on outstanding payments.
Don't worry about missing anything with autopay, either. Digital systems allow you to easily see who has paid and who is still due, so you won't miss delinquent payments.
8. Emphasize security
When you're using digital payments, emphasize the safety of your online system. When you ask parents to sign up for your digital payment systems, highlight the security measures your payment provider takes to ensure that families' information is safe. When you send out reminders or notifications for payments, reiterate that your system is safe —“You can make a payment with our secure online system...”
If a parent is worried about the safety of your payments, they may waffle between checks and cards, and put off logging into your online portal. By helping parents trust your billing system and feel comfortable with their digital safety, you're removing a barrier to speedy, regular payments.
9. Consider offering partial payments
Giving parents flexibility to make partial payments can reduce amounts owed at the end of billing periods. Every family's budgeting, finances, etc. are different, and allowing partial payments can help families stay in good standing each month. Some families will appreciate being allowed to pay when they can over the course of your payment period, rather than waiting to hand over a lump sum.
10. Take attendance digitally
If you calculate payments based on the number of hours or days a child was at your center, taking attendance digitally significantly reduces how much time you spend calculating who owes what.
Not only can you automatically see hour and day tallies for students in a digital attendance system, but when you use a digital system that can handle both attendance and billing, you centralize your pertinent information in one place. You can effortlessly go from seeing how many days a student attended to pushing out an invoice without touching a calculator or a calendar.
Empower your businessYour mission as a child care provider is to give children the best place to play, explore, and develop. In order to do this, you need the financial side of your business to be in order, and that means an efficient billing system. The way you approach billing internally and with families can either empower your business or hamper it. By investing in digital solutions, making payments easy and prioritizing consistent, early communication, you are setting yourself up for success.
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