Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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Practice Ignition powers up payments process with direct debit function

Australian client onboarding tool Practice Ignition has added a direct debit payments option to its repertoire of features, allowing accountants and bookkeepers to capture client billing information at the point of sign-up.

2nd Jan 2020
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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 Practice Ignition now offers users a proactive form of direct debit payments that puts the onus on the client to add their billing details at the point of sign-up.

 The client onboarding software vendor has also added a number of further tools to streamline the process of collecting payments for accountants. Features include incorporating payments into the terms of engagement and an additional failed payment feature which automatically notifies the client if their payment has failed, and prompts them to update their billing information.

Direct debits: The basic process

Using Practice Ignition, the accountant creates a proposal with their firm’s terms of service and sends it to the client. The client then signs the proposal using a digital signature tool, and the software will prompt the client for billing information via direct debit. 

Billing information must be provided before clients can digitally sign the agreement, which then automatically deploys invoices into the accounting software and reconciles the payments against those invoices automatically.

The client only has to sign once to accept the proposal, the terms of engagement, and for Practice Ignition to set up a direct debit mandate in the background, killing three birds with one digital signature.

Practice Ignition’s head of accounting Trent McLaren told AccountingWEB that the vendor has offered direct debit payments in Australia and North America for quite a number of years, so adding this feature to the UK was a “natural progression”.

“It’s a super-streamlined process for clients of accountants or bookkeepers because they can sign the contracts but are required to put the billing information in,” explained McLaren. “We already process credit cards so clients can now choose between the two payment options.”

Whereas many payments services on similar platforms are a mix of disconnected functions, McLaren believes there isn't anything else globally that has this core functionality. 

“Practice Ignition is a proposal engagement system that has a payments function heavily integrated into the process, and for client experience and professional services, nothing comes close to this sort of functionality,” said McLaren. “The client experience and ensuring the client signs the direct debit authority at the point of signing your contract makes the new feature unique."

Proposal changes? No problem.

By incorporating payments into the terms of engagement, Practice Ignition automatically updates the engagement letter, payment details and invoice details (if using Xero or QuickBooks) whenever there is a change in scope of the proposal. Again, killing three processes with one step.

According to McLaren, one of the feature’s big selling points is where fees are increasing for software subscriptions. “If the subscriptions are all managed through Practice Ignition’s proposal and payment schedule, users can seamlessly update one source of truth, which will then automatically update the payment and invoice schedule.” 

The implication of this feature is that if a firm is managing thousands of clients on, for example, Xero, QuickBooks or Receipt Bank and the vendor raises its price, Practice Ignition users only have to make one update.

Want to stop chasing failed payments?

Practice Ignition has also updated its payment charging process so accountants are no longer charged for failed payments. 

The vendor recently launched client self-service retries, an additional failed payment feature which automatically notifies the client if their payment has failed and prompts them to update their billing information. When a payment schedule fails, clients can immediately update their billing information, select a different card or add a new card, which will automatically retry the payment.

“The reason that's a cool feature is it's not reliant on the accountant to chase the client – it will automatically prompt the client to fix it and self-service the retry,” explained McLaren. This process will occur every time a payment fails, so if the payment fails several times over a monthly period, the accountant will know they need to cease work if they’re not receiving the fees.

“I've been in two meetings today where this has been the case, and if they know they're not getting paid, they can't continue to keep servicing the client”, said McLaren.

Payment disbursements, transaction fees and cost of service

In an attempt to remove the reconciliation issues surrounding payments being disbursed net of fees, Practice Ignition now disburses payments in full. Transaction charges are contained in arrears alongside subscription fees, making the process of reconciliation of transactions with charges an automatic step. 

The fees for direct debit payments depend on the price plan the user is signed up to with Practice Ignition, ranging between £2 and £3/transaction a month.

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By David Gordon FCCA
09th Jan 2020 13:26

What Horse-feathers is this?

I have automatically been signing new clients onto payment by monthly s/o and or direct debit for at least twenty years.

Accounting with recording onto a spreadsheet is easy.

You just tick off the list each month.
If someone has not paid, you pick up the phone.
For around one hundred subs it takes about half an hour to check.
I do not recollect more than one or two rubber DD per annum.

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