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Although it’s not sexy, billing and collections are tasks no club operator is able to avoid.
Jackie Meier, the vice president of The Midwest Athletic Clubs (The MAC) in Iowa, said their company had been doing its own in-house billing since opening in 1984. That was until June 2013, when it made the decision to turn the billing process over to health club management software company ASF Payment Solutions.
With the addition of ASF, Meier said The MAC was able to reduce its staff in the corporate office, as they now rely on ASF for billing, processing accounts and depositing money.
With six locations, all of which had different levels of membership costs and hours, it took an investment of time and resources to begin using ASF. But according to Meier, it has been worth it.
“The best part is not having to deal with a member if they are not paying,” explained Meier. “ASF takes actions and steps to collect the past dues, so we are here to service our members with fitness.”
In addition, Meier explained ASF’s customer service has been stellar, which helped The MAC choose them over other billing and processing companies.
However, there is no way for ASF or any other billing and processing company to guarantee payment 100 percent of the time. Therefore, Meier said The MAC is also equipped with a process for when ASF is unsuccessful at getting payment from members. “Once a member has been exhausted and returned to us for non-payment, we continue the process with First Credit Services, where they take over the account for further collections,” she said.
Peter Cicale, the owner of Olympia Gym and Sun Up Tanning Salon, has been in the health club industry for more than 45 years and has held positions at every level of the business, from janitorial roles to management.
Cicale said all of his experience has shown him that when it comes to billing and collections, some companies can offer services others can’t, which is why he balances his collections outsourcing between software companies MINDBODY and the Affiliated Acceptance Corporation (AAC).
“AAC handles all of the billing and they get out letters for late payments, whereas MINDBODY, they won’t do that,” said Cicale.“But they will keep track of all the sessions of personal training, you can sell memberships online and they do that collecting for you.”
Cicale said before he discovered billing software he would do his own in-house collecting and keep records on three-by five-inch note cards. “It was getting rough for me to spend time with my clients, with my staff and myself, so I hired [AAC] and it took a big load off of me and gave me more time to work my business other than the collections part,” he said. “It costs a few dollars, but it’s well worth it.”
Cicale added AAC provides a great checking system, so if there are any problems with financing or with clients missing payments, it shows up on the computer and his staff members are able to handle the issues immediately.
“The system also keeps track of how often clients come in, and when we see a client hasn’t come in within 30 days, we know to give them a phone call,” he added. “That’s what it’s all about — retention.”