What to consider when selecting your billing partner.
Choosing the right software/billing partner is not a project that can be taken lightly. Considering it may be the largest partner you employ, there are a lot of factors to consider to make an informed decision.
For Greg Cibura, the chief technology officer at Fitness Formula Clubs, a great place to start when choosing a billing partner is to evaluate their company culture.
“It’s the personality of a company that provides a window into the company’s core values and behaviors,” said Cibura. “The culture — especially during difficult times — will impact everything from productivity and engagement to retention and growth. Learn as much as you can about their ethics, goals and expectations. They need to be as committed as you are so that you can seamlessly work together toward achieving your goals.”
Although this will take time to investigate, Cibura said it will be more than worth it. The amount of technical debt and time investment is something that needs to be understood, as these types of partnerships cannot be easily divorced.
Cibura said a great way to experience the company culture is to visit the corporate offices, talk with several team members — not only sales and project managers — and experience the company’s authentic self. “At the end of the day, your values should parallel your software/billing partner’s values, so they will treat every project like it’s their own,” he explained.
For Shawn Stewart, the owner and CEO of Fuel Fitness, finding a billing partner that aligned with his company’s values was crucial.
“I changed from our previous software last June and went with ABC Fitness Solutions for all Fuel Fitness locations,” said Stewart. “We did extensive research and demos, and ABC checked the most boxes for what we require in a software program. Partner is the right term to use here. We require a company who will be engaged in all aspects of our business, offer insights and solutions, and is well versed in the fitness industry.”
The main things Stewart was looking for when selecting a billing partner were:
- Customized reporting that meets their specific needs.
- Customer service team that is always on-call to assist.
- Ease of transfer of other software for conversion of acquisitions along with in-depth training and onboarding.
- Compatibility with other programs they use in their clubs.
- Multi-functional for all aspects of the club for use of referrals, tennis, cafe, etc.
- Does it have an app that can be Fuel Fitness branded?
- Does it have a CRM system?
“As well as the items mentioned previously, items to be aware of include the ability to use your own merchant services, negotiate fees to a competitive rate and references from other operators,” explained Stewart. “Make a list of your most critical needs for a software program. There isn’t a perfect solution for your software needs, so go with the one that checks the most boxes.”
Cibura echoed the importance of having references from other facilities.
“Your software/ billing partner should be dedicated, transparent and passionate about the club industry,” said Cibura. “This will go a long way to understand the nuances of your members and can actually help with retention. The best way to find this out? Ask for references from other club companies. Your peers will give you the best feedback and it is truly invaluable based on the importance of a decision like this.”
Another key factor to consider before selecting a billing partner is their communication skills.
Sharing roadmaps, communicating expectations and holding accountability for projects and goals from the beginning will set the foundation for an effective relationship. Cibura said some questions to consider include: Does your main point of contact have something as simple as a direct phone to reach them at? What is the technical support queue like? How about the customer support logistics?
Even if the partner you are considering has excellent communication and is transparent, they still may not be the best fit. You need to consider how innovative the company is. While they may check your boxes now, ask yourself if they can support the needs of your business in the future as well.
“Look at their product and services roadmap — do they even have one?” asked Cibura. “The roadmap will help confirm if your businesses will align, now and in the future. However, even if the roadmaps don’t align, will they even take notes on what you’re looking to accomplish in the future? Any innovation-forward company would want to take advantage of this. At the end of the day, the software/billing partner you choose for a long-term partnership must be flexible to mesh with your business needs and goals.”
Selecting a billing partner is no easy feat. It requires extensive research, demos and evaluation. Because of this it is important to ensure you are choosing a partner — not just a vendor — who will not only help your business grow but also help it thrive.
“I use the word partners here on purpose. You should work together as partners, and openly share knowledge to help you find the best solutions to IT challenges,” said Cibura. “The software/billing partner needs to work out the best ways to make your product even better and advise you on reaching your goals and hitting your KPIs. Are they willing to get in the trenches and make a difference with you, together?”