For decades, aesthetic practitioners and clinics of all sizes have been faced with a lack of options to take payment. The only way in which to take an electronic payment has been through one variation or another of card payments, all of which tend to go through one of three suppliers. This lack of competition within the market has seen many independent practitioners opt not to take digital payments due to the costs of renting card terminals and processing payments. Established practices have found themselves paying high fees, often not receiving their money for days and sometimes affected by chargebacks while using a process that is often laborious.
Open banking is an initiative that started in 2018 as a means to improve competition in the marketplace through the regulated sharing of bank account data via FCA (Financial Conduct Authority)-regulated companies in the UK. This has given rise to financial management products, affordability checks and payment products, among other services. One such payment method is BOPP. Through automating the process of paying a bank transfer to the extent that it competes with credit and debit cards, clinics of all sizes can now take digital payments in a variety of ways, on a pay-as-you-go basis with low fees, no chargebacks and instant settlement.
The pay-as-you-go nature of BOPP means that it can be used as either the main method of payment or a back-up method with no risk. The flexibility of BOPP’s Paylinks means they can be used for areas that clinics might not have previously considered. For example, a Paylink that expires after X number of uses can be used to replace finance options for treatment courses, in some cases. Open banking payment methods like BOPP eliminate the need to have a card terminal with associated contracts, monthly costs and transaction fees.
BOPP’s pay-as-you-go app simply generates shareable payment QR codes that the customer can scan through the security of their banking app without having to share or enter any personal details. As far as the customer is concerned, all they need is online banking to be able to pay. These QR codes can also be pre-printed, allowing the customer to simply scan it and enter the amount they have been asked to pay – as per the Alzheimer’s Research QR code below. Both the customer’s app and your BOPP dashboard update in real-time, keeping track of payment status. This is ideal to relieve strain on the reception area during busy periods or with fewer members of staff.
It is problematic for businesses of all sizes to process card payments over the phone, and this has been exacerbated by GDPR. Taking payment for treatments or products over the phone in such a way is a lengthy process that is highly vulnerable to human error. Once card details are taken, customers usually must still respond to two-factor authentication (usually by text) – which is set to become mandatory in March 2022. Many clinics pay third party companies to encrypt this process and others pay them to delete sections of calls where card details have been recorded. However, such services are not feasible for many businesses, and offer a poor user experience at best.
With open banking payment methods like BOPP, payment can be taken remotely and with ease. Since no data is shared in the payment process, GDPR is far less of an issue. When needing to take payment over the phone, clinics and independent practitioners alike can simply create a Paylink in the app and send it by text, email or WhatsApp while on the phone with the client. So, instead of entering card details then responding to an SMS, the payer just responds to a link in one message. This works well for the payment of consultation fees, pre-payment or debt collection – if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re chasing overdue payment, you can easily send payment reminder links, making it as simple as possible for the customer to pay then and there.
BOPP can also be used in more formal payment settings, such as when invoicing other service providers in the running of your clinic business; it can easily be configured so that invoices sent through packages such as Xero and Quickbooks automatically provide a unique BOPP Paylink for that invoice.
Online payments are subject to high rates of card fraud, so fees above 2% are not uncommon. BOPP can be liked to your clinic’s e-commerce site where you may sell skincare, allow clients to book and pay for treatments online, or sell gift cards, for example. This online checkout is subject to the same low pricing as the payment app and makes chargebacks a thing of the past. Furthermore, card payments are not always processed successfully, so in giving customers this freedom of choice and ease, the number of successful payments to your business is likely to increase.
Mark Sawa is an account director at Agitate, a financial services company focused on digital relationships and electronic payments. Mark works full time on BOPP Payments.