Awkward Business Conversations: How to Tell Them Their Payment Bounced

How to tell a customer their payment bounced

So, funny story.

As you may know, the revenue model we have at IttyBiz is significantly made up of people who put our classes on payment plans. If you were around for BIG LAUNCH, you may remember that there was a 12-pay option, where instead of paying the full tuition upfront, students could spread their payments over a full year.

Periodically – and by “periodically” here, I mean “around 50 times a month” – PayPal cancels a payment plan (what PayPal refers to as a subscription). Sometimes this is because a credit card expired, sometimes this is because a payment bounced, and sometimes this is because the moon is in Virgo.

When this happens we get an email notification telling us that the subscription was cancelled. In response to this, we send out a standard email to get the sorting it out party started.

In response to one of these emails last week, one of our students replied with:

“Oh my God, I’m so glad I got this. I’ve always wondered how in the **** you’re supposed to handle these things. Why doesn’t anybody teach us how to have the awkward conversations?”

After telling her that she was more than welcome to steal our template, it occurred to me that you might like to have it, too. After THAT occurred to me, it subsequently occurred to me that, no – nobody DOES teach how to have the awkward conversations.

It is for this reason that we say…

Welcome to awkward conversation week!

Industrious beaver that I am, I have compiled a list of awkward things nobody knows how to say, and I will be giving you the templates that the ninjas, Dave and I use for when we have to say them. Sometimes things get sticky, and it helps to have a template or protocol for that.

(Note: the more templates and protocols you have, the less sticky things tend to get. This is true in life as it is in business.)

Therefore, without further ado, here is today’s how to handle a bounced payment or subscription cancellation. Feel free to steal and hack.

(Incidentally, we’ve got four of these planned, but we want you to send in your sticky situations, too. Bring us your trying, your thorns, your sticky messes! We’ll see what we can do to help.)

How to Respond to a Subscription Cancellation, More Than One Payment Left

This is what we use if a subscription has been auto-cancelled on any payment other than the last one.

Hi [name],

Just a friendly note! We’ve received notification from PayPal that your payment plan for [CLASS] has been canceled and we don’t yet have a formal plan for resuming your scheduled payments (or clearing up your balance, if you’d prefer to do that now). We know PayPal has also sent you a notification already, but we thought we’d touch base from our end to let you know what your options are.

(Usually all this fuss is simply because of an expired credit card, but we’ve seen all manner of crazy bank gremlins in our time.)

1. We can send you a link to where you can reinstate your subscription. Good for if you’ve got your new card already or got things sorted out with your bank and things can resume as normal.

2. We can send you an invoice for this month’s payment directly that you can pay through PayPal, but you can use any payment method you like. You can then set up a new subscription payment plan when your bank or credit card company gets it together. Handy for tricky credit card companies who don’t send new cards when they say they will. :)

3. We can send you an invoice for the remainder of your balance and you can settle the account in full.

4. Worst case scenario, if your bank or your credit card are acting really funky, we can just set you up with a recurring invoice and send you a new one every month. We’ll send monthly invoices and you can settle them however you like.

We’ll need to get this taken care of within 10 days, so if you could let us know which option you’d like, we’ll get that started on our end ASAP. If there’s anything we can do to help, or if the gremlins are coming out, please let us know and we’ll help any way we can.

Thanks so much, and thanks for taking [CLASS]! We heart you!

How to Respond to a Failed Payment, More Than One Payment Left

If, for whatever reason, you get a failed payment without a subscription cancellation, and this is not their last payment. Doesn’t seem to happen much with PayPal anymore, but it’s different based on your country, I think.

Hi [name],

Just a friendly note to remind you that your most recent payment for [CLASS] did not go through. We know PayPal has sent you a notification already, but we thought we’d touch base from our end to let you know what your options are for clearing up your balance.

(Usually this is because of an expired credit card, but we’ve seen all manner of crazy bank gremlins in our time.)

1. We can send you a link to where you can reinstate your subscription. Good for if you’ve got your new card already or got things sorted out with your bank and things can resume as normal.

2. We can send you an invoice for this month’s payment directly that you can pay through PayPal, but you can use any payment method you like. You can then set up a new subscription payment plan when your bank or credit card company gets it together. Handy for tricky credit card companies who don’t send new cards when they say they will. :)

3. We can send you an invoice for the remainder of your balance and you can settle the account in full.

4. Worst case scenario, if your bank or your credit card are acting really funky, we can just set you up with a recurring invoice and send you a new one every month. We’ll send monthly invoices and you can settle them however you like.

We’ll need to get this payment taken care of within 10 days, so if you could let us know which option you’d like, we’ll get that started on our end ASAP. If there’s anything we can do to help, or if the gremlins are coming out, please let us know and we’ll help any way we can.

Thanks so much, and thanks for taking [CLASS]! We heart you!

How to Respond to a Last Payment Failing or Subscription Canceling

This is just like above, except simpler – they only need to pay one more time at this point, so it’s an easy one.

Hi [name],

Just a friendly note to remind you that your most recent payment for [CLASS] did not go through. We know PayPal has sent you a notification already, but we thought we’d touch base from our end as well.

(Usually this is because of an expired credit card, but we’ve seen all manner of crazy bank gremlins in our time.)

Since this is your last payment, we don’t need to set up a new subscription – you can simply take care of the balance and no more payments will go through. We’re sending through an invoice now for your balance of [WHATEVER]. The payment processor is PayPal, but you can pay with any accepted payment method you like – PayPal balance, Visa, MasterCard, bank account, or whatever.

If there’s anything we can do to help, or if the gremlins are coming out, please let us know and we’ll help any way we can. If you could get this invoice cleared up within 10 days, we’d appreciate it.

Thanks so much, and thanks for taking [CLASS]! We heart you!

So that’s it! Feel free to hack and chop and steal. Next up we’ll talk about saying you don’t want to work with a potential client.

 

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.