The British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) is a membership association and registered charity based in Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Its membership of counselling professionals in the UK benefit from the association’s work to promote and provide education and training for counsellors and psychotherapists. Alongside this, BACP work to inform and educate the public about the contribution that their members make to those whose participation and development in society is impaired by physical or psychological health needs or disability.
A payment collection headache
In March 2017, BACP embarked on a project to review its membership payment collection process. At the time the process was administration heavy for its membership team who were collecting payments by cheque, credit card, over the phone, by postal form or Direct Debit by paper instruction. With 45,000 members paying an annual membership fee, the post alone would often involve six people to process each morning. Administering the Direct Debit collection process themselves, as well as dealing with queries regarding payments by phone, post and email, was becoming an increasingly labour intensive process as its membership grew.
As is the case for any manual process, inaccuracies and error resolution were also a problem. At this time 21,000 of its members were paying by Direct Debit and were signing up using a paper Direct Debit Instruction (DDI) which they either downloaded from the website or were posted.
On average BACP were having to deal with 20 ADDACs (Automated Direct Debit Amendment and Cancellation) reports of ‘no instruction’ per month which required remedial work by the team. It was also taking 30 days from the point of a DDI being downloaded or posted out for a new member to be set up and an instruction being successfully lodged with the bank for payment to be collected, thereby impacting cashflow.
Digitising Direct Debit
Switching to AUDDIS, the Automated Direct Debit Instruction Service by which Direct Debit Instructions are lodged with the bank online and automatically, was the solution BACP needed. Using AUDDIS would help BACP to cut out the manual process involved in setting up new payers, and would link to the change to online DDI sign ups. Having made a decision to change its CRM solution, BACP then looked to find a Direct Debit bureau which offered online Direct Debit sign-ups, product integration with its new CRM, and would guide them through an AUDDIS migration. Having shortlisted a few Direct Debit bureaux, Jo Owen, Business Analyst, and the BACP team made the decision to move forward with SmartDebit due to price, product offering, and excellent service reputation.
We were confident that SmartDebit would offer us the support, expertise and account management to guide us through the AUDDIS migration. Their service reviews on Trustpilot were excellent, and it was obvious from our first meeting that they knew Direct Debit inside out.
The period of implementation took longer than anticipated for BACP, not because of the Direct Debit side but because of the roll-out of its new CRM system. During this time, SmartDebit’s Development team and testers were available as needed to assist in the integration of its API with BACP’s new CRM.
Jo comments ‘The integration between the API which would facilitate the DDI collection and our CRM was far easier than we anticipated. We had more work on our side to ensure that our data was clean, and this was especially important in the testing phase to ensure the testing was valid. SmartDebit were very accommodating and flexible, being available as needed and repeating testing if we requested it. Our dedicated SmartDebit account manager also helped us by liaising with the bank to process a bulk change of Bacs references, and to give us a timeline of actions for the in-between phase when we were crossing over from our old processes to the new CRM and AUDDIS process’.
Growing and enhancing membership operations
The first Direct Debit collection using the API and new CRM system took place in October 2018. Since then, BACP’s membership has grown by 9% and the number of payers on Direct Debit collections has increased to 31,000.
BACP is saving thousands of pounds every year with efficiencies borne from its automated online Direct Debit processes. There are savings in printing and postage costs, and also in resource time by cutting out manual error resolution which the automation and integration of AUDDIS and BACP’s CRM now handle.
The greatest benefit for BACP has been the future proofing of its membership processing, and the proactivity given to its membership team. Overall post has reduced, phone call volumes relating to Direct Debit have decreased, complaints regarding outdated Direct Debit processes have been eliminated, and the storage required for paper mandates has been cut.
The efficiencies achieved have meant that our membership operations team can now be more proactive in growing our membership. Over the past year the number of membership applications has grown by 50%, and the improvements in our Direct Debit collection processes will support this growth.
Continuing opportunities for improvement
The quest for improvement is not stopping for BACP. Thanks to the API and integration with its CRM, there is now the opportunity to automate email communications with its members based on Bacs reason codes returned in Direct Debit reporting. They are also investigating the functionality for members to change their bank details online, and to do so as part of the online renewal process. Jo reflects, ‘The SmartDebit service has really helped us to become more efficient, more automated and more proactive in our membership operations. Direct Debit shouldn’t be a headache – I would say to anyone who is considering switching to AUDDIS to do so, and to consider SmartDebit for a smooth migration’.