You’ve decided that a Direct Debit scheme is your best solution to collecting recurring payments securely and reliably.
But how does the process work and what do you need to do before seeing cash flow into your business or charity account?
Learn more here about the simple steps to take before you receive your first Direct Debit payment.And download a professional Direct Debit mandate template to start the journey to predictable cash flow, digital integration and content customers.
What is a Direct Debit Mandate?
A Direct Debit mandate is an instruction from your customer to their bank to authorise you to take payments. It establishes a pre-agreed debit schedule between you and them, for example they’ll pay you £XX on a set date every month for your services or products.
If you run a charity, this agreement will confirm the amount and frequency of supporters’ regular donation.
The mandate, also known as a Direct Debit Instruction (DDI), is standardised and means that all future payments are authorised, provided the mandate isn’t cancelled. This allows you to collect any amount at any time, provided you’ve given advance notice of each payment before collection.
It’s also covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee which provides wide-reaching safeguards, protecting customers against payments made in error or taken fraudulently.
Its comprehensive wording is as follows:
- The Guarantee is offered by all banks and building societies that accept instructions to pay Direct Debits
- If there are any changes to the amount, date or frequency of your Direct Debit, the organisation will notify you (normally 10 working days) in advance of your account being debited or as otherwise agreed. If you request the organisation to collect a payment, confirmation of the amount and date will be given to you at the time of the request
- If an error is made in the payment of your Direct Debit, by the organisation or your bank or building society, you are entitled to a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society
- If you receive a refund you are not entitled to, you must pay it back when the organisation asks you to
- You can cancel a Direct Debit at any time by simply contacting your bank or building society. Written confirmation may be required. Please also notify the organisation.
How Do I Arrange a Direct Debit with a Customer?
Once you’ve signed up with a Direct Debit bureau, it’s your clients’ turn to sign up to your new payment method.
Take a look at FastPay’s Direct Debit mandate template here to to see how straightforward this is: a short form that takes just a few minutes to complete
All they need to do is complete the mandate by phone, online on your website or on paper. The only details they have to provide are their name, plus their bank name, sort code and account number.
Following the guidelines of the Direct Debit scheme, you’ll then need to send out a mandatory advance notice letter before you collect the first payment. This confirms that the information they’ve provided is correct and outlines the amount and frequency of their payment.
When they complete their DDI, your customer or supporter will likely have a specific payment schedule in mind, such as a fixed subscription or set donation.
Using Direct Debit to automate these payments will reassure them that they’re paying you the right amount on the right day. Dependable, hassle-free and secure.
Paper vs Paperless
There are two ways of getting your customers or supporters to sign up to your Direct Debit scheme: completing a paper mandate or filling in a paperless application online or over the phone.
Whichever method you choose, it’s easy to sign up new customers. Both get the job done and both have their pros and cons. As with every business decision, base your choice on the best fit for your customers and your objectives.
Paper mandates are ideal if you interact face-to-face with your customers. They can sign up immediately and you have peace of mind knowing you have the authority to start collecting straightaway.
Some people prefer not to disclose their personal details online, others simply favour the familiarity of a handwritten signature.
It’s sensible to choose the security of paper if your transactions have a higher than average value or if you like knowing that you have a signature from your customer. The paper trail can also make it easier to prove authorisation in the event of a dispute.
Keeping this traditional option will please a section of your database and, despite its digital alternative, isn’t quite redundant yet.
But be aware that while paper mandates are helpful in person, if used remotely they can increase costs and delays because:
- You have to post a mandate or the customer has to download and print it
- They have to then sign and post the mandate
- They may forget to do this or change their mind about signing up, leading to lost custom or a campaign to get them re-engaged
- You have to manually process and physically store the mandate
All these steps involve the kind of admin that may be seen as a chore by clients and will definitely increase your team’s workload.
To make it easier, FastPay has a Direct Debit mandate template that can be downloaded here. For your peace of mind, this fully complies with the requirements of the Direct Debit scheme set by Bacs.
Paperless is ideal for our 24/7 digital economy and increasingly expected by consumers. Many of them want the instant convenience of signing up now, ticking if off their to-do list and relaxing knowing that their payments will be made accurately.
If you have point of sale access to the internet, you can welcome new customers within minutes either over the phone or via your website.
Going paperless boasts benefits for all:
- Improved customer satisfaction thanks to the simple and immediate sign-up process
- Reduced paperwork, postage and storage costs, boosting your environmental credentials and bottom line
- 24/7 online sign-up brings new customers to you regardless of staffing levels and opening hours
- Payments can be taken earlier than via a paper mandate, boosting cash flow sooner
- Electronic validation of bank details reduces errors and admin time
Keep It Simple: Use a Bureau
Whether you collect DDIs virtually or they appear in the post, the next stages can be significantly simplified by partnering with a dedicated Direct Debit bureau.
They’ll do all the hard work for you from now on. All you need to do is send the information from the completed mandates on to them and they’ll manage the entire processing chain.
More affordable and achievable than managing a scheme in-house, signing up to a facilities management service means your bureau will submit DDIs to the banks via Bacs, the clearing service for Direct Debit.
They’ll keep you fully informed about when you can start to collect against the mandate. And this transparent communication will continue via regular reports highlighting which payments have, or haven’t been made.
Branded vs Unbranded Direct Debit
Like all communications with your customers, how you liaise with them about their payments needs to be slick, professional and trustworthy.
This is where a branded Direct Debit scheme can pay dividends.
A fully-branded service, like those offered by FastPay, means your clients will see your company name on their bank statements, as well as your business name and logo on their Direct Debit mandate (both paper and paperless) and invoices.
They’ll know exactly who they’re paying, note that it’s the correct amount on the correct day and not give the transaction a second thought.
The alternative is to use an unbranded scheme which only shows the name of your bureau on all paperwork and online correspondence. There’ll be no sign of your own company name or logo and a chance that clients have never heard of your Direct Debit provider.
This impersonal approach could lead to people wondering who the payment has been made to. Some may then cancel the Direct Debit thinking money has been taken from their account in error.
And getting them back on board may not be as easy the second time around. Trust broken, the relationship could be unsalvageable.
FastPay can provide all the information you need to set up a branded payment page to use on your website. They can also provide a Bacs-approved script to follow when signing up over the phone.
Adopt a personal approach right from the start and you’ll be building trust and encouraging loyalty from the word go.
The Direct Debit mandate is the key towards unlocking a world of financial transformation for your business, organisation or charity.
As you collect them from your customers, you’ll have an ever-increasing level of control over your cash flow and an ever-decreasing accounting workload to keep on top of.
And with a professional, experienced bureau on board, you can enjoy all the benefits of Direct Debit without the time and resources drain of managing a scheme in-house.
Instead, you’ll be attracting loyal customers and supporters who appreciate your simple, secure and reliable payment method.