AROUND FOUR YEARS AGO, SOS XTREME Comfort, of Tuxedo Park, N.Y., decided to partner with AVATAS Payment Solutions, of Newton, Mass., to gain assistance in their receivables process. Like many heating fuels companies, SOS had grown into the habit of extending credit terms and watching their days receivables outstanding, stretch further and further away for them. They knew they had to make some changes to continue to provide valuable service and thrive in this challenging economy. The following is an interview with Robert Spiegel, Vice President of SOS, to help explain some of the beneficial changes in their organization.
Tracy Richmond (TR): SOS Xtreme Comfort has been an AVATAS client for the past four years. Since that time, can you tell us some of the new initiatives your company has implemented to improve cash flow?
Robert Spiegel (RS): Like most dealers, the vast majority of our payments tradition- ally were via paper check. After consulting with AVATAS, we very quickly learned the expenses associated with waiting around for these payments to arrive. After some consideration, we decided to forget about checks as the primary form of payments, and put the focus on credit cards. We now make a concerted effort to put every customer on recurring credit card payments, specifically MasterCard due to the low processing rates for the home heating industry. We also strongly encourage budget plans, even for those who are not cap customers. This is a significant change from our previous thought process. We have also completely revamped our website. We use it as a marketing tool and push our online payments and promotions. With the help of AVATAS, we promote MasterCard’s Stand Up to Cancer promotion on our website. This program encourages customers to use MasterCard by donating a portion of each payment to a nonprofit dedicated to funding cancer research. Not only are our processing fees lower, but customers are also taking part in a great cause. We also participated in the MasterCard Utility payment promotion, which was another incentive brought to us by AVATAS. Our website is now fully functional for self-service. We allow our customers to schedule their own appointments online and of course, pay their bills via the AVATAS gateway. The AVATAS online solution has been instrumental to our online strategy.
TR: What is one thing that you would really want energy companies to know about your cash flow strategies that you think could help them this winter?
RS: Encourage your customers to make payments with MasterCard. It costs less to accept credit card payments than to wait 30 days, or in some cases more, for checks.