Veterinary Specialty Services (VSS) is a multi-specialty, referral-only practice and emergency hospital committed to providing advanced veterinary care for pets in the greater St. Louis area. It was established in 2004, and a satellite facility opened in 2017. VSS employs more than 200 staff, including doctors, administrators, vet techs, and client service representatives (CSRs).
Amanda Boyd has worked for VSS since 2011 and is the hospital’s Software Support Specialist, responsible for overseeing all in-house technology and web-based systems, which primarily consist of ezyVet practice management software, SmartFlow patient workflow software, and PayJunction payment processing. She is tasked with replacing inefficient manual systems and paper-based processes with technology and solutions that streamline operations and allow staff to spend more time servicing patient needs.
VSS has been using ezyVet since July 2017 and switched to PayJunction for integrated payments in December 2020, primarily as a way to vastly improve payment acceptance practices in support of the hospital’s curbside-only service model that was implemented to follow safe operating guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. We spoke to Amanda about payments before the pandemic, challenges brought on with curbside servicing, and the improvements they have experienced with the ezyVet-PayJunction integration.
Payment Acceptance Challenges
Prior to implementing PayJunction, VSS was using stand-alone payment terminals to process credit cards, two located at the front desk and a wireless model for use in examination rooms. Amounts needed to be entered separately, first into ezyVet and then on the device. Paper receipts were printed, transaction information was re-keyed back into ezyVet, and batch reports were printed from each of the terminals and manually tabulated.
These time-consuming processes caused mistakes and keying errors, which resulted in the need to void and re-run transactions, and complicated end-of-day balancing that made reconciliation challenging. Plus, the tedious task of manually tracking down invoices and credit card receipts associated with a client’s payment history took CSRs away from more important duties.
Since both locations had their own separate payment terminals and paper files, information was isolated, making it difficult to serve customers that frequented multiple locations or switched from one facility to the other based on services needed.
And those were the challenges that existed before COVID-19 emerged and significantly changed client interactions, including payment processes, to support recommended business practices.
Curbside Throws a Curveball
In the wake of COVID-19, businesses deemed “essential services” could continue to operate if they followed state regulations and implemented best practices that support safe interactions. VSS had to quickly modify their operations to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Beginning in late March 2020, the hospital adopted curbside servicing exclusively as the best way to limit exposure between staff and clients, with the only exception reserved for euthanasia appointments.
That’s when the pains of relying on outdated, stand-alone payment terminals hit home for Amanda. The only way to collect payment information was to have the client call in to provide their credit card details to a CSR who manually keyed it into both the payment terminal and the ezyVet system. This added extra steps and stress for the VSS team and resulted in:
- An Increase in Errors - The challenges of accurately keying numbers into two systems were magnified. CSRs had to manually enter payment amounts, credit card numbers and other details required to process transactions. Making errors wasted time and increased frustration for staff and clients.
- A Backlog in Collecting Payments - Phone traffic increased exponentially during COVID. CSRs were responsible for answering calls for curbside check-in, checking patients in, alerting techs, and then calling clients after appointments to collect payment. Typically, 5 - 8 patients would be checking out simultaneously, so it was difficult to collect payments in real-time. Often it would take a few days to connect with the clients, which impacted operations and cash flow.
- An Increase in Chargebacks - Since cards were not accepted in person and credit card receipts were not printed and signed, VSS was left exposed to friendly fraud and had a difficult time responding to disputed transactions. As a result, chargebacks and write-offs increased significantly from March 2020 - November 2020 since retrieving supporting documentation was nearly impossible.
- A Problem with PCI Compliance - The IT and Security teams at VSS discovered that many of the practices adopted to accept payments did not meet PCI Compliance Standards and left the hospital vulnerable to data breaches, fraud, and fines. Amanda needed to find a secure, compliant, and curbside-friendly solution to protect the business.
Integrated Payments Pays Offs
In November 2020, Amanda reached out to ezyVet to get their advice on how to streamline payment processes to better support the curbside service model. She learned that ezyVet had recently launched a remote payment request feature that works with PayJunction. Amanda concluded that integrated payments would streamline operations and address the problems with their current curbside model, while alleviating stress for the CSRs.
VSS went live with PayJunction in December 2020. The integration allows payments to be initiated using ezyVet, and for all transaction information to flow into patient records and accounting systems, which saves time and money. Since VSS has continued to operate with a curbside-only model into 2021, the hospital chose to hold off on implementing PayJunction’s in-office solutions and focused their efforts on supporting remote payments that could be collected during the curbside discharge process.
Integrated payments turned out to be the best medicine for the hospital staff. According to Amanda, PayJunction’s solution “has been nothing but stellar.” The solution was immediately welcomed by the CSRs who even asked Amanda:
Why haven't we done this sooner? This is amazing!
Here’s how VSS has implemented the remote request for payments:
- During the discharge process, CSRs or techs create a remote payment request in ezyVet that includes a link to a PayJunction hosted checkout page.
- They text or email it to the client waiting at the curb.
- The client receives it on their smartphone, clicks on the link, and enters card details into a secure form that is sent to PayJunction for processing.
- The client and VSS receive notification that the payment was received.
- The information flows seamlessly to the patient record in ezyVet.
Amanda’s team has eliminated the frustrating process of playing phone-tag, and benefited from the following additional perks:
- Improved the payment experience - Clients find the remote payment request to be much more convenient than reading card numbers over the phone. They pay, their pet is brought to the car, and they drive away. Transaction histories are stored in the cloud, and can be retrieved from any location in seconds with a quick search. Receipts and supporting documentation can be emailed directly through the portal, improving the customer experience.
- Saved time and improved cash flow - CSRs no longer have to track down clients and can spend quality time taking care of the needs of patients and doctors. Plus, their workload has been eased because techs performing outpatient services find the system so easy to use that they create and send payment links directly to their clients instead of passing the task to the CSRs. And since clients pay directly from the parking lot, funds are collected immediately for that day’s settlement.
- Eliminated double-keying errors - Transaction accuracy, as well as error tracking and resolution have saved time and labor for VSS staff. Double-entry keying errors have been virtually eliminated due to the integration of the invoicing and payment systems. End-of-day accounting is completed with just a few clicks; payment information automatically flows between the systems.
- Reduced chargebacks and increased security - Since clients agree to payment terms and receive receipts, a digital record is created, which has significantly reduced chargebacks for the hospital. The process complies with PCI data security standards, extending peace of mind for the VSS IT team.
Amanda is planning ahead to implement operational improvements once the hospital opens to in-person appointments. Curbside servicing is expected to remain an option for the foreseeable future, so the remote payment request feature will continue to be available.
VSS plans to install PayJunction’s ZeroTouch Terminals at the front desk. The customer-facing devices support a contactless checkout experience and allow clients to pay with a simple tap of a card, phone or wearable. Looking ahead, Amanda is considering other features supported by PayJunction that further streamline payments and improve the client experience.
VSS does all it can to offer an outstanding patient experience, and Amanda is confident that PayJunction and ezyVet will continue to improve operations: “I firmly believe in supporting and promoting anything that's going to make somebody's life easier, and PayJunction has definitely done that for my staff.”