Lunch Debt Collection - A More Palatable Approach
By Paul Langhorst, Chief Marketing Officer, SchoolReach Instant Parent Contact
As the school year comes to a close, school administrators, business managers and food service managers can find themselves staring at a full plate of lunch debt. Some turn to extreme measures to help with collections. For example, ABC New/Money recently reported on its website that the Brantley County School District in Georgia has hired a collection agency to help recover delinquent school lunch bills. There is a more palatable approach.
In today's economy, schools need to maximize collections to operate. However, collection agencies penalize families through aggressive methods, charge very high interest rates and can damage credit histories. In the case of Brantley County, the district is adding a surcharge of 40% to the parent's bill to cover the agency's cost. This is the least attractive way to collect those debts and likely the most controversial.
Traditionally, schools attempt to collect outstanding lunch debts by sending letters, backpack notes, and emails to parents. These methods often fail because letters, websites and electronic notices often have poor open rates and are far too easy to overlook, lose, or ignore.
A more effective way to control and collect lunch debt is to employ a parent notification system to send automated phone-based payment reminders to parents. Services such as EZ Lunch Balance from SchoolReach are specifically designed for collecting school lunch debts and have successfully recovered thousands and thousands of dollars.
Services such as EZ Lunch Balance automatically notify parents when lunch balances reach a negative or low level. More importantly, such systems are typically used as the debt is being incurred, as opposed to after it has reached unmanageable levels.
The reason for success?
Research shows that parents view calls from their schools as highly important and causing them to respond at a much higher rate than written attempts. A phone call is still the most potent communication tool and a strategically timed call reaches parents when they are best prepared to generate a payment. EZ Lunch Balance works without the high cost and risks associated with hiring a collections agency.
The McLean County School District in Bloomington, IL implemented the EZ Lunch Balance program in 2008 and immediately went from carrying hundreds of negative lunch balances to 20 or less generating a 90 percent reduction in debt.
The ownership cost of a parent notification system that also delivers lunch debt reminders, is pennies per student per year. It's very likely that a parent notification system used in this way will quickly pay for itself out of the increased lunch dept collections - and the saying goes...the rest is gravy!
Click HERE for more information on EZ Lunch Balance.