This topic shows you how to set up memberships and automated billing for your current members. When a person is added into Zen Planner, they first appear in the "All People" section, but will not show up as a "Student". Zen Planner automatically assigns each person to the STUDENT status, based on the memberships in their profile.
If you're starting a business from scratch, or have a small number of current members, then you can probably skip the data import process. But, if you're migrating from a previous tool into Zen Planner, then you need to get a bunch of membership and payment information over into Zen Planner smoothly, without interrupting your basic business operations. The grass really IS greener on the other side, but it usually takes some work to hop over the fence.
Here's an outline of the process to help you plan your migration.
1. Plan to Run Both Systems in Parallel
While your old database is still online, you'll need to configure your complete Zen Planner database, including programs, classes, staff members, and membership options. Check out the Getting Started Tutorial to learn about this step. Since we're turning on automatic payments, you'll also want to make sure you activate your merchant account, and thoroughly test that your payment gateway is working correctly.
You should not turn off your old management system immediately once you turn on your new Zen Planner database. It may cost a bit more to keep your old system in place for a little while, but this will enable you to go back and grab any records you forgot to export the first time around.
The specific amount of time you should plan on will depend on the size and complexity of your business data, but it should be at least 2-3 weeks after you make the switch. Once you're comfortable with the new environment, do one more export from your old system of every piece of information you can, and store these records somewhere as a safe backup.
2. Back-Date Existing Memberships
One way or another, most of your memberships will already be underway. If you have long-term contracts, then many people will be in the middle of those contracts when you choose to switch. Even if you have only month-to-month memberships, chances are that you're setting things up halfway through their current month. We want to account for this and keep accurate membership records from this point forward, so the best thing to do is to enter the complete contract terms for each person's current contract.
This means that if today is June 1st, and your old system shows a member with a 1-year contract starting on January 1st, you should set them up in Zen Planner with the same exact membership terms (a 1-year contract with a membership begin date on January 1st). This will create a bunch of past-due bills, which we will handle in the next step below.
There is one caveat. If you have members who have been with you for several years, it's not helpful to copy every contract they've ever had since they first signed up; a history of old contracts won't add a lot of value to you and is just going to clutter up your new database. You only need to copy their most recent membership contract -- the one that's active right now, and NOT any expired contracts that they've had since they first signed up. If you want to capture their original signup date, there's a field in the person import file (described in the previous article) that will let you import this information.
Creating Shared Memberships
Zen Planner has the ability to share a single membership across multiple people or multiple family members. This is mostly used to set up memberships that are shared between spouses or for corporate groups. We highly recommend that that you set up your most common membership options ahead of time (as explained in Set Up Your Membership Options) and group people into their families. Once you have select the head of household for the family, you can create a membership and share it with other people.
3. Choose a Cut-Over Date
Once you have your information in place, and you're comfortable with your new Zen Planner database, you'll need to choose a date to turn off the billing in your old system, and to turn on billing in Zen Planner. If you can, it's nice to do this during a relatively quiet period in-between days with heavy billing. For example, many schools have a swell of membership starting on the 1st or 15th days of the month, so plan your cut-over date around these (for instance on the 5th or 20th) so that you've got some time to see things working smoothly before the big rush.
You'll need to have your old system to STOP processing payments on the cut-over date, and then we'll set Zen Planner to START processing payments on this date. This is important, because you don't want to have two independent billing systems charging the same family's credit cards, which would cause embarrassing double-billing problems.
If you have month-to-month memberships, it makes sense to allow your current members to finish the current month's membership on the old system and then activate their membership in Zen Planner for the following month. This allows you to naturally switch from one system without needing to prorate any existing bills.
To make sure that Zen Planner does not charge any of the bills PRIOR to your cut-over date, you'll need to mark them all as "PAID", because this is still the responsibility of your old management system. You can use the Bills report and the Batch Update Tool to update all of these bills all at the same time instead of updating each person's bill history individually. The batch update may take a few moments to complete, but when you're done all of the bills prior to your cut-over date will be paid, and Zen Planner will not try to process them automatically.
5. Collect Payment Information and Activate Automatic Payments (AutoPay)
Once everyone's memberships and bills are correct, you're ready to set up automatic payments. If you can export credit card data to a spreadsheet, Zen Planner is able to import credit card data for your existing members. However, the credit card industry has started imposing higher standards on how sensitive payment information is stored and transmitted, so many management systems have strict security rules that forbid exporting this information. This leaves us with two common options for collecting payment information for automatic payments:
6. Double-Check Your Work
There are plenty of steps to this process. We've made the parts under our control as easy as possible, but chances are even the most careful person will make a mistake somewhere along the way. It is very important that you double-check your work at each step along the way, make sure you're comfortable with the way Zen Planner works, and are confident that everyone's information is correct. Few things make members as nervous as the thought that their billing information is going to be handled incorrectly.
If you have questions, or need any help along the way, our team is here to help you out. Submit a ticket let us know what we can do to make your switch successful.