Consumers are pretty accustomed to loading up their online retail shopping carts, hitting the pay button and simply waiting for their merchandise to arrive in a few days. Online shopping is convenient, and it doesn’t involve waiting in line or finding a parking space.
To help its customers easily pay for testing services, the Agronomic Services Division recently rolled out a new PayNow feature on its PALS website, which lets customers pay by credit card and get instant access to their test results.
PALS stands for Public Access Laboratory-information-management System, a website where farmers, homeowners and crop advisers can check on results of tests of soil, plant tissue, waste, solution, soil-less media and nematode assays.
Before the PayNow feature was added, customers would have to mail a check to the division to cover testing fees. Regular customers could create an escrow account for fees to be drawn against, but the process wasn’t as quick and easy.
Since the feature’s soft launch in mid-January, plenty of clients have found their way to the feature, without any real promotion of it.
“I’ve been pleased with the response so far,” said Colleen Hudak-Wise, director of the Agronomic Services Division. “Customers had no problem finding and using this option once we launched it. It is designed to be intuitive and similar to other sites where people shop online.”
To get started, customers will need to set up an account in PALS and create a password. Their username will be their email address.
For payment, customers go into their account to look at the agronomic service items in their account, said Jeff Vitalis, an information technology specialist who worked on the PayNow project. If any have a “payment pending status,” a green PayNow link will show up on the item line. Customers select which report they want to pay for, click on the PayNow link and they will be transferred to a secure credit card payment site to enter information for payment.
A confirmation email will be sent to the customer verifying the payment, and the report or reports paid for are immediately released for the customer to view, Vitalis said.
Customers who still wish to send checks and have an escrow account can do so, Hudak-Wise said.
Soil testing has traditionally been a free service of the department, but now it is free part of the year, but not the whole year.
Because of the large volume of soil samples that came in during the winter months, the lab implemented a $4 per sample peak-season fee to encourage customers to get samples in earlier or wait until after the rush of commercial growers. Spreading the incoming samples out over a longer period helps improve turnaround time, ensuring farmers get their results in a timely manner to prepare for the growing season.
The peak-season fee period ends on March 31, in time for home gardeners to get their samples in for backyard gardens and lawns.
Agronomic testing services such as soil and tissue testing gives users science-based recommendations to optimize growing conditions. “That eliminates a lot of guesswork when it comes to deciding what nutrients to add for growth, which is better for a grower’s bottom line and helps to safeguard the environment from over-application of nutrients,” Hudak-Wise said.