The online registration software you use is essentially your storefront. The first meaningful interaction your applicant has with you might likely be your application and registration process. Regpack receives tons of questions on how to build an online registration process, as transferring what you do on paper isn’t always as straightforward as you might think. Below you will find answers to the 4 most important things you need to know when building your online application (with or without Regpack).
Question #1: Where do I start when building my online registration application?
Use technology, like an online registration software, to automate and streamline your process!
Once you’ve found the tech you want to use(I have written here, here and also here about how to select the one that is good for you), identify the information you really need from your applicants. Do this by breaking the application into stages that are logical for the applicant (that might be different than what is logical for you but make sure you are making it logical for them)!
Make sure to keep your applicants informed about where they are in the process – through a dashboard, emails, progress bars, green and red messages, etc. People hate filling out applications so telling them they are 30% done or only have 3 sections left to complete can help motivate them to finish!
An online registration software allows great filtering and data search abilities, so be sure to avoid asking questions only once (and ask only for information you really need). Perhaps on a paper application, each form needs to have a line for put the name of the applicant and other basic info over and over. This isn’ necessary online, so don’t fall into the trap of just copying and pasting your paper forms on to your online process. Your online application system should function as a database so make sure to select one that is able to report and port information from different forms (remember this is not paper!).
Strive to create a well designed and visually appealing application that encourages people to complete it and individualize the application process as much as you can!
Your online application should be ON your website as opposed to on another site or using another url. This will net you 27% more completed applications than sending them to a third party website. This is all the more important when taking payments – do not send them to a third party site to make payments.
Question #2: I have documents in my application that I need signed and mailed. How can I integrate those needs within an online only process?
In the 21st century, it’s no longer necessary to have someone use a pen to sign a piece of paper and then mail it in to you for filing and legal purposes. E-signing is a legal binding way to sign a document and can be easily incorporated into your online registration process.
Not only does this make things super convenient for you and the person signing the form since pens, papers and stamps are no longer necessary, it saves everyone time and means applicants can complete their applications faster than ever. Consider arranging your application, if you have multiple forms you need signed, in a way that requires the applicant to e-sign only once to save even more time or select a system that allows you to have the applicant sign multiple documents.
Note that it is advised to consult with your legal team before moving to e-signing. I am saying this since you might have some special situation that does not allow you to enable e-signing. That said, Regpack has more than 3,000 organizations that use our online registration software and e-signing abilities and out of that we have seen only 3 organizations that had legal consultation suggesting they not use it, and that was due to government regulations. This means there is a very high chance you can do e-signing. Join the 21st century and let your applicants fly through the process by enabling this feature!
Question #3: What is the best way to get paid when you have an online application? In the past, applicants have filled out a credit card form and mailed it in, or just sent in a check.
We’ll have a great questions and answer post soon all about payment questions, because there are a lot. But for now, the simple answer is – get paid online! And further, integrate your payment into the application itself, as opposed to redirecting them to a 3rd party site for payment. Now, that doesn’t mean don’t use a 3rd party (you probably have to unless your registration company offers it as a package) but make sure whatever company you use for payments offers a way to integrate into your website so to the applicant it looks like one complete and seamless process.
The reason behind integrating everything is to offer a 1 stop shop for applicants. They don’t want to be in the groove of completing their application and then have to click on a link and go to another site to pay. Not only is this frustrating, it could cause someone to stop and say wait, I don’t know if I want to give my personal information to this site, what is this? There is a certain trust the applicant has already decided to put into you by giving you their personal information, continue that by collecting their payment information as well. According to our research on more than 1.2 million applications done in 2014 there is a 27% drop in payments when the payment option is not integrated and is sending them to a different site to pay. That is a lot of lost payments! So make sure you find a solution that totally integrates into your process, it’s worth it!
Integrating the payment portion of the application can also help applicants complete their forms and pay faster, since you can auto-fill their information into the payment section, including a billing address and email address. You can also have the list of products they are paying for show up on the same screen so it’s obvious why their payment amount is what it is. We say it all the time in our office, but people HATE filling out forms! Make it as easy as possible to get your process done and quickly, and you’ll have applicants happy and pleased with your process. And not so weary when it comes to whipping out their credit card and paying so they can be done!
Offering online payments also offers a secure and easy way to pay with several payments – credit card, eCheck, etc so your applicants have options when paying you. Finally, online payments allow you to schedule the payments for the individual. This means that if they need to make multiple payments they can just make one and the system will take care of all the future payments. This will make sure that you get paid on time and will prevent you from needing to remind people to pay. Great for you and great for them!
Question #4: Where do I begin when creating my questions for my application? What do I ask?
Start by asking yourself these questions when beginning to construct your application questions and the flow and logic of your process.
- What is the bare minimum of information I need?
- Do I really need to ask this question?
- Is the question label specific enough and understandable?
- Do these questions really belong together?
- Have I already asked this question in a previous section?
Remember this key point before you begin: no one likes filling out forms! People want to spend as little time as possible completing your application. They don’t want to try and figure out your logic of why you ask certain questions. They don’t want to think, they just want to easily fill in the blanks, pay and be done.
An application that allows a user to move through each page of your application easily and effortlessly is your goal! The first step in creating a logical application is labeling questions the way you think the applicant will respond best. For example, if you have a camp most likely the parent of the camper will be filling out the form. So labeling things like “Camper’s First Name” instead of “First name” will probably eliminate any confusion about what name to put there (does the parent put their name, their child’s name, etc).
Only gather information that is essential. What documents and personal information MUST you have. It might be nice to know certain things, but if you don’t need it, consider leaving it out or leaving it for the last steps (after they gave you the essential information and paid). That way if they fall out during these questions you still have what you need in order to turn them into a client.
Making a list of what you need will help you determine how to structure your application best. Reorder them by importance level and begin with the most important first. Remember the registration process online is ‘smart’ so no need to ask the name and contact information in each section (like you would on a paper application).
Keep in mind as well that any good software will come with reporting tools, so you don’t need to order the application in a way that suits you (you can just filter and find whatever information you want later on) but what makes sense for the applicant. Loosely this might look like: general information, choosing products, asking product specific questions (different for each applicant based on their selection), forms to sign, and finally the payment page.
Once you have everything written down and arranged logically, go through it again and cut down any questions that are redundant or aren’t truly necessary (or move them to the last stages). The goal is to trim and cut your application so you get everything you need, without wasting the applicants time with unnecessary questions and allowing them to complete it as quickly as possible.
The question of where to start with regards to your online registration software and online application is a big one and there’s no straight answer. The answer looks different for every organization. The first step is finding the right software that KNOWS your business and field, and will walk with you step by step to translating your old process into a new, efficient and intelligent one!
Putting registration and payments in one streamlined process online is a great option for your organization. In the long run, it will save you time and money, despite the initial time investment and the money to pay for a software (one time, monthly, etc). You won’t regret it!