If you are still on the fence regarding paying for a registration software or are in the process of evaluating various options, this is a post exactly for you 🙂
When thinking of a registration software and connection that to paying your first thought might be, why should I pay for something I can probably do myself? Or why pay for an online solution when paper, which is much cheaper, is working just fine.
Let’s start with the basics: you need an online registration process. Period! I wrote why here and here. Basically without an online registration process you are working harder, giving your clients sub-par customer service and you are netting less applicants and event attendees. Worst of all you are bringing in less money and at a slower rate. So having an online registration system that integrates into your website is a given. When you are in the market for an online registration software it is either because your manual system you have been using for ages and ages just isn’t cutting it or that your current online registration software is not doing what you need it to do. I hear these two reasons day in and day out when talking to our clients. Here’s how I usually answer the most common questions I hear from potential clients:
1. Why even choose an online solution to begin with?
Something is not working with what you’re currently doing. An online solution is ALWAYS the next step.
2.Why are other organizations using an online paid software willing to spend MONEY on this solution for their organization?
In order to save money, boost your earnings and also offer top notch customer service. It basically boils down to “price” vs “cost”. Is the price you are paying less than the cost of not implementing the system. I wrote a post about it here.
3. What do businesses go through when determining what online software solution to choose?
This answer is a little less straightforward. If we leave the organizational politics and decision making process aside and assume that a decision to move to an online process has been made, here are the 5 things to consider when making your selection:
A. A registration software with flexible pricing vs annual contracts.
This is a the biggest “thing” to look for when comparing software companies. If you’ve decided or resigned yourself to paying for a system, you should get the best deal you can for the system that is right for you. Especially if you’re on a budget, finding software companies that offer month-to-month contracts or only charge you when your application is active can be a huge money saver. Especially for seasonal organizations (camps, events, etc.) this payment set up totally jives with your business model.
If the company you love doesn’t offer it, try asking! Especially in this economy, businesses will usually jump at the chance to be flexible in exchange for business. And this flexibility (or lack thereof) will clue you in to their customer service and ability to provide you with individualized service and meet your needs fully in the future, both on this admin level (of money and contracts) as well as the software solutions they can and are willing to provide you.
B. Customer Service/Tech Support for themselves and for their applicants.
One worry people have when using another company’s software (as opposed to building their own or sticking with manual/paper registration) is tech support. Your company will never be able to fix glitches in the system without the help of the software company. So if something goes wrong, is the company available to help out immediately? In business, time is money, so technical problems can mean the loss of an applicant, and therefore loss of revenue. Finding a software company that is essentially an extension of your own office is paramount when searching for a software solution, and makes the money you spend on the software worthwhile.
C. Ease of Use
This is kind of a ‘duh’ point, but should be made nevertheless. You want to find a software that is easy to use for YOU and for your applicants. Your software solution, after all is both an application for your applicants and a back end database for you and your staff. A form building process that is quick, easy and intuitive for you to create and the applicant to complete is top of the list when evaluating a software option. Editing the forms to suit different programs you offer or as new things arise makes your registration process hassle free. Many of our clients currently are camps or other family based organizations. If you fall into this category be sure to find a solution that offers the ability to register whole families all at once. There is nothing that a parent of more than one child hates more than entering their name, address, and other common information multiple times when they are registering and paying for your program. If you have other special sign-up configurations, finding a software to adapt to this need to make the process easy and effortless for your specific client base and for you, is important!
D. Working within your current website, not on a third party site.
I have talked about branding before, but it bears repeating that giving your applicants a seamless visual experience is uber-professional and keeps your business looking good, put together, and organized. Part of this is making sure that when an applicant is registering, paying and otherwise checking in with you, they are staying on your site and not being redirected somewhere else. This is helpful in many ways, first and foremost being safety and security of their information. When an applicant sees they are entering personal information and paying on your website, there is a level of trust they feel since they are dealing directly with you. Shh…we won’t tell them you’re using a third party software but that’s the point! This feature is also important because it keeps your website at the forefront of the registration process. Once they are done, or after they’ve saved their application to complete later — they can click around your website, click on links to your social media profiles, share your company via Facebook or Twitter (yay! free marketing!) and beyond. You wouldn’t send your clients down the road or to another store to complete payment if you were a brick and mortar store, so why do the same online?
E. Flexible Reporting and Hassle Free Invoicing
While you probably won’t find a software that doesn’t offer a reporting function, make sure to look closely at what kind of reports they are actually offering? Also make a list of reports you regularly use or wish you could create if you had more time. Is the software capable of generating these reports easily? If they don’t, can they configure the system to get you what you need? Finding a software that allows you to manipulate reports and better yet, create your own reports with any piece of data you have to get the output you need is the way to go!
An email system built in as part of the software is SO wonderful and in my opinion, SO necessary when shopping around. Not only can this capability help you on the marketing front it can also greatly assist on the accounting front (read more about Email Marketing here). The software you choose should include the ability to send invoices to your applicants. This can be as simple as an automated email setup where payments, payment reminders and other money related business is streamlined into one space (Click here and here to learn more about how to write great payment emails).
When looking for an online solution, my biggest piece of advice is first truly identifying the challenges you are facing with your current process and what aspects are most important to you. Then my second advice is shop around! Do demos, read the white papers, ask questions. This way you will educate yourself about what is out there, what is possible, and most important what you need! Your goal should be finding a software that automates your individual process as much as possible. Don’t just choose the software based on “general features”, choose it based on features you need and will be using. Compare the time (and money!) you are spending to accomplish registration related tasks (from marketing to invoicing to communication) and compare the cost of a system. Most likely, spending money on a software solution for your registration is WORTH it but only if you find the right system that is optimal for your organization and your budget.