Your online application and online registration software serve many important functions for your business. Not only does it provide the information you and your staff need to evaluate your applicants and build your programs, it is also the first point of contact that potential clients make with your business. For this reason alone, having an efficient and seamless system is imperative.
It’s important that when asking questions and creating forms for your client that you get it right the first time. Keeping in mind the stark reality that at any moment you could lose a potential client to your competition should serve as motivation to get your process on target ASAP. If a registrant feels like your process is frustrating, confusing or too time consuming, they will stop and go somewhere else.
On the flip side, even if you have an easy and straightforward process, if you aren’t getting the information you need, you are just creating more work for yourself and your staff. And worst of all you might lose a few clients along the way when you contact them to gather more information or to follow-up with any unanswered questions. Not good! Remember applicants don’t know what goes on behind the scenes, and frankly, they don’t care. So if you find yourself asking applicants more questions via follow up emails and phone calls after they think they have completed your application is just bad business and will send them packing.
So how do you find the right balance, between acquiring the information you need from applicants and still making the process seamless, straightforward and easy to the applicant?
The first thing to do is ask the right questions, which sounds easy but really demands a lot of finesse on your part. Having an online registration software allows you to customize your process with infinite options so the choices are endless.
Below are 5 helpful guidelines applicable to many different organizations. We based our tips from our experience working with more than 3,000 organizations on their registration processes. The real secret, however, is in trial and error! If you are using an online registration software that is flexible enough to allow you to change the questions, try various options and different methods for different applicants then you are on the right track and can create a custom system that suits the needs of your organization exactly.
Make a list.
Make a list to help determine all of the information you need from the user. Once you’ve made your list, try to categorize each item by what “form” or page they should go under so you can create coherent and logical sections.
Create your forms and flow.
Once you decide what information you need and what information goes together, then you can create individual forms. You want your application to flow logically for the user, not for you. Don’t forget that your online application goes into a database (or it should!). This means you can sort and filter this information however you chose so you can make sure the application makes sense from the users perspective while filtering your the data you collect in a way that works for you in the back end.
In spite of what people will try to tell you, there is no standard registration process. The logic and flow that works for one organization might not work for you, so forget the idea that there is a one size fits all application that you can just slap your organization name on and be done. Really think about your organization, your clients and what will work best for them. If the online application you are using does not enable that, look somewhere else! You do not want to hurt your business just because your online application is incapable of doing what you need.
Once you have all of your forms separated into logical sections, make it look good! Your online application should look and feel like your brand, so the colors, fonts and general styling should resemble your website, your business cards, your social media pages, etc.
An added bonus is if the registration itself can be on your website therefore making sure your website is always front and center and not the registration software’s site.
Proofread! Edit! Proofread! Edit!
This is so important! Make sure there are no typos, make sure the formatting doesn’t look wonky and most importantly, make sure you don’t repeat yourself! Ask every question only once! If you feel like you should ask it again, evaluate why and if there is a better way to ask the question or another section more suitable for that question so it’s not redundant. You want your process to be quick to complete and easy to understand!
Develop a “smart” process.
Try to create a “smart” online registration software. If you have already put your registration online, consider automating the process (we wrote on blog post on this topic too!). This not only makes your life easier and the information you gather correct, but it makes the process that much more individualized for the client (which makes them feel they are important and will keep them on track to completion and payment!)
By “smart” registration we mean, formatting your application in a way that takes each individual user on their own registration path. Setting up your application to show only the forms necessary to each client, based on their answers to previously designed questions, saves time and limits confusion to applicants. Every applicant will partake in a different combination of services or events, which means the payments they owe or the forms they need to complete will vary.
Providing only what your users need to fill out combined with an automated payment balance will help ensure they know what they are paying for and you receiving accurate payments!