Choosing the best online registration software can be an involved task. What are the options available for your type of business? How much will it cost? These are all valid questions, however the first question you should be asking before tackling the ones just mentioned, is do I need an online software solution for my registration?
While the answer to this question will be different for every organization, in general the answer is yes! We have outlined the reasons for doing registration online in a previous post. The three most important reasons are:
- Your registration process will available 24-7.
- A smart online registration software will get you more completed applications and will cut down on administrative costs.
- You will get paid faster (if your registration includes a payment component) that will help your cash flow (we also wrote a post about why you should accept online payments that you might want to look at).
Now that we got that out of the way and you know that you need an online registration process, below is a 3 step guide on how to choose the best online registration software that is right for you.
Step 1: Understand your own registration needs by understanding and evaluating how your current process works.
If you are already thinking about going online, you probably need to go online. But if you are still on the fence, before jumping into the myriad of software choices out there, first ask yourself the following questions:
- Does my current registration process create problems for my clients?
- Do I or my staff spend a significant amount of time fielding calls and emails from clients confused or frustrated with my registration process?
- Am I constantly waiting for payments and important forms and documents to come in via email or snail mail?
- What about my registration process currently is not living up to my expectations that has me seeking out an online, automated solution?
If, after answering these questions, you realize that your current registration process just isn’t cutting it for you, you can then…
Step 2: Decide what features in an online and automated software you really need.
The first thing you can do when deciding which features in an online registration software are right for you, is mapping out your current process and figuring out what WORKS in your process and what DOESN’T.
When you figure out the aspects of your process that aren’t working for you, begin looking for a software that has a solution for those specific issues. In general, the solutions will, at their foundation, automate the task that you are currently doing on a manual level.
For example, if you’ve identified one negative aspect of your current process being payment collection, you’ll probably be in the market for a software that automates payments and offers an integrated payment system from within the software itself. This feature is great since it puts together all aspects of your registration in one place – forms and payments – and provides an online and automated way for clients to pay, via e-check or credit card. This feature eliminates confusion on your clients part about how much they owe, when they owe it and how they can pay you since everything is built into your new system.
Once you identify what features are most important for you…
Step 3: Compare the best online registration software options and pick one!
Finding the best online registration software options doesn’t have to be difficult. Google is your friend! Do a google search for “online registration software” or “best online registration software”. You can get more specific and search for something like “online registration system for camps” or “online registration system for courses”. You will find a number of options. Go into the websites (maybe open each on a different tab so you can compare them faster). Then look at the sites, check out the general feel you get from them company and ask to see a demo! That way you will get a sense of what each software can do but more important you will educate yourself on what is possible and what is not. This will also allow you to check out the service the software provider gives at this very initial stage.
Another great way to learn what’s out there is checking out your competition! Check out what others in your field are using as a software solution. They may have had the same issues with their manual processes that you have, and may have found a budget friendly and great solution that will work for your needs as well.
Word of mouth is also great, since so much of business these days is conducted via recommendations on social media, email, LinkedIn, etc. If you are a member of a LinkedIn group in your field, post a question! You will get a lot of answers from your peers but also from vendors that will offer you their services. Check them out! If they are investing time in answering your questions on social media they most likely know your field and might be a good match.
Once you’ve found a few options you need to look at the whole package (and not just price). The major things to consider are the following (not necessary in order of importance):
- Understanding of your field
- Service level
- The ability to keep your business front and center (systems that can embed to your website for example).
- Ease of use and the systems ability to expand.
- The ability to stick to the process you want and not force you to do the process they can do. We wrote a post about how the software industry offers systems that work according to your process so check it out!
But first and foremost, the important thing is to compare! Setup times to see demos, read testimonials, ask your friends, consult with your team. Don’t pick out the first system you find and don’t select the system based on the colors of their website (yes, people actually do that). Registration is a major part of your business so you need to make the right decision, right?
Take into account that no two softwares are alike, really look at the what you are getting from each software and the specific features they offer. Sometimes the most expensive or the cheapest option is the best, but other times they might be offering tons of features that sound nice but that aren’t relevant for your business and another option might suit you better. This is where truly understanding the needs of your organization comes into play. It will help you filter out what software can really meet your needs.
My biggest advice when choosing the best online registration software…
The best online registration software is one that offers as much customization as possible. Software today has the ability to morph and bend to the needs of the user. And this ability shouldn’t come at a premium! A company that offers a product that can be tailored to your needs and work within your business model seamlessly is a great feature to look for!
Good luck and good hunting!
Editors note: This post was originally published December 16, 2013 and was updated August 12, 2015 with new links and updated for accuracy.