Should your registration process be set in stone before deciding on your preferred online registration software. Well… the truth is (spoiler alert!) that it is actually better if it is not! In this post I am going to go through the suggested registration process with regards to your actual registration process when working on an online registration software. If you are looking for the process you should go through when selecting an online registration system I have written a few posts about it which you can see here, here and here.
At Regpack we talk to a lot of existing and new clients every day. We strongly believe in constant communication in order to know what our clients need and want. While doing this we also encounter some of the most interesting conceptions in the field that are not always the best practice but are considered as such. One of them that stands out is the idea that before committing to an online registration software (or a registration process in general), the process needs to be completely finalized and set in stone. I don’t really know where this coming from, maybe from the idea that an online process is similar to a paper process (and no one wants to print their registration forms multiple times) or maybe due to the fact that in the past registration software was custom built and installed on the company servers so they wanted to get everything right the first time. Who knows!? Regardless of the reason, come 2015 there is really no reason to do this anymore. It is just overwhelming,stressful and most important: unnecessary!
Things change which means you need a flexible registration process!
A great ‘feature’ to look for when choosing an online registration software is one that is flexible and will grow and stretch according to your needs and how your organization evolves over time. Many organizations want to make the shift from paper to electronic (or from one software to a better software) but they are in a constant state of anxiety about how to ‘finalize’ their process, what forms they need, the text of their messages their new software will automate, etc. Meanwhile, they are missing out on all the great benefits of an online solution and increasing their profits and applicant turn over, simply because of this need to FINALIZE!
This problem also crops up when organizations are on the hunt for a new software and are constantly comparing features to figure out how their needs can match up to THOSE FEATURES. The real goal should be finding a software that adapts to their individual and specific needs, not the other way around. So just stop comparing and start explaining your problems to the companies you talk to and see if they have solutions for these problems. If a specific company has the solutions (don’t even ask about features!) you have your winner!
Before I go into a series of problems and possible solutions connected to “finalizing” your registration process I would like to give you a little analogy so you can understand how counter productive finalizing your registration process is. In your marketing attempts, do you start working on something and never check if it is brings in the best results? In your programming do you just create the program and use it with your members/ campers/ attendees regardless of whether or not people are engaged with it? On your website, do you just put it up and never look at it again or never check what pages are getting the highest abandon rates, what info is outdated, etc? I assume the answer to all of these is NO! The same applies to your registration process. Why commit to a specific order of forms or flow if you see that people are stopping the process in the middle or having issues and calling and emailing you to sort out issues? Why commit to a specific place where you present the possible services they can order or a specific place where your user issue their payment if you see that there is a high abandon rate? Obviously the answer to all these is also YOU SHOULD NOT. You should be flexible and nimble so that you get the best results based on the information you are seeing and getting from your online registration software.
Solving problems with solutions that are flexible.
Let’s take a look at some problems organizations commonly face and how they can solve them. Spoiler: the answer to these problems is NOT to settle with a software that locks them in to a certain model, process, application, etc.
Problem: What we ask our applicants changes from year to year, or session to session. We can’t always anticipate what these changes are, but we know in the past we’ve had to alter our application because of these changes.
Solution: Find a software that allows you to change your forms, questions, form order, etc. Duh! But seriously, no business I’ve ever come across (especially the ones that want to grow) have a static and unchanging process. There are always new things to ask, forms that become obsolete and different ways you might want to approach your registration. It’s a good thing to want to change up your process – either because you want to test out different formats or to find what will net you the highest retention rate or just because you want the option to change things up without the pressure of high change fees down the line.
Problem: We are seeing wrong answers to questions on our forms.
As you start taking registrations you will see that some questions are labeled really well and you are getting the correct answer to your question every time and others are not as crystal clear. You should not be in a situation that you need to wait for the next session or worst the next time you move to a new registration software to correct that. You should also not need to wait for a programmer to have time to update it (since programmers never have time…).
Solution: Find a system that allows you to alter the labels of questions as much as you like. Then wait and see if the results improve. This will allow you to make sure that all new applicants will answer correctly and if not then try a different option. It is called A/B testing and you should be allowed to do it!
Problem: We are getting a lot of applicants that are not committed and we are wasting time on them. We have limited staff and want to focus only on the people that have the highest chance of moving forward.
In marketing this is called “controlling the funnel”. A registration software is many times also your checkout process. Not everyone that enters the process will actually become a camper / attendee / applicant. If you need to take care of these applications (like interviewing them or maybe connecting them to a mentor) you want to make sure that you are putting your efforts with the people that will be coming through. You might find this out only a few months into the registration season. What do you do now? Waste time and resources?
Solution: Select an online registration software that will allow you to change the process midway and will also allow you to do a 2 stage (or 3 stage) registration process. Let’s say you have the basic registration in the beginning and then only when they pay the registration fee or complete critical information you allow them to move forward to the next stage of the registration (preferably this should happen automatically) that will demand some effort on your side. This way you are ensuring that you are using your resources in the best possible way. But if you see that this is netting you less applicants and you want to go back or try something else you should be able to do so!
Problem: We offer different options depending on the year, session, time of year, what’s available, etc. This means we need to constantly change what we offer depending on the applicant, when they are registering, etc.
Solution: Find a software that allows you to be flexible with your process depending on the time of year. Are you sensing a theme here with my advice 🙂
But seriously. Opting for a software that forces you into their pre-made templates or requires not only a hefty fee to set up everything in the beginning, with more fees to change and alter as needed, can pigeon hole an organization into marrying a process that isn’t right for them, or down the line they grow out of.
Problem: We need to have better control on the automatic and timed emails that go out to our applicants.
Solution: This is a big problem with template software options or a software that programs the automated messages you are able to send out on a set schedule (like payment reminders, registration completion reminders, etc). If you aren’t able to change or update information without having to pay to add and remove message text, look for a software that allows you the freedom to update and refresh your messages when you need to.
Problem: something is wrong. People are not finalizing the registration and not paying and you have no idea why.
Registration is your checkout process. It is the last stage after putting so much effort into your programs, HR, marketing, finance and so much more. It is the stage that the client says to themselves “Yep, this is the one for me”. Then they click the “Register” button and something goes wrong. They are not completing the forms or not making the payments or you are just not happy with how many are actually doing this.
Solution: have a specialist look at your process and offer ideas for improvement. This should come free of charge from your online registration software vendor. Better yet, the people behind the system you use should be pro active and should be constantly updating the software to help you and offer you what makes the most sense for you to use. They should assign someone that knows your field to go over your process and suggest changes that will correct the bad results you are seeing. I will take this a step forward and say that they should do this for you with the initial build of the system so that you will not even encounter this issue to begin with.
Problem: Our prices often change, or we want the option to change our pricing as our business grows.
Solution: Find a software that will allow you to change your pricing information down the road and more important, will take care of the possible issues that it can create with people that have already ordered or paid for some services. The software should allow you to keep the previous price for anyone that already paid or anyone that already ordered the service into their cart. You should have full control on what happens when the pricing changes.
Part of the anxiety that comes with the feeling that you must have finalized your process before making a switch to a new software is rooted in the fact that some software companies charge a large set up fee or offer templates which don’t fit with what you need or want. If you feel you are locked into this set up and you know it won’t fully work for you….PICK ANOTHER SOFTWARE! It doesn’t have to be this way! What organization’s don’t always realize is they can have, in their budget, a software that will adapt to their needs and change as they change, without additional fees to add, remove and change aspects of their process. Leave behind a software that charges a high upfront set up fee with more fees along the way as you need or want to make changes to suit the growing and changing needs of your business. The software that you need is out there, just go out and find it via Google, Bing or Yahoo. Good luck hunting!