One of the biggest questions a prospective client asks me frequently is “What are Regpack’s best features?” or “What features does your software offer?” or “How do Regpack’s features compare to company X?” The “features” question isn’t a bad one, and of course there is a good answer to it (and yes, Regpack has more features than most software out there and all at the same price!). But the problem is these are not the correct questions to ask when looking for an online registration software and evaluating registration software features for your organization.
That is why I like to frame my response with “Regpack has these solutions that can do THIS for your organization” as opposed to a long list of features we have as if to say that more features must mean our software is better. Even better, I love asking instead “What problems are you finding with your registration and let’s figure out WHAT can help you solve these!”
This trend is one I’ve noticed all across the software and business world lately. The endless search for features! Just look at software reviews on CNET and you will see that there is a table comparing features of different software. Apple loves to boast about thousands of new features in their latest operating system release as does Microsoft. Everyone is obsessed with features! Features! And then some more features!
But let’s stop for a second and think about what you really need from a software (or whatever product you’re looking at) and frame our question in the following way: “I have problem A, does this product solve this problem?” The idea is to look at the problems you are trying to solve and not look at the abilities of the system you are inspecting. A software can offer HUNDREDS of features, none of which are useful to you or your organization, so is it worth using it just because of a long list of features? Remember, sometimes less is more!
Do you really need that feature? Start from the problem, not the solution!
If you take one thing from this post it should be this: Look at your problem and seek a solution for it, not the other way around! This might sound really simple but very few people actually do it. In order to show how this works I want to talk about one “feature” everyone seems to be looking for with online registration software: “timed emails”. Organizations are always saying how they need emails to be sent on a specific date and time so they want a software that will let them schedule this so they don’t have to think about sending it on the exact date and time. I will start with the fact that Regpack does have timed emails so you do not think that I am trying to explain why you do not need something we don’t have. So let’s look at this specific case study (if you would like me in a future post to look at a different case study just let me know in the comments section).
Do you really need all of these registration software features? Case study on “timed emails”.
While “timed emails” sounds nice in theory let’s try to break this down according to the “problems not features” idea. The first thing to do is try to understand what the problem is that we are trying to solve.
Based on my experience it seems that different organizations try to solve different problems with this same ‘solution’. The idea of timed emails is to send over information to the user on a specific date and time. So the ‘problem’ isn’t that you want to send timed emails but can’t. The problem is you have a certain amount of information you need to communicate to clients, and there are many ways to do this or many “solutions” depending on what information you’re needing to send. Timed emails aren’t necessarily always the answer.
While it might be nice to not have to remember to send an email on a certain day and time, this ‘feature’ actually gives you no control over the registration process. What if the list of recipients changes from the time you schedule the email and the time it sends? Why do you need to schedule a specific email so far in advance? Am I making sense? No? So, let’s look at some examples and I’ll start to (hopefully). There are different problems that can bring you to the conclusion that you need timed emails. Let’s look at each.
Possible Problem #1
The real problem here is that users did not complete the application the first time around. This could be due to three possibilities:
- They did not know that they did not complete the application.
- The applicant did not have all the needed information in order to complete the application.
- The user got frustrated with the registration software since it was asking them a lot of irrelevant questions.
Are timed emails the solution?
Timed emails might solve the first problem but not in a very elegant way. In order to make sure that the applicant completes the application on the first round the system needs to:
- Allow the user to “flow” from one stage to the next seamlessly.
- Give a clear indication on how far they are in the registration process (ex. a progress bar).
- Have a dashboard that clearly states what is complete and what is not in a color coded way (red not complete, green complete).
- Make sure that every applicant gets only the questions that are relevant to them (i.e. conditional logic)
This is just a short list of things that need to happen and in this list there are about 37 features I can think of off the top of my head. Do you really care about them or do you care about the fact that the system will solve the problem of people not knowing they have not completed their application.
Timed emails are actually a pretty bad solution to this problem. Why? It would be much better to automatically send an email to the applicant that did not complete their application but left the process with a list of incomplete items. When they are “in the process” there is a much better chance that they will go back into the system right away and finish it up.
Possible Problem #2 (and it’s real solution!)
The real problem here is that you do not allow the user to flow through the application and actually come back to it later in order to complete the incomplete sections!
This can happen a lot. Let’s say you need their passport number or you need their annual income and they do not have that information handy. Will timed emails solve this problem? Most likely no. In order to solve this problem you most likely need to give the the following tools:
- The ability to login back to the system.
- When logging into the system, it should take them directly to the incomplete information so they can fill it out right away.
A great solution in this case is an email with very direct action items on what is incomplete that arrives in their inbox right when they logout.
A timed email is a pretty bad solution to this problem since it will come in too little, too late. You need to give them the ability to solve the problem right when they have the information handy.
Possible Problem #3 (and it’s real solution)
Well… that is just a bad registration system. Period! Annoying your users with timed emails to enter an annoying system that asks them irrelevant information will not get you more people completing your registration process. It will just get you more people marking you as spam or sending you support emails that they do not know what to answer on question a, b, and c. The solution here is a conditional logic engine that makes sure each person is asked only the questions that are correct for them.
Again, timed emails is not the solution. It will actually make the problem even bigger. You will suddenly need to deal with support issues, annoyed clients and so forth. If your registration system is that bad you just better get on the phone with them and get the information you need from them manually. Or better yet… start looking for a better registration solution.
Possible Problem #4 – The BIG One (and it’s real solution!)
This seems like a valid reason for timed emails, right? Wrong!
Let’s do the same thing, look at the problem and not the solution.
The REAL problem is: People are not paying their dues on time.
Possible reasons the problem is happening:
- The registration system does not include an integrated payment solution so they need to go to a different site to pay and they are not doing it. Or worse, need to mail a payment form and/or check to you via snail mail.
- You offer payments in installments yet people are not paying on time.
- Your charging structure is based on a deposit and then a full payment by a specific date.
- The user did not have their preferred payment method with them (let’s say their debit card) when registering and they wanted to come in and pay later when they have it with them.
- The user is not sure they want or can attend and therefore are reluctant to pay.
Will timed emails resolve these issues? With the exception of item 3 that a timed email can solve in a very insufficient manner in all other cases it is actually a pretty bad solution. Your goal is to not need to remind people they need to pay but for it to “just happen”.
So let’s look into the various possible solutions that will actually solve the problem based on the possible reason for it.
1. The online registration software does not include an integrated payment solution so they need to go to a different site to pay and they are not doing it.
The solution is pretty simple here: get an online registration software that does have an integrated payment solution. According to this research when you are sending people to an external site for payment (even one everyone knows like PayPal) you are going to loss 27% of your applicants. Yep, 27%! Pretty crazy. A timed email will not solve the fact that they are not sure they are arriving to the correct place to pay. If you need more proof why offering online payments is necessary, here it is!
2. You offer payments in installments yet people are not paying on time.
Yes, you can time the emails to them and send them reminders but wouldn’t it be better to put them on a payment plan that the registration system will automatically charge on the correct dates and will notify them before doing so? Obviously that is better.
Let’s say that that is not an option, then sending out an email to everyone that needs to pay will be an overkill. You need a system that allows you to easily search and filter your results so you’re first sending the right email to the right people, and then easily allows you to send your email. To be clear, this isn’t a TIMED EMAIL, this is sending an email in real time, but with the ability to filter and find the exact people you want to send an email to, a system that can populate the email with the recipient’s personal information and send immediately. You might think a ‘timed email’ feature is what gives you control over your registration process, but THIS ability is actually what gives you control!
3. Your charging structure is based on a deposit and then a full payment by a specific date.
Again payment plans is the solution. After all, you have their payment method saved from the deposit. And if the system does not save the payment method that is a whole different problem…
4. The user did not have their preferred payment method with them (let’s say their debit card) when registering and they wanted to come in and pay later when they have it with them.
Sending them an email right when they log-out (automatically!) is actually a much better solution! You should also allow them to automatically login through the email that you send them and direct them right to the page they did not complete.
5. The user is not sure they want or can attend and therefore are reluctant to pay.
A timed email will not help here. What you need is a flexible refund and return policy.
You should always have a way to make the client feel that if they do not act they will not have a space when they do want to come. This can be done by presenting the overall number of remaining spaces and showing it is going down while they are logged in as a motivator. Part of the solution to this problem, however, might benefit from timed emails. Emails explaining the value of your offering in 3-4 emails that come a few days after they logged out and did not pay might encourage someone ‘on the fence’ to pull the trigger.
I can go on and on with additional problems, the possible reasons they are happening and the solutions that need to be implemented. Each one of them will have many many features that need to exist. But you should not care about that. You should care about the problem YOUR organization has and when looking for an online registration software you need to communicate that to the sales person you are talking to. See if they have a solution, not a feature since 99% of the times the solution will demand multiple features.
Just like if you’re buying a new computer for personal use. Do you care about the features that improve business tasks or what features make it great for gaming, if you are both not using the computer for professional or gaming reasons? It might sound nice at first to think that what you are about to buy has lots of THINGS! But are these things relevant to you? Are you paying for something you don’t need and there is possibly a better solution out there for you, at a better price!?
If you only leave with one thing out of this post it should be this: Look for solutions, not for features! Leave the feature game to geeks in Silicon Valley, we are really great at it but don’t let it blind you when trying to make the best choice for your organization.