More and more dance schools are offering online registration, and the reasons are no secret: Customers often prefer it, and school owners benefit as well. Online registration lets your website do all the work, freeing your staff for other tasks. It gets rid of the 6:00 a.m. registration-day lines and allows customers to register at their convenience, and it automates what has traditionally been a tedious, time-consuming process. Plus, it improves the accuracy of registrant information.
While online registration may not work for every school, you can quickly figure out if it’s right for you.
A good online registration can:
- Collect all the information needed about the student and the parents into the enrollment database automatically (no reentering data).
- It allows registrants to review and choose classes along with any options (one-time information input).
- It gives registrants the option to be placed on waiting lists for full sessions (keeps students interested in class).
- It allows registrants to pay deposits and/or full class fees (eliminates billing and collections).
- It provides registrants with confirmation of registration and payment (eliminates confusion).
- It allows registrants to complete registration and make payments at their convenience from home or work (makes processes easier for customers).
- It should allow for several payment types, including recurring billing or pay in full.
- Any online payment system should also allow for in-studio enrollment and payments, as well as accept cash or checks in addition to credit cards
Online registration’s ultimate benefit is convenience, but there are others as well. A well-designed process can:
- Eliminate data entry and hard-to-read handwritten forms.
- Encourage prompt registration by offering the option to enroll online directly from your website, e-newsletters, or emails 24/7.
- Eliminate hard-copy forms and therefore reduce your postage costs.
- Give you a succinct, understandable view of the enrollment levels and remaining capacity across all of your classes.
School owners and managers generally benefit from several factors that can result from a good online registration process:
- Consistent or growing registration numbers. Ease of process makes registration less of a “decision” since it is done at customers’ convenience.
- Significant time savings for owner/manager and staff. During registration seasons, the staff time consumed by registration details could be cut by as much as 75 percent.
- Heightened accuracy of information. The responsibility for account information is shifted to the parent or student.
- Increased customer satisfaction. Parents enjoy a greater window of opportunity for registration and payment options. They have a choice of when and how to register and have control over account information and payment options.
- Customizing the process
- An online registration system can be tailored to fit your school’s needs. For example, you may need more options than your provider’s system allows because you offer short-term classes in addition to those that span a season or year. The provider may be able to make adjustments for you for an additional cost. It’s up to you to determine whether the added cost is a good investment.
When considering online payments, be aware of the following:
Securing all data collected in an online payment process is critical. You’re collecting sensitive data such as credit card numbers. The credit card industry continues to impose more stringent handling and storage of credit card information, including the Payment Card Industry (PCI) and Cardholder Information Security Program (CSIP) initiatives.
You should not store credit card information unless it is absolutely necessary, and if you do, you must protect it with passwords and encryption. If you store paper records, equivalent precautions should be taken. Good online registration systems provide Web-based data storage as part of the package price, with stronger security than a studio owner typically could arrange working on her own.
Insecurity of email
Remember that any process that transmits this information using email is not secure. You could face fines levied by credit card companies on your organization for any data that is misappropriated.
You should consider how you would issue and collect any additional payments, such as those required for classes offered outside of your normal class tuition. You can always rely on mailed checks in such situations; however, a good online system should accommodate such payments. These online options are more secure and convenient for both you and your customers.
A small dance studio should expect to pay around $500 annually for an online registration/studio management software service plus the fees from the credit card merchant provider. A larger studio might pay about $1,500 per year.
Do your homework
Make sure to do a detailed review of any online process you’re considering. In addition to confirming the provider’s individual security certification, you should consider such options as accepting and handling electronic signatures and handling secondary forms (such as medical data) for students.