The other day I read an article that called data the new oil. Data has become an important resource to all businesses. If you manage a program where enrollment is required, you're likely collecting, storing, and processing a lot of data. This begs the question, do you have a consistent standard for collecting, storing, and processing data? The purpose of this post is to give you five simple steps for optimizing the enrollment process, which ultimately impacts your ability to make important decisions about your business.
Step 1: Start with why
It's a good idea to take a close look at your day-to-day operations and consider why you collect and store the data you do. Below is an exercise that will help you gather all the data points you and your employees use on a regular basis, as well as identify any data that you're collecting for no good reason. Keep this document saved somewhere secure and refer back to it at least once a year or so.
To get started, open a Google sheet or Excel spreadsheet and do the following:
In the first column, list all of the data points you currently use to run your business
In the second column, list who needs access to this data (names of the data stewards)
In the third column, list what kind of access to the data each steward needs (consider segmenting access, i.e. view, edit, and delete)
In the fourth column, list how frequently each data steward needs access (daily, weekly, monthly, annually, etc.)
In the fifth column, list the sensitivity level of the data (public, private, or confidential)
In the sixth column, add any notes or comments that will summarize your need for this data point.
To help you with this step, we've created a template you can use with each of the six columns and one row of sample responses as a reference point.
Step 2: Method of collection
Now that you have a firm grasp on the data you collect and why you collect it, let's look at how you're collecting it. One of the most common methods of data collection is still paper. Just think, paper checks, paper forms, etc. However, according to recent studies by Gartner, in 2017, the typical business was spending 18% of their total IT budget on digitalization, a number estimated to increase to 28% in 2018. More and more companies are finding significant return on investment and other qualitative benefits of joining the digital transformation.
Below are a few of the benefits of collecting most, if not all of your data online, directly from the data-source (in most case the enrollee or a parent of the enrollee):
No data entry for you
Fields on the internet can be programmed to provide input data in a standardized format (all caps, sentence case, title case, etc.) which ensures you have the same formatting, no matter who enters the data
Forms can't be submitted online when required fields are blank or when the information submitted fails validation tests (think bad phone numbers, emails, etc.)
Data submitted electronically can easily be routed to different places for convenience or reporting purposes.
Take a minute to consider what methods of data collection you use most often. Be sure to choose a method of collection that will not only be convenient, but also provide the best outcomes for your enrollees.
Step 3: Matters of security
If you aren't aware that data security is important, you need to get out from underneath that rock a bit more. The reason we suggested to segment your data by its level of sensitivity in step one is because this will allow you to make important decisions about not only who gets access to that data, but also who will process and store the data.
If you don't absolutely need personally identifiable information (PII) like date-of-birth, physical address, etc., stop collecting it. Chances are, if it's been sometime since you created/revised your enrollment form, there is a lot of data you're collecting that you simply don't need.
Since payment information is the elephant in the room when it comes to data security, let's talk about that. How are you collecting it? Where are you storing it? If you accept credit and debit cards, most merchant account providers charge a monthly fee of $20 or more until you can pass a PCI-DSS questionnaire. In order to have that fee waived and to be in compliance, there are specific things you are going to want to do and not do. One of the best ways to avoid a massive headache when it comes to PCI-DSS compliance, is to process your payments without storing payment information. This takes most of the burden of compliance off of you. To learn more about how this is done, visit Enrollsy's partner page with CardConnect (FirstData).
Take time to do a little research about the types of data you collect, its sensitivity, and how you can share or transfer risks away from your company to those who are specialized in handling sensitive data and are insured properly in the event of a breach.
Step 4: Repeat customers
We've all been there before. Standing in line somewhere when we realize our membership has expired. Can you imagine what a poor experience it would be if we had to fill out another enrollment form to renew our membership? Any large organization with a membership base knows a customer experience like that isn't going to work, so they invest in technology that makes data (like membership information) readily available and portable around renewal times.
While some programs are one-and-done, the truth in most cases is that families continue to enroll kids in the same types of programs year after year. For this reason, an important aspect of the enrollment process is to store enrollee/family data and have it ready to use when they come back. This makes the enrollment process a better experience for everyone. I am surprised at how many times we enroll our kids in things and have to provide the same information that should already be on file based on another kid we had previously enrolled.
If you need help with this step, feel free to contact a member of our team.
Step 5: Give them the power
If you are still using paper forms, it's time for a change. Do it not just for your sake, but for the sake of your customers. Your enrollment platform should give parents an easy way to update payment information, enroll or re-enroll in new programs, view financial statements, pay their balance, and more. Read more about this in a post we wrote after doing market research about what moms want when they enroll their kids in programs.
By giving families the information they need in a secure, easily accessible format, like an online enrollment platform, you'll empower the people who want to do business with you to do just that. Without this, you are forcing people to go out of their way to do business with you. In an increasingly competitive economy, with phone-slinging millennials now at an age where their kids are ready to enroll in stuff, you've got to make it easy for them to do business with you.
Bringing it all together
Enrollment-based businesses are wonderful. If you offer programs people want, like music lessons, preschool, karate, dance, gymnastics, or any other myriad things, you have the potential to influence a lot of people and build a great income. The better you get at optimizing your enrollment process, the better it will work for you and the less of your time will be required to scale. Remember, as you refine your enrollment process–
Start with why
Use the best means of data collection
Pay attention to security
Plan on having repeat enrollees/families
Empower your customers with your process