Consider SECURITY first!
So you are thinking about putting your “stuff” (courses, camps, conferences, etc.) online. Or perhaps you are planning to sell tickets online. Your hope is that it makes life easier for you and your customers. But where do you start? What do you have to consider? In the next few blog posts, I will discuss some things to think about before choosing which event registration software to use. There are up to 300 different registration software vendors out there to choose from. There has not been much consolidation yet in this industry. It is very difficult to visit each of their websites, and even if you did, you would not learn enough about which software packages are better than another. I suggest that instead you make contact with the customer support staff at four or five of the software vendors that you think might work. Because once you choose your event registration vendor, you are very dependent on their support. You will need excellent customer support to guide you along.
The first step is to educate yourself on what is involved. Some sales people may have a grasp of a few of the pieces of the puzzle but not enough pieces to properly help you out. For example, the merchant services department at the bank, will be glad to sign you up for a merchant account (VISA/ MC/ AMEX), but will fail to inform you that you also need ‘online registration software’ in order to plug the new VISA/ MC merchant numbers into. If you had of instead, started by choosing the ‘online registration software’ you might have been pleasantly surprised on how much easier things turn out to be.
Let us examine some the key pieces for conducting online event registration.
Let us start off examining how to do registration management, safely and securely. Security is fairly easy to explain. In the younger days, with respect to online registration software, people’s websites were routinely hacked and credit card information stolen. As you can appreciate, this was very problematic for cardholders and for those involved in setting up online registration. Today, hacking doesn’t happen as much. The reason is because the credit card acquirers have gotten together and created the ‘PCI Security Standard’ that all online registration software must abide by. The details are at, https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/. When you are about to signup with a software provider, I cannot stress enough that you should ask them to see their PCI Certificate. Make sure the software vendor can show it to this certificate and that it has not expired. A software provider who complies with PCI standard is routinely electronically scanned and checked for compliance for numerous security rules.
Designing html forms yourself.
So, if you decide to go it alone and design your own html forms and connect them to a credit card processor, be ready for an unbelievable high bar to jump over called, the PCI Audit. The PCI audit results in your getting a PCI certificate. In fact, today, most banks and credit card companies will not even issue you the VISA/MC/AMEX merchant account unless they see that your website is already PCI compliant. You will need to show the bank a certificate something like this to convince them into issuing you a VISA/MC merchant account. http://www.eregisternow.com/help/PDFs/PCI_certificate.pdf
Hey, don’t be discourage read on.
Because of the unbelievable security required, the best plan of attack for those thinking about online event registration via their website is to find a PCI compliant piece of event registration software which matches your needs. I would advise heavily against commissioning your local web designer into making you the html forms needed to pull off your own home grown registration system. The web designer will probably charge you much more than the cost of a well chosen, ASP, (i.e. Application Service Provider). The beauty of picking a good ASP, is that you are outsourcing your registration needs to a third-party who more than likely is very good a performing the task.
Today, the registration process has evolved to include several social media tools which can help grow your business. These tools are invaluable and are only available from some of the more sophisticated ASP vendors. There are lots of considerations regarding the choice of the right ASP vendor. Choose a vendor with an experienced team and with excellent customer service and lots of years of experience. I wrote about make a good choice in a blog about the five most important considerations about choosing an ASP.
Whether you are selling tickets online or doing day camp registration, you are looking for a piece of software which your customer’s will easily be able to make their purchases with. Your staff will also need some training and will have to learn to comply with the PCI rules.
I strongly recommend asking the sales staff or any registration ASP for a personalized demonstration. Be sure you pick a software company that will answer the phone and spend the time to answer your questions or deal with your concerns.