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TechnoTrends: Beyond Buzz Words — How Camps Are Really Using Technology
Congratulations! Another successful summer is coming to an end. Before you know it, Summer 2006 will be here. So, before being inundated with paperwork and projects, consider how you can leverage new technologies to make camp easier for your staff, your camper's parents, and yourself.
Many camps view the tasks of manually entering hundreds of registrations and physically mailing out confirmation packets as a fact of life. But, with recent technological advances, there are solutions available to help alleviate these and other common pain points of running camp. Most camps use computer programs like Excel, Access, or FileMaker Pro to help with organization. Chances are, with little effort, most camps can launch a few new initiatives to make 2006 the smoothest and most successful year yet. With new tools, camps are able to do more than stay organized — they can fundamentally improve their operations, communications, recruiting, and improve the customer experience.
It's Time for Registration . . . .
The Joy of 500 (or 5,000 . . .) Paper Forms
If so, congratulations! If not, there is room for improvement. Utilizing a powerful online registration system is one of the first ways camps can begin eliminating unnecessary workload.
Ferncliff Solves Registration
"In the years since first offering online registration, we have seen overall registrations increase while the percentage of campers registering online has gone from 15 percent to 90 percent, saving a great deal of staff time," Gill explains. To increase online registration percentages, Ferncliff partnered with a provider of online registration services and promoted this method using the Internet, flyers, voicemail, and word-of-mouth. Because it saves the organization so much work, Ferncliff now offers a $10 discount to those who register online — further increasing the popularity of this option. Gill notes, "Our parents and churches now expect online registration, immediate confirmation, and credit card processing."
It's Time for Confirmation Packets . . . .
Print, Staple, Fold, Lick, Seal, Stamp, Send. Repeat.
LAX Camps Automates Confirmation Packets
For Summer 2005, LAX Camps took technology a step further to make the confirmation process run more smoothly. Immediately after a registration (either online or paper), LAX Camps' management system automatically sends personalized confirmation e-mails to the campers. These e-mail attachments can be configured to send the confirmation packet corresponding to the session for which the customer registered. After setup in the fall, LAX Camps' entire confirmation process was automated and ready for registrations. This saved significant costs, time, and best of all, their customers loved receiving their confirmation immediately.
It's Time for Parents to Answer Their Own Questions . . . .
The Phone Just Doesn't Stop Ringing
Camp Albemarle Empowers Parents
There are significant advantages to having online accounts for parents. With the ability to log in at any time, parents can view their balance, update their information, or verify their registration status. Camps simply place links on their Web site for password-protected customer accounts. Since online accounts are created at the time of registration, it is easy to send out notifications when there are additional forms online. For example, rather than having a long registration form, many camps require that parents return to the Internet after the initial registration to complete additional forms. As parents fill out their medical, transportation, or other required information, the camp's management system is automatically updated without additional data entry.
It's Time to Collect Balances . . . .
Dear Camper: You still owe $316.
Camp All-American Tackles Auto Billing
Georgia's Camp All-American has streamlined not only their registration (with around 99 percent of their customers signing up online) but beginning in 2005, their payment collections as well. By allowing customers to pay their deposits using credit cards, debit cards, or e-checks, follow-up payment collection is easy. Auto billing is another way to make payments easier for parents and staff. During registration, customers can give approval to automatically charge balances to their credit cards or e-checks. On the specified date, Camp All-American simply uses its management system to automatically charge all of those people that selected the option. Jamey Short of Camp All-American explains, "Collecting outstanding balances will be so much easier with the ability to automatically charge the balance to the same credit card that the families used to make their deposit. Surprisingly, most families have expressed that they prefer being charged automatically." Their management system is automatically updated, and the appropriate amount is charged in seconds — no paperwork and no hassles.
While these pain points are just a few of the challenges camps face, there are opportunities to make life easier for you and your staff. New technologies are available and being used by camps throughout the country. Rather than spending your time on monotonous tasks, let technology automate redundant chores. Use the extra time to be creative, market, retain customers, and perhaps work a relatively normal week. By investing some time in the fall to get some new tools in place, Summer 2006 can be the easiest one you have ever had.
CampRegister's Co-Founder Matt Ehrlichman and its Director of Marketing Jake Cooney provide integrated technology solutions including online registration, management software, secure photo and e-mailing, online accounts for parents, payment processing, and Web site services for camps throughout the country. For more information about CampRegister, call toll-free 877-996-2267, ext. 3, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.campregister.com.
Originally published in the 2005 July/August issue of Camping Magazine.