The Biggest Summer Camp Registration Frustrations

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A buddy of mine went to a movie at some point in the distant past when movie theaters were open.  I asked him how the movie was, and he told me, “It was different than I expected.” Not, “It was good,” or “Nicholas Cage must still have IRS problems,” but “It was different than I expected.” So, I asked him, “How is that the movie’s fault?”

The more I think about it though (I think about it a lot, because I have very few friends), I kinda understand what he’s saying.  On some level, it IS the movie’s fault.  Whether fair or not, we go into films with our own expectations of what the experience will be like, and judge it based on those expectations. 

We inherently compare things, often without even realizing it, and we form opinions based on those comparisons.  Your customers are doing this with your registration process.  Their expectations may be unrealistic, but they have them nonetheless.  Here are the most common complaints I hear about camp registration:

#1 – It takes too long

You likely know what it’s like to be busy for stretches of time.  Too many things to do and not enough time to do them.  Aren’t you glad for the breaks in between your busy times when you can just kick back and relax?  You know, get away from the hectic pace for a while?  Well, parents’ lives are kinda like that as well, only they don’t get those breaks that you enjoy so much.  Seriously, its non-stop chaos.  They are on the mechanical bull just trying to hold on, and when they get bucked off, not only do they have to climb back on immediately, but the bull is now complaining that they wanted a cheeseburger with no meat, not a cheese sandwich. 

“A good rule of thumb is- If it’s info you need before they come to camp, but you don’t need it before they register, let them do it later.”

So while they would like to devote 3 hours to doing nothing but completing your form detailing the address and phone number where their child received their polio vaccine in 2008, they have a few other things going on at the moment: you see the vaccinated kid just stuffed a golf ball up his nose on a dare from his TikTok friends, and they have to run the Ear/Nose/PGA Tour Professional for some emergency chipping out of the deep rough*. 

I understand there is information necessary for kids to have a fun and safe camp experience.  I understand that registering for camp is never going to be as quick and easy as ordering this or these or this (Pic #5 kills me).  However, a good rule of thumb is: If it’s info you need before they come to camp, but you don’t need it before they register, let them do it later.  All of those “necessary” forms…make them required, but let parents access them after they register (if your registration software can’t do that, it might be time to switch).

#2 – I don’t have the necessary information

Again with the forms!  I understand you need their grandfather’s sister-in-law’s mother’s maiden name (It helps us put them into cabin groups!), but it’s not always info that they have memorized or readily on hand or can access without a paid subscription to ancestry.com. 

Here’s a tip, if it’s truly necessary, give them a heads up in advance.  Add instructions early in the process as to what information and/or documents they will need prior to starting the registration process.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting into the middle of a process and then having to abandon it because you don’t have everything necessary.  1 out of 1 of the people I asked are extremely unlikely to ever return to register.  If they are going to need it, let them know before they are knee-deep in your registration gauntlet (or better yet, see #1 and let them do it later!)

#3 – It’s confusing/I don’t know where to go

OK listen.  I know what you are thinking.  I was in the camping world for 15 years, and I thought the same thing.  THEY ARE MORONS.  And while that is possibly true, it’s irrelevant for this discussion.  If you want as many people as possible to come to camp, you are going to have to help the morons.  And really, what you are saying is you don’t want to do the work necessary to make it clearer.  Notice I didn’t say simpler.  There is a case to be made that your process can be simpler, but even if it is distilled to the most basic components, there is still work to be done to make it CLEARER. 

Here’s a suggestion: watch your grandmother navigate your website and registration process.  When she gets stuck, record the sticking point.  Ask her questions about what was confusing.  I know you don’t find it confusing, but you look at it (or components of it at least) weekly, if not daily.  Your customers view it once or twice a year.  If your process and messaging is confusing to them, it’s not their fault.  It’s yours.  And whether you agree with that or not (you’re wrong), it’s still on you to fix it.  It’s like what Michael Bay does with all his movies: if you can’t follow the plot line with the mute button on, we need more explosions. Or probably.

So there you go, the 3 most common complaints that I hear about registering for camp.  Solve these for your customers, and everything else is cream cheese.

* – if memory serves, dislodging the ball from any bodily orifice is a 3-stroke penalty and requires a drop.

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