Anxiety-Free Parents: Jackrabbit Saves Parents from the Bad Registration Experience

I recently read a blog post from Today’s Parent (August 2013) entitled “Registering for after-school programs is taking over my life!

I’ve provided the details of Ottawa-based Sportsnet host/reporter Ian Mendes’ experience below. But – rest assured as you read this – that, as a Jackrabbit customer, you can save your parents from ever experiencing such an ordeal.
One evening when Ian was traveling, he casually glanced at the clock and noticed it to be 7pm and 9 pm back home. He also realized that it was the first day of fall/winter swimming class registration through his hometown city of Ottawa.

His account of the experience begins here:

Every responsible parent knows the exact date and time of the online swimming registration for one reason: You’ve been burned in the past. And you always swear you will never be stuck with a lame swimming time and date again. So the countdown to the start of swimming registration has the same drama and hype as New Year’s Eve in a lot of parents’ homes.

If you’ve ever had to register your child for a class through a city website or via telephone, you know it can be a massive pain. You’ve got all the classes lined up perfectly in your mind — but you’re at the mercy of the system. It’s often bogged down with thousands of other parents who are sipping Pinot Grigio at their computer screen and trying to put their kids in the exact same classes.

So understanding the urgency of the situation, I rudely interrupted Sonia’s conversation with her longtime, childhood friend. I’m not sure what they were talking about, but it really didn’t matter.

“I know this sounds like an odd request, but could we use your computer for a few minutes?” I asked our hosts. “We need to use it for online swimming registration.”

Usually, that sentence would kill the mood at a dinner party.

But these friends have four kids of their own and as soon as the words “online swimming registration” escaped my mouth, they dashed out of the room to get their laptop.

We quickly loaded up the city of Ottawa website and found that we couldn’t get into the registration system. We kept hitting the refresh button, but the screen kept freezing up like it was using a dial-up connection from 1998.

The feeling of hitting the “refresh” button with no response can be frustrating. It takes you back to the last time you were trying to buy concert tickets online, but having a hard time connecting to the Ticketmaster server. (And no, trying to buy The Wiggles tickets doesn’t count). Before you know it, the event is sold out and you’re looking to buy tickets off a second-hand website at double the price.

But the problem with swimming classes is that nobody is selling spots on Craigslist after you’ve struck out online. Creating a post that says “female seeking whale (swimming class)” would probably not generate the type of responses you would want.

With each passing moment, our worst fears were starting to be realized; we weren’t going to get the ideal swim classes for our girls because we couldn’t connect to the server.

Instead, we’d probably get a 4:15 p.m. slot on a Tuesday, which would mean we’d have to rush them to the rec centre after school. Maybe we’d be forced into a 8:00 a.m. Sunday class that puts a damper on the entire weekend for everyone. Or worse: We could be forced to put our girls in swimming classes on different days in different pools — creating a logistical nightmare that also leaves a big carbon footprint on the city with all the extra driving.

I fired up my Blackberry and tried using the phone to register for the classes. The last time I used a touch-tone keypad to register for a class was in journalism school in the mid-1990s. This seemed so archaic, making me wonder if there was also a fax option for swimming registration as well.

But alas, the phone line was also busy — just like when you try phoning a radio station to be the 88th caller to win those same concert tickets you couldn’t purchase online.

What made our situation even more frustrating was that Sonia was receiving emails from friends that said they had made it through the cyber red tape and registered their kids for classes. People’s Facebook statuses were also starting to read “Kids registered for swimming!”

We tried to register for more than an hour at our friend’s house and had no luck. We said our goodbyes to them on their porch; each of us quietly certain that was the last dinner invite we would receive to their house.

We finally got through to the system about two hours later when we returned to my in-laws house. But at that point, our top choice for swimming classes for Lily was already full. We could put our names on the waitlist, but we knew damn well that was like putting your name on the waitlist for a brand-new daycare or Green Bay Packers season tickets. It was never going to pan out.

We did finally get our girls registered for classes on a Saturday morning. They aren’t at the same time like we had hoped — but they were close enough that they overlapped a little bit.

It’s just another reminder to mark our calendars for the date when the spring registration starts in a few months. And we will make sure that if the registration starts at 9 p.m., we’ll be trying to connect to that damn server at 8:30 p.m.

But as I noted earlier, if you use Jackrabbit, your clients never have to go through such an ordeal. You have online registration resources that suffer none of Ian’s trials and tribulations on any parent.

Online registration is, in fact, painless. It gives them as many – or as few – options as you want them to have. The amazing Jackrabbit support team and its thorough online registration resources make it possible for you to embed your class options and availabilities live on your website pages so that parents can see how many slots are available in which classes and can quickly enroll and pay (if you choose to allow them to do so) in just seconds.

There are no issues with getting on or getting booted off of your registration pages. Jackrabbit has plenty of bandwidth to accommodate as many of your parents as want to register at any point during the day or night. Because the information is real time, parents see class slots available and get enrollment confirmation immediately so they can rest assured that their child is enrolled in the class that they have just chosen. They can enjoy this convenience 24/7/365 in their pajamas or in the car pool line, on their home computer, iPad or iPhone.

There is an amazing bonus in this for you. Your staff doesn’t have to enroll each student manually any more. Parents take that off their hands and provide every detail necessary to enroll and pay for their child’s classes. Hours and hours of tedious data entry and frustration reading hand-written enrollment forms goes away.

Your classes can literally fill up while you’re asleep and remaining spaces are visible at a glance – on Jackrabbit’s executive dashboard – so you and your entire staff knows exactly where you stand at any moment during the day without looking through documents, researching files or even counting emails!

Photo Credit: All rights reserved by GHG Photo (Grey Houston Gibbs)