Giving customers their own online accounts, secured with a user id and password, can get tricky, especially if you have to rely on third party vendor software to do the management.
At the school I work at, we instituted a new Online Application for potential students. We also created a new Online Reenrollment form that parents can fill out to update information that may have changed since last year.
Applicants have to create their own username and password just to be able to create an Online Application. They SEND their information TO us to be imported into our database.
For the Reenrollment site, on the other hand, we email parents their username and password – they don’t get to create their login credentials because we are giving them access to data that is already in our database and which they will be able to update.
In both cases, we ALWAYS have parents or applicants who have trouble logging into the respective websites. I’d say at least 15% of our users experience some kind of issue. In many cases, they type a lower case “L” instead of an upper case “i”, or type the number “0″ instead of the letter “O”. In other cases, they’ve forgotten their username or password. And in some cases, I’ve forgotten to initialize parent accounts before sending them an email with their login information.
In short, online account management gets complicated, and I’m not sure how we can make the experience easier for applicants and parents without making their information more vulnerable.