The words Big Data are spoken every day in corporate offices around the world. And the benefits of it to companies and customers is, well… big.
And while Big Data is becoming more accessible to small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), the basics of customer information — small data, if you will — is still where customer and experience meet for most organizations.
To collect this information, you need a method, and the customer information form is a tried and true way to get to know your customers. Let’s look as some of the basic types of information your form should have and then look at five tips to be effective with the form.
Not all information is equal. But the more you know about your customers the better you can serve them. Here are four types of customer information you should consider having your form capture.
This is the solid foundation you need to stay in contact with your client. Name, address, phone number, email address and the like are essential to making sure you can contact your customers in a timely fashion. Almost every form captures this basic data; the trick is having the real-time systems in place to make sure it is accurate.
This information includes what you need to know to provide your products and services to the customer properly. Auto maintenance shop? You need to know if the client prefers synthetic motor oils. Home network installer? You need to know what computers and Internet service the clients currently have. Carpet company? You need to know the square footage the customer is looking to cover.
Each business will have its own unique business information needs that should be collected to to make sure it is having the right conversations about the needs of the customer and your organization’s ability to meet those needs.
This class of information includes your customers’ previous experience with your business and/or your product or service (if your product was sold by someone else, for instance). This might be the first time you are collecting your customer’s information but not the first time they’ve interacted with your organization. You want to collect data on their previous experiences, issues and resolutions, as well as likes and dislikes. This process can help fill in historical gaps in your customer information.
Historical information can also include your customer’s history with a competitor. For example, are they switching to your company’s software from another? Knowing their experience with the previous system and the reasons why they are switching can be extremely helpful in addressing the customer’s needs.
Customization information can be as simple as your customer’s birthday or the number of people in their household — or it can be as unique as an athletic shoe store asking a customers’ favorite sports team. This “extra” information will help you know your customers in a more personal way.
What unique piece of information would heighten your customers’ experiences with your company?
So now that you’ve thought through some of the basic questions that need to go on your customer information form, here are five tips to make the most out of the process.
Begin by walking through your entire customer journey from start to finish. Consider the information you need from your customers to service them effectively. This process is a great opportunity to pull your team together and ask what customer experience roadblocks they encounter due to a lack of customer information. Their feedback will be invaluable in knowing what information to capture and the process will inevitably make their jobs easier as well.
Now, once you have a comprehensive list, cut it down a bit. Customers are assaulted by information-hungry companies all day long. (Do you really need my phone number to sell me a pack of batteries?) You need the information, but you don’t want to be another burden your customers. Make sure your form only asks for information that is really useful.
Strike a balance between comprehensive and easy-to-provide
It’s all about process. Identify easy, unobtrusive and logical touch points to gather the information and train your employees to implement the plan. In some businesses, a well-branded hard copy information form will work just fine, but it does include extra labor to digitize and the greater possibility of data entry error.
These days, digital solutions are incredibly inexpensive and within the reach of almost any business. Consider using tools like Wufoo, having forms on your website, or even having a tablet in store for collecting customer information.
One way to make sure your information form doesn’t feel like a hassle to the customers is to tell them why you need the information. Making a few brief points throughout the form and, more importantly, making sure your communication when delivering the form — whether delivered by employees or digital means — says something to the customer about how the information collected will be used to their eventual benefit.
There is no reason your form has to feel like a form. Put a little life into it and add some personality. Of course, your context matters, and you have a lot more leeway to make your form fun if you rent inflatable bounce houses for parties as opposed to selling funeral services. Regardless of your industry though, you can always find ways to add a more human touch to your forms.
Now that you have the information, use it not just to provide your product or service but also to surprise and delight your customers. While we don’t consider WOW a strategy, we do consider it an opportunity to reinforce and deliver Hero-ClassTM Customer Service. If you’ve collected the customization information discussed above, you will have the info at your fingertips.
WOW doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Just a little something extra that will make the customer take note. For example:
And while we may be talking about customer information forms — your teams can use observation and conversation to get these customer insights as well.
In the end, a well-planned customer information form is an excellent way to begin getting to know your customers, quickly. The tips and guidance above should help get you off to a good start.
Photo credit: http://www.dreamstime.com/secretary-taking-notes-free-stock-images-imagefree192239
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.