Organizations use a variety of data collection techniques. While some are polished and highly effective, others are a jumbled mess and the results look worse than a teenager’s bedroom. If you’re in the latter, good luck trying to make sense of it.
Some organizations have clung to using paper forms. Yes, a form that was created at some point in history and has survived many generations via the copy machine. This means customers and employees are still using a long outdated process to collect data. Paper forms can lead to a truckload of errors – mainly due to poor handwriting, lost forms, paying someone to accurately type the form information into a database, which can lead to typos – thereby rendering the data inaccurate, and the time required to manually input this data possibly worthless. And this could represent a single department in a large organization. If several departments use this same methodology, the error rate may increase by a magnitude.
If this is your data collection process towards building a stronger relationship with your customers, you could be starting off on the wrong foot. If it takes too much time to respond to customer inquiries, or if you can’t because the data is incomplete, you’re probably going to have an uphill battle on your hands if your goal is to impress the customer.
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Competitive pressures are huge, and if your data collection is living in the 1970s, your customers will migrate to an organization that provides quick, accurate and personalized responses.
So how does an organization do this effectively? Here are some tips you can follow.
The Need For Online Data Collection
Moving your data collection to an online and centralized system not only streamlines the process, but can also automatically export the data to your business workflow analysis tools, such as CRM. Furthermore, online data collection provides incredible flexibility. If you need to add or delete questions, it can be completed instantly. There’s no need to reprint forms and distribute copies to the appropriate field offices.
Managing the Data Process
It’s important to collect the correct data. If specific information is mandatory, certain data fields can be required and prevent the respondent from submitting the form until those fields are populated.
By incorporating “conditional logic,” you can control what fields are displayed depending on the answer provided. For example, if you’re asking respondents about sports preferences and the person checks “baseball,” the next series of questions would be MLB-specific, instead of incorporating unrelated sports leagues, such as the NFL, NBA and NHL.
This makes the form relevant to the respondent and increases the likelihood it will be completed since only pertinent questions are displayed.
You can also ensure that data is formatted correctly. If you’re asking for a mailing address, use a “smart lookup” that displays street addresses that meet the criteria as it’s being typed. As the respondent is typing “200 N Spring St,” the form will auto-suggest an address that match this location, including the city, state and zip code. Not only does this save keystrokes, it also ensures that any address information you receive is complete and formatted correctly.
Once the information has been submitted, it’s time for your organization to take action. As soon as a form is submitted, an email can be automatically sent stating the form has been submitted, and a response should be coming within a predetermined amount of time.
If the respondent requested product information, a digital brochure and/or links to web pages can be emailed. An important step is for you to control when an email response is sent. It can be sent instantly, or after two hours or two days, depending on your process.
Measure The Data
If you’re using online forms for lead generation, properly scoring the lead for action by your sales team can help close more deals. For your customer interest form, include a section where you ask the respondent how soon a purchase will be completed, and provide specific periods, such as a week, a month or within six months. These options allow you to highlight leads by high, medium or low, pending their timeline, and prepare with appropriate next steps. For example, those that are looking to purchase within a week can be scored high and contacted within a few hours.
Additional metrics that you should measure include: did the respondent fill out the form on a mobile phone, tablet, desktop computer or a laptop? Using this type of data allow you to customize your online forms to match the device. If you’ve ever tried complete a form that was designed for a desktop computer on your phone, you know how frustrating it can be. Making your forms dynamic so they can be correctly displayed on any device will make completing the form convenient and easy, resulting in return visits.
Turning Data Into Action
Collecting the right type of data and analyzing it properly will help you spot trends – both positive and negative – during early stages.
For example, if you see an uptick in requests for product information, it may be a clue to ramp up production to meet customer demand and prevent shortages. Likewise, if you experience an increase in customer support requests, there might be an issue with your products and you can be proactive and get ahead of the situation before a trickle turns into a tsunami.
When you release a new product, you might have a number of new questions about different sizes or colors. This will provide ammunition if you want to expand the brand offerings. Geography may also become a factor, as you’ll be able to measure locations to understand if you need to expand distribution in certain regions.
The data will also illustrate the preferred method of communication. Some customers will be satisfied with an email, while others want a text message. The goal is to have your communication where the customer will likely read it and react to it. By being conveniently available on the customer’s preferred method of communication, customers may be more open to receive your message.
All of this comes back to developing a strong relationship with your customers. Having an effective data collection process will help you respond to customer inquiries. The more effective your organization is at communicating with customers, whether it be a product information request, being included on your email list or quickly resolving a customer complaint, the better your relationship will be with your customers. Customer loyalty is a very difficult barrier for competitors to breach, and strong relationships bring repeated and increased sales.