Running any service-based business requires a high level of competency when it comes to managing relationships and data collection.
While other companies may be able to scrape by on the quality of their products alone, the satisfaction of your clients will greatly depend on how well you can connect with them in order to meet their expectations.
Unfortunately, not every client you encounter will be as forthcoming with primary data as you would like them to be. There are times when, even after asking all the right questions and saying all the right things, you will still be left in the dark as to what it is your client wants and – consequently – how you can deliver it to them.
Fortunately, there are a handful of effective ways in which you can gather information from clients without wasting any time.
Why data collection is important
As mentioned, running a service-based business involves plenty of time talking to people and nurturing relationships with clients, both old and new.
However, while this discipline comes naturally to some, others may be left wondering why it is important to speak with their clients and gather as much primary data as possible.
Suffice to say, the information your clients provide you with is necessary for you to deliver the best service possible. It may surprise you how many businesses rely on data collection to satisfy their client's desires.
Take tattoo artists, for example. In this instance, while it may seem like a fairly simple process from the outside, tattoo artists rely on many interpersonal skills in order to guarantee repeat business. They require as much information as possible to create a satisfactory work of art.
The point is that no matter what field or industry you work in, knowing how to gather information is a valuable skill you should not take for granted.
Additionally, information gathering in the form of customer data and surveys can be a great help in further developing your business and provide some valuable insights. Knowing which areas of your services to improve will allow you to take your company to new heights.
How to gather information
Of course, developing these skills and getting acquainted with the best practices requires plenty of effort on your part.
Fortunately, once you know this, it can vastly improve your business practices.
So, with that being said, here are ten tips for information gathering from a client.
Identify the information you need
Depending on the service (or services) that you provide, the amount of information you need could be huge. As such, before you even think about posing any questions to your clients, you first need to determine what to ask.
Unfortunately, there is no complete list of questions that we can provide you with – as mentioned; they will depend on the particular type of service you provide. However, a good place to start is with a good old piece of paper and a pen.
Create a master list
Focus on everything that goes into your services. What documents or files will your clients need to provide? What needs to be ironed out before you can get to work on whatever it is that your clients want?
Once you have all of this in mind, it helps to compile this information into a document that you can replicate and distribute among your clients. Think of this as a "master list" of all the right information you could need.
Here’s an example:
Dear Mr. Mantle,
Thank you for making use of my services. Attached is a list of all the information I will require from you in order to complete your order.
Don’t worry. There will be more emails in the future breaking these items down even further – I just wanted to give you a heads up as to what you should expect.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me.
Break it down
Nobody likes to be overwhelmed, but too often do service providers bombard their clients with documents, questions, and emails in an attempt to get as much information as possible, as quickly as possible.
While you must receive all the details you need to deliver your services, there is no need to demand everything up front, all at once.
Instead, take a moment to refer back to the master list you created in the previous step and focus on breaking everything down even further, making data collection of the details you need much easier.
For example, if you need personal documents from a customer, create fields that specify which documents they need to present, from IDs to driver's licenses and so on. This will make the process far more accommodating for your clients and will allow all the pieces to fall into their proper places.
Here’s what this email looks like:
Dear Mr. Jones,
I understand that being bombarded with so many questions can get a little overwhelming, so I’ve broken down the list of items and documents I need from you even further.
Feel free to complete these requests at your own pace, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions.
Some of the people you work with will not be as easy-going as you would like them to be. Some clients simply are not keen on providing you with the information you need to deliver the services they expect. They may view it as "work" even though it is an integral part of the process.
That is why, when meeting a new client, it is important that you set a few expectations for gathering information. A client might walk away if, out of the blue, they are asked to deliver raw data that they had not given any thought to before.
There are many ways to go about this, but the easiest way to guarantee that you receive the information you need is to include a clause in the contract you give to your clients. For example, the clause could state that if, after seven days, your client has still not provided you with the necessary information, their project will be shelved.
This is what this email could look like:
Dear Ms. Topaz,
I hope everything is well on your end. With regard to the requests for documentation I sent you earlier this week, I will need to receive all of your documents within the next three days in order to keep this project on track.
Please feel free to reach out to me if you need any help or seek clarification. I’m ready to advise you day or night.
Although some clients may get it right the first time, no questions asked, others may rely on you for help when it comes to filling out the forms you give them. Rather than deal with tons of questions, you can plan ahead for data collection.
For example, if you require photocopies of your client's ID documents, include the size and orientation, if they are pertinent. If you still receive questions, answer them, then account for them in future documents you provide so as not to hear them again.
Your clients will greatly appreciate any guidance you can provide. If there is a complicated process for them to follow, consider making a video on Loom that they can access detailing each of the steps they will need to take and examples showing how, such as:
Dear Mr. Jones,
I understand that some parts of this process can be complicated and intimidating. But don’t worry, I’m here to help you.
I’ve left my personal contact information attached for you to reach out to me if you get stuck. I’m looking forward to working with you on this.
Of course, there will be times when questions are unavoidable, and you will be forced to interface with your clients directly. Most people are not acquainted with the industry jargon used in data collection, in which case, you will need another approach.
Instead, focus on speaking to your clients in a language they can understand. This will allow you to get even more information out of them and will also make them warm up to you much easier. Instead of calling it a navigation bar, for example, refer to it as a menu.
Here is how to approach this:
Dear Ms. Grundy
I know the application process for my services can seem overly technical at times, and there may be a few things that need clarification.
Simply put, with regards to personal documentation, all I really need from you is a copy of your ID (certified) as well as a copy of your latest bank statement.
When it comes down to it, you will not be able to rely on questionnaires and documents to gather the data you need. Eventually, you will need to sit down with your client and ask them some direct questions.
For this, be sure to refer back to your master list in order to account for any new information that may come up and to keep track of every answer you receive.
Take a look at what this email looks like here:
Dear Mr. Andrews,
Now that all your documentation has been accounted for, I’d like to schedule a meeting with you to discuss this project in further detail. Rest assured that this will not impact my turn-around time, and I will still have your project completed by the end of the month.
Please advise on when you’ll be free. We can hold the meeting in person or via phone call.
It can be frustrating to deal with someone not forthcoming when gathering information you need.
To avoid this, request that your clients stick to a few data collection deadlines. This saves you the hassle of having to go back and forth with them and also protects you as the service provider – if they have not supplied all of the necessary information at a certain date, you can get to work on other projects that require your attention.
Money talks, as they say. As soon as your client's money is on the table, they will be more inclined to work with you rather than against you.
Getting your clients to pay a deposit as part of the process will make them more open to answering your questions and providing all the information they need.
This email could look like this:
Dear Mrs. Cooper,
I have received your order request and am looking forward to getting started. However, before we may commence, I will require a 20% deposit from you by the end of the week.
Rest assured that once the deposit and all of your documentation have been received, I will be able to complete your order within the week.
Compile and issue satisfaction surveys
Customer data collection is important. Satisfaction surveys allow you to gauge how well your business is doing and how well your clients have responded to your services.
When you complete a project, issue a survey to your clients and ask them to rate their satisfaction on a numerical scale from 1 to 10. This can be done through your company site as well, so be sure to include a browser link.
Be sure to leave space for their comments as well, and keep a good record of your findings and the observations your clients offer. If you have the means, it may help to hire a good researcher who can also help you assess the collected data.
This email should take this layout:
To Mr. Lodge,
In an effort to improve my services, I have compiled this survey for all of my clients to complete. I am interested in any and all feedback you can provide and am looking forward to working with you again.
Use your client's preferred method of communication
Whether via email or conference calls, be sure to communicate with your client in whichever way is most comfortable for them, which will make gathering information much easier.
Here’s an email to show this approach:
Dear Mr. Blossom
I reached out via telephone earlier today. I hope that this wasn’t an issue. From now on, we can communicate via whichever format is best for you, be it email, Zoom, or in person.
Use Templates to Gathering Data Easy
Gathering the data you need can be a time-consuming process. Fortunately, there are templates you can use to get the information you need fast. You can use form templates to ask clients any questions about their business and send surveys that help you improve your business processes. You can even save any templates you use so that they can be sent at a moment’s notice.
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Information gathering can be tough to get to grips with at first, but hopefully, this guide has given you the necessary direction to take your business to new heights. Remember that communication is key when providing a comprehensive service, so do not be afraid to reach out to your clients and get them to interact with you.