The more clients a business handles, the more important it is to provide a uniformly excellent service, so that good word of mouth spreads, and work keeps flowing in. One way to ensure consistency in service provision is to make sure clients can brief you as efficiently as possible.
How do you achieve that? A good intake form can help streamline the onboarding process for new clients, allowing them to give you the information you need to get started. By asking all the key questions upfront you’ll:
- Demonstrate thoroughness and care.
- Avoid multiple calls and queries.
- Create process uniformity.
- Obtain valuable data for your CRM database.
What is an Intake Form?
Simply put, this is a form where a new client gives you their contact details, outlines their query or task, and provides any additional information you require. It should be as straightforward and logical to complete as possible. Here we’ll outline the five steps you need to take to construct such a form. In brief those steps are:
- Determine the mandatory data fields.
- Determine the desirable data fields.
- Structure your form on Headlessforms.
- Trial your form.
- Revise as necessary.
Now let’s break down those steps a little more:
1: Determine the Mandatory Data Fields.
What information do you absolutely need? To begin with, you’ll certainly need the following data points:
- Firstname and Surname
- Role or Job Title
- Contact Number
- Email Address
- Gender (or preferred pronouns).
This is the bare minimum. It allows you to get in touch and address your potential client appropriately. If you’re providing certain kinds of service, which require age verification, you may need your client’s date of birth too.
You’ll also want a free-text box where your client can state the query or task they want you to assist with. Make sure you head up this part of your form with some explanatory text, such as:
YOUR QUERY. Please outline the nature of your query. Provide as much information as you can, so we can determine how we might help.
It may seem rather obvious that they’d need to complete this part of the form thoroughly, but when people are short of time, they can skimp on such vital sections, so a prompt does help. You could even specify a minimum number of words (as well as a maximum so you don’t receive an essay in response!)
Depending on the industry you work within, there may be other essential fields to include. When you build your form, you can make them all mandatory for completion, as indicated on your form with the traditional asterisk.
Step 2: Determine the Desired Data Fields
These are pieces of information which could be helpful but aren’t essential when receiving an initial query. They are the things you would expect to talk through with your client during collaboration. You don’t want to overburden your Intake Form with too many of these, but one or two optional fields is fine.
Here are some of the things you might add:
- Task completion deadline.
- Anticipated budget
- Constraints (i.e., geographical location, completed work, stakeholders)
- How did you find us?
The last section could potentially be a mandatory field, depending on the nature of your business. It can be helpful to know if and how clients were referred to your business. Was it word of mouth? The result of online search? Is a partner company making referrals?
Step 3: Structure your Form on Headlessforms
We designed Headlessforms’ form builder to allow you to both design and structure the form in the same stage. Our drag-and-drop interface allows you to reorder questions and slot in new fields as you desire, so you can play with your formatting before committing to the final design.
Open with a welcome statement, and an invitation to complete the form. Don’t simply assume that people will leap right into filling out the form. It may help to include a privacy disclaimer where you outline how the data will be used, particularly if you’ve added a few optional data fields, or requested additional demographic information.
It’s good practice to end with a suggestion of how long it will take to obtain a response, as well as how the client will be contacted (email, phone, or SMS). You can allow your client to select preferred contact formats if you like, using tick-boxes.
Once you have a format that makes sense, contains everything you think you need, and is typo free (don’t forget a final proof-read) then it’s time to move to Step 4.
Step 4: Trial your Form
An Intake Form isn’t in-depth to the extent that you’d need to test it off-site. If you’ve gone through the process of steps 1 to 3, it should be fine to let the form go live, and consider the first few forms as a live trial.
If you don’t quite get the response you expect, you can re-examine the fields you’ve included, and the wording of your prompts.
Step 5: Revise as Necessary
Drawing lessons from your first pool of submissions, take notes for corrections you’d like to make and then implement these changes back on Headlessforms.
Here are some common errors to look out for:
- Too many optional fields left blank (did you include too many?)
- The wrong information given in a field (are the instructions clear enough?)
- Form has been abandoned midway through completion (is it simply too long?)
- The free text field contains reams and reams of data (restrict word count).
You’ll never create a form that someone, somewhere can’t misuse or misinterpret. That’s human nature; sometimes people simply want to give feedback, using the wrong form.
However, by adopting a methodical approach, keeping forms as short and simple as possible, providing explanatory text, and ordering your form logically, you give yourself the best chance to secure the data you need from potential clients.