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Valuable Intake Questions for Clients – A Guide to Effective Intake Forms

Amie Laura Parnaby
April 11, 2022
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A guide to Intake Questions

Attracting clients and getting them to book a meeting with you is one thing, but do you know if you’re getting the right clients? When you provide any professional service, you need some information from them before you can make any promises for the scope of their needs. That’s where a carefully placed intake form can make all the difference. But are you using your intake questions effectively to collect the most valuable data?

Intake Questions- Gratuitous Data Collection or Valuable Insight?

How you use your intake questions will set the tone of your relationship with your client. If you ask for a lot of personal information that has minimal impact on your service provision, your prospect might feel like you’re mining them for marketable information. However, if you keep your intake forms short, define the function of the questions, and ensure the response fields are appropriate, you can gain valuable data and client trust.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do both.

Data collection is vital for your business marketing and metrics, but you don’t have to make it look that way. When you analyse the data from a year of client intake questions, you can spot patterns and commonalities between disparate clients. Conversely, you can also spot distinct differences between seemingly similar clients. 

Who should Use Intake Forms?

That’s an easy question to answer: It’s everyone providing a service. 

When you provide any service for a person or organisation, you need to know what they expect from you and how you can give the best possible service. Intake forms also help you define the client’s desires and needs before you begin your service for them.

For the best possible outcome, having the scope of your service defined before the appointment enables you to efficiently prepare and not waste time defining parameters when you could be achieving so much more in your appointment or meeting.

Digital agencies

That includes web design, marketing, SEO, copywriting, graphic design, etc. By setting the parameter of your client’s needs, you can prepare and create mock-ups of basic structures, marketing strategies according to scope, and writing samples.

Legal firms, 

including solicitors, local government and council offices, family lawyers, litigators, etc. By discovering the specific need of the prospective client, you can prepare for your meeting and have all the necessary information in front of you. If it’s merely a fact-finding mission for them, you will be able to point them in the right direction and discuss their options for their legal needs.

Accounting firms, 

including bookkeepers, tax specialists and financial planners, etc. When you collect enough information about the clients’ specific needs, you can ensure you allocate the correct person to the meeting, allow time for preparing, and work within the constraints of the client.

Real estate, 

including rental agencies, property auctioneers, property management companies, etc. Finding, letting and managing property can be very tedious. Finding out specifics about when the property will be available, what kind of house a client needs, and the budget they have to work with can significantly streamline managing a rental property and selling a house.

Home Services, 

Including garden, office or workplace services and maintenance. Do they want a weekly clean or a post tenancy deep clean? A garden tidy-up or complete landscaping and planting? Discovering the scope and duration can help allocate resources and costs.

Education,

Including teaching, training, coaching, and tutoring individuals and groups. Determining prior experience with a subject, preferred learning methods, and whether they want in-person or online tutoring will help to ensure your students get the most out of their sessions with you

What can Intake Questions do for your Business?

You can use the information you collect from intake questions to create new services, expand your provisions, and improve the quality and specificity of your services.

However, beyond expanding your business, intake forms and the questions you ask will help you be more effective in your service. Intake questions can help prevent “scope creep”, where clients continue to request more and more beyond the initial remit. Carefully prepared intake forms can also help keep your schedule straight because you already have the necessary information and are better prepared for the meeting.

Poor timekeeping can be detrimental to a business if you always have meetings that go beyond their allotted time. However, by preparing, you will be able to finish on time.

What Intake Questions Should you Include in your Intake Forms?

What do you need to know about your existing and potential clients to make your business more efficient and provide your customers with an excellent experience? The specificities depend on your business. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get some idea of the questions you should ask.

Get the Basics and Contact Info

If you are attempting to secure new prospects or your business is more of a “single-serve” enterprise, you need the names and contact details of the people involved. You might also need a company name and a VAT number, depending on whether you offer services to businesses or private individuals. 

You also need contact details. Phone and email are the usual ones, but you can ask for other preferences such as Slack, Telegram, Skype, Zoom, or even Google Hangouts. 

Set a Baseline – What do they expect from you?

What do your clients expect from the appointment they want to book? These queries apply to both new and returning clients because they may come back for something different. Your business determines the particulars of the questions. However, the following intake questions could be helpful:

  • How broad is the scope of your project
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How much is your budget?
  • What is the current status?

Plan ahead – Make sure you have everything you need

It might seem a little premature, but you might want to consider potential barriers to a successful outcome. 

  • Missing documentation (passport, proof of address, VAT number, incorporation documents) for businesses and individuals
  • Previous experience (education, training etc.)
  • Physical limitations (personal training)
  • Location (physical or virtual meeting)
  • Time constraints (when do they want to move house, when do they need project completion)

How should Your Intake Form Look?

It’s essential to frame your questions and requirements appropriately without seeming pushy or demanding. 

  • Your form is easy, short, to the point, and straightforward to fill in
  • Your form is user-friendly.
  • Don’t ask for information that you don’t need.
  • Continually review and tweak.

You also need to keep it simple, not merely in the number of questions but in the responses you need. If you need an address, make sure you allow for multiple lines of text. Maybe you only require yes or no answers, so use a toggle switch or a drop-down menu. If you only need short answers, you only need to allow for a single line of text.

Another critical point to remember is that you should define your mandatory fields. Don’t make the answers obligatory if it’s something useful, but your client may not know or have that data. Otherwise, you guarantee your prospect just became someone else’s client.

Conversely, if you need specific information – that your client should have before engaging your services, don’t be shy about making that information mandatory. If your new prospect wants you to sort out their taxes, but they don’t have the relevant tax documentation or codes, you really can’t help them. It’s better to weed out the hopeless cases rather than waste your time.

Use What You Have Learned – and use it wisely

You have great power to collect some spectacularly valuable data, but to paraphrase Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

When you collect data from your clients and prospects, you are responsible for keeping that information safe. I don’t just mean for medical professionals and financial data. Nobody wants to think the data they provide to a company for the best possible service will be shared or compromised by poor security practices.

Another crucial aspect of using data wisely is targeting specific sections of your client base. The point of collecting information is to improve your targeting through data analysis. You aren’t using your data effectively if you still send the same messages and marketing materials to the same people regardless of stated preferences. When you send impersonal and poorly targeted marketing and reminders to clients, you are more likely to have these people unsubscribing from your mailing list.

How do you reach them then?

You can use the information you’ve collected to create new services, expand your provisions, and improve the quality and specificity of your services.

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