No one thinks about or loves forms as much as we do. Which means we know everything there is to know about them. And now, so will you.
What are forms?
The basic function of a form is to allow you to collect consistent data from your customers. As with most things in the digital era, forms are increasingly moving online. Once only appearing in paper or PDF format, they’re now on our phones and computers. As a result, digital forms are becoming easier and easier to create, and there are plenty of tools available to help.
The benefits of digital forms include:
- reducing data entry and, consequently, data entry errors
- digitising data to avoid duplicating data entry from paper to computer
- ensuring the collection of consistent data for like-for-like comparison
- integrating with CRMs
- version controlling to keep track of the data collected at specific times
- meeting expectations – customers now expect to be able to fill out forms online
- passing tracking information to help evaluate marketing efforts
Best practices for forms
There are a few considerations when creating a form. The first is what data to collect, or perhaps more importantly, what data not to collect. The more fields you require a user to complete, the lower the completion rate. So the more information you ask for, the less information you are likely to get.
When deciding what information you will request from a user, consider the following:
- How many questions do you really need to ask? Just because a paper form has 100 fields doesn’t mean a digital form needs to have 100 fields too. Paper forms often have that many fields because they are likely the only opportunity you have to collect information from a customer. An online form can be much shorter because you only need to collect information that is relevant to that point in the process. The other information can be collected at a later date when it is more relevant.
- What data is relevant to where the customer is in their journey? It’s critical that the questions on a form relate to the specific stage your customer is in their journey. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to ask a customer to provide their birth date or ABN on a simple contact form, but it would be appropriate if they were completing a form to qualify for a loan.
- What questions are better suited to a conversation? If you know there is a stage in the journey where you need to have a conversation with a customer; you should consider which information is best collected verbally. It’s essential to think about the bigger picture and how forms can fit into the overall journey and customer experience.
- What data do you already have? Consider if you can pre-populate data you already have on a customer to review and confirm for an easier journey. If you can leverage something you already know about a customer, you should, but you need to do it securely. It’s not worth running the risk of disclosing information about a customer that is private.
- What data can you source elsewhere? Can public source information be used to pre-populate some fields and have your customer verify them? For example, can you ask for only an ABN and then use that data point to access publicly available information such as the business name, address, state and postcode aligned with that ABN to minimise the number of questions you’re asking on a form? Keep in mind that automated pre-populated forms also mean less errors from user input.
- Can you provide both a paper and digital form? Make sure you’re also considering customers who want to fill out paper forms. While digital forms are now almost an expectation, there will always be someone who can’t or won’t want to complete a digital form. Online forms shouldn’t replace paper forms. Instead, you should provide as many possible choices to suit all your customers because people want options. Consider an online form that produces a paper PDF form, so you only need to maintain one form.
Creating tailored forms might take extra effort and expense, but saving significant time for people is invaluable. The ability to capture consistent and trackable information is vital for a business too.
What to look out for
Most form tools are great at focusing on data collection, but they overlook the user experience and the critical step of integration. This means businesses don’t get the full value from the data they collect because not all tools link directly to a CRM. Instead, data has to pass through multiple systems before being stored in a CRM, which can mean that the information in the CRM doesn’t accurately reflect what was collected. It’s important to use the right tools to ensure your CRM accurately represents the information you collected.
While simple contact us forms are easy, domain-specific forms like student enrolments, home loans or insurance applications are usually more complicated. In addition, they often require attachments, and some forms can miss these attachments during integration. In these more complicated scenarios, you need to carefully consider how many different tools the information will pass through before it gets to where you need to use it so that nothing is lost in transit.
The first step to choosing the right solution for your business is to map out the information you want to collect and determine where that data needs to end up and in what state. Once identified, you can evaluate the complexity required and decide if an off-the-shelf or custom solution is right for you.
We love the simplicity and usability of off-the-shelf tools like tally.so & reform.app for simple contact forms or questionnaires. They’re easy to use, and anyone can jump in, start building a form using their various templates or form blocks to share via a link or embed on a website. More complex forms, however, require heightened security, complex routing and integration, which need a more robust solution. Our tool of choice for complex forms such as enrolment, loan or insurance applications is landerforms.com. Whilst it’s not an off-the-shelf tool as it requires customisation and implementation. The end result is being able to capture all and any type of data securely and transmitting and transforming the information into your relevant systems to ensure it’s reflected accurately. So when choosing to digitise your tired old pdf forms, it’s important to think about exactly what the form is for and how that data can be used or incorporated into your subsequent systems.
Get in touch if you want to learn more about how adopting digital forms can help your business.