Creating an effective client intake form

June 7th, 2019 by Steff Green 7 minute read

You’ve landed a new client and you’re excited to get started offering value. But before you do, there’s certain information that you need. If you’re a marketing agency, you probably need their login details for Facebook and Instagram so you can run ads and post on their behalf. If you’re a lawyer or accountant, you’ll need details about their business.

Using a client intake form can be a great way to collect this information in an organised and automated way. Let’s dive in and discover more about how your firm can use client intake forms to streamline your onboarding process.

Having a well-considered intake form as part of your onboarding process can help you to streamline admin, especially once it’s connected to your key onboarding systems. Also, it ensures important information about and from the client is properly entered and stored.

Why is the client intake form so important?

Your client intake form is a tool to obtain accurate and up-to-date information from a new client that you need to perform your job. This may include answering questions, locating paperwork, or providing you with usernames and passwords for certain applications.

An intake form can help you identify other services a client might need, whether they be services you provide, or referrals you could make. You have the opportunity to add further value.

The client intake form can also be part of your risk management practice. It provides a record of information the client provided, as well as a note that the client approved the budget or fee structure. Sometimes, clients can provide incorrect information and then blame you when this impacts their work later on. Having clients sign and date the intake form can help to protect you. (Although it’s always good practice to double-check the information provided on the form with the client, especially if something seems strange.)

Lastly, a client intake form can make your firm look good. Having a streamlined process for onboarding sets a precedent for your client of a positive interaction. If your intake form is user-friendly and enables you to get started quickly, your client will see the value in what you do.

What to include on your client intake form

Many companies like to begin their client intake form with a quick personal message or welcome email. This is good practice, and you can use a template to swap out details and make writing the welcome a breeze.

The first and most essential information your client intake form needs to gather is contact information. You need the most accurate and up-to-date email addresses and phone numbers for all the parties involved in the project. Accurate billing information would also be essential.

Solo Practice University recommend adding a note that you have discussed your fee structure with the client and they have agreed to the terms. This helps to ensure the client can afford your services and understands what to reasonably expect from your bill.

Aside from these basics, the intake form should involve a checklist of questions pertinent to the client’s package that the client can fill out prior to your initial meeting. If we use the example of a lawyer specialising in family law, you will want to know how long the parties have been married, how many children they have, and the work information of both parents. If a lawyer was working on estate planning, they would need a list of assets and a current valuation.

The questions asked will differ depending on your business. Try to keep the list short – you don’t want to client to spend so much time trying to answer it that they never schedule an initial meeting. You’ll have the chance to ask more questions during your initial meeting. For now, what you’re trying to do is gather the essential information you need in order to move forward.

Close your form with a checklist, so the client can tick items off once they’re done. If there are further calls to action that aren’t part of the form, place these here so your client remembers to complete them.

Does a client intake form create barriers?

Filestage discusses a common concern businesses have about client intake forms. We’ve heard from many Practice Ignition users who worry that if their intake process is too strict, clients will get the idea they’re not the right fit (even after going through a client screening process) and leave.

If you plan your intake form to be as low-resistance as possible, this won’t happen. The key is to ask for the relevant information in a simple, streamlined way. Keep the form short, and use simple language to make it clear what you need the client to do.

For many accounting firms, a short form simply isn’t possible. There’s just too much information that needs to be collected. If this is your firm, then the best idea is to spread out the requests over a period of time (usually 2 weeks for Blueprint documents, etc). Start with the highest priority information and work your way down the list. Breaking requests up in this way appears less daunting to the client, and as it can be automated in Practice Ignition, it doesn’t require additional admin on your end.

At the end of the day, you need this information in order to do your job. If a client is difficult about giving you this required data, then how will they be to work with over the long haul? Your client intake form may act as the last line of defence against potential problem clients.

Your intake form as part of the onboarding process

As a service professional, your time is money. If you’re doing one activity (A), then you are by definition not doing activity B. As much as possible, you want to be doing the things that lead to more revenue.

At Practice Ignition, we’re passionate about helping businesses like yours automate admin and client processes so you can spent more time on the revenue-generation. You can use the information on your client intake form to create deals in your CMS, populate fields, and trigger actions in your sales pipeline.

Blueprint Accounting are one such firm who have integrated their client intake form into their onboarding process. They’re created an automated flow that removes recurring operational tasks so they can focus on client delivery. Blueprint made their intake form in typeform, which allows it to be integrated into their process via Zapier. You can see more about their workflow and how they use Zapier, Pipedrive and Practice Ignition in this detailed blog post.

A client intake form is more than just a request for contact information – it will become an essential component of your sales and onboarding process. How are you collecting intake information at your company? Could your current system benefit from automation?

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