When to make the Ask for Customer Information

Post by
Scott Francis

From the BPM.com discussion forum, a question was asked:

"From Emiel Kelly: When a customer orders something, you might ask him a lot of information, but it might be possible you don't need all this information at the start of a process. Maybe you need it later, or it might even possible (because of some decisions) you don't need that information at all. What do you think is the best approach? Overask (and maybe annoy) the customer at the start of the process or contact them every time (and maybe annoy) you need more information?"

Some of the answers appear targeted at projects (when in the project should i ask for the information). But I think the original post is directed at someone's final customer. When ordering something on my website, when should I ask for their information, and for how much at each stage? And what if I ask for too much information too early that turns out to be wasted?

The best answer is to conduct some research with real people going through the process and documenting how they feel about the information requests. Pilot various approaches of collecting that information and see which ones yield the best result in terms of the consumer's/user's feelings about the experience.

Failing that, or having less budget, say for a less consumer-oriented approach, we can take some other principles in mind. From lean-six principles, overproduction is one of the kinds of waste to be avoided. So don't ask for the same information more than once, and don't ask for redundant information (which could be entered differently if entered manually), and don't ask for information you may not need. Lean-flow might argue that we should only ask for information when we need it.

Having said that, we have to balance that "just in time" approach with not making our consumer feel like they're being harassed by constant requests for dribs and drabs of info - they might prefer to provide it all at once.

Compromises: request the minimum information, and offer the consumer the opportunity to enter more comprehensive information at any time. When asking for more information for, say, the third time, have a team member reach out to them to apologize for the necessity but to personalize the experience and make them feel welcome.

The goal is not to ask for information before the consumer has indicated that they are ready to provide it. If you ask for contact information before someone can read your blog - no one will read it. If you ask afterward, as in having them subscribe to receive it in your inbox - maybe they'll have a basis for judging whether the exchange of value is fair. Where exactly that line is in any process is a judgment call - but it can be verified or improved upon with a little A/B testing and research... (pssst, this is work that our team is qualified to do if you need help)

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