You can easily create a sign-up sheet that registers people to receive your e-newsletter. Talk to your newsletter provider so you can automate this process. You can create a little pop-up box that appears when someone comes to your site, making it easy for them to connect to your newsletter, or take a survey, contact you, etc.
This option is great for internal company use. Have a form to collect anonymous opinions from employees. Sometimes it’s easier for someone to submit their opinion knowing that it is anonymous. Online forms can be created to generate a safe space for people to share their honest opinions without giving up their identities.
Requests for Quotes or Call Backs
Not every business has a 24-hour sales department to answer potential client calls. Oftentimes, web users would prefer to have the option for a call back or request for estimate rather than having to sit on hold, or punch through an automated phone system before they can talk to someone. Having a simple “Request to Receive Call” or “Call Me” form will help these customers from losing their interest. Don’t forget to follow up promptly though.
When you need an RSVP, build a simple form on your website and make it easy for people to respond. The ability to submit an RSVP online will capture more people who are online at different times during the day. You may get more responses that way.
Sometimes we forget to ask happy customers to give us their feedback and reviews. Have a place where people can easily submit their reviews online so you can use them in your marketing campaigns. You can ask a few simple questions on your form to help stimulate the feedback if necessary. Capturing such information is priceless for a business to enhance its level of services and products.
Excel is the dominant spreadsheet program in the workforce today and we even use it within service programs such as SalesForce for CRM, or MailChimp, or PSPinc's product Newsmail for newsletters. Data from these programs may be downloadable in CSV or TXT (text) file formats, which can be opened and read in Excel. Make sure you have a means to export CSV or TXT files into Excel so you have the power to retrieve data from your online forms or other programs that give you customer knowledge.
When you download the text file to retrieve your online form submissions, and read the information in Excel, it should look like the columns of information in Excel align with the different fields that people fill out on your web form. That’s probably the easiest way to understand and sort the data from your form. If you have a say in building the online form, make sure you know how to read the downloadable data when it’s time to export it and sort it.
Most online forms send results via email. But you can also use CSV and TXT files as your transaction log. Just in case you misplace the email in your inbox, or if it hits the junk box accidentally, at least you know the downloaded file will ensure you get all the online submissions in one file, so you don’t miss a single one.
Before creating your website’s online form, have a plan and process in place. Having great data without proper ways to view it and use it is just a waste of resources and time.
Here are some points you should know when retrieving data from an online form:
Know where your data files are stored. Data storage can be:
a) On your web server
You will need to get access to your web server via a protocol called File Transfer Protocol (FTP). Depending on your operating system, you may need to install a program to access your server via FTP. Internet Explorer enables you to use FTP with a URL address, but instead of seeing a website, you will see the source files on your web servers. Find out where your online form logs are saved on the server, access the folder, and drag and drop them to your machine to download as needed.
b) On a browser-based program
You can also download a program that may have an administrative browser-based interface for you to manage your form downloads, such as PSPinc’s Dreamersi online form program called InforMakers.
Choose the right format.
The possible formats for receiving data from an online form are CSV and TXT files - both are text files where each field is separated by commas or tabs. These files can be opened in Excel and other spreadsheets so you can see and analyze the data.
For you the website owner, this means all the data you receive to your server from your website’s online form or payment submission is encrypted, keeping your customer’s information secure from hackers. If you are unsure if your site is protected by SSL, please consult with the person who built your site. If he or she has no clue, you should give us a call at PSPinc and we can help. It’s extremely important to protect your customer’s sensitive information.
We do not recommend collecting any sensitive information through your online forms such as social security or credit card information unless you are sure the data on the server side is encrypted correctly. You do not want to store raw, unencrypted information on your server because if your web server gets hacked, you put your clients’ information in the hands of hackers, and that’s devastating to both your business and the customers.
SSL is a license you need to purchase annually and it must be installed on your server by a professional. If you are not sure how to install the SSL license on your server and your web pages, please talk to your web developer or web hosting provider, or get in touch with us at PSPinc to answer any questions.
A simple box in which you have the freedom to type. This may be formatted for words, letters or numbers only.
This is a larger text input area, often used for more comments. One way it differs from text input is that you can write paragraphs within the form, using the “return” key without submitting the form.
When you want to give certain choices to select from, pulldowns are used. Pulldowns are great when there are many choices (like the list of 50 states) to choose from.
Like the pulldown, you can have a set of choices shown. Radio buttons are good when there are not that many choices needed for an answer (maybe less than 20) and if you want the end users to see all of the choices. You can enable or disable a default selection for radio buttons.
When there is potential for multiple answers to a question, a checkbox form is helpful. Or when a website owner would like the end user to recognize and agree on a term or a condition, they ask you to mark the checkbox in agreement.
Captcha is a system that ensures form submissions are made by humans, not by machines. You may have been asked to type in a box a set of alpha numerals within an image, or asked to click an area of the image which is missing a piece. Often these are used to avoid spammers.
You can make a field in your form a requirement to fill out, such as asking for a name or email address. But you need to make sure you indicate that in the field clearly so people don’t get frustrated when they try to submit it without success.
Any and all forms should be constructed with the end user in mind. Difficult forms to fill out will be abandoned - and that is your loss, not theirs.
What happens to the data?
The data collected via online forms can be sent to you via email, or saved on a server to download later, or both. Depending on the program you use to create your online form, the location where the file is saved may be different so be aware of this and find out exactly where and how the information is saved.
What kind of format choices do we have?
You have seen the different types of forms before, they might include a comment box, a radio button, a pulldown list, checkboxes, etc. I am going to cover each of these choices more in depth in my next blog post so stay tuned. The rule of thumb is to make sure forms are easy for people to fill out so they don’t abandon them, but it’s also important to make the answers consistent and objective so you can analyze the data effectively.
Should we use encryption technology (SSL)?
SSL stands for “Secure Socket Layer,” and it is an encryption technology used to encrypt the data from the browser to be sent to the server. You will see the lock on your browser when there is an SSL on a webpage. You will also see it in URL - instead of http:// you will see https:// in the address. SSL secures your online transactions but only for the communication between the client and the server. Whether to use SSL or not all depends on how sensitive the data is that you are collecting through the forms. More about SSL and security concerns will be in another blog post next week.
You can always consult with your web developers about the risks and benefits of creating an online form so you can make the right decision for your website.
CRM is not only for large corporations but it is also a great tool for small businesses, and it’s more affordable than you think. PSPinc will have this feature available soon.
So what is CRM?
Customer Relationship Management is “a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth” according to Tech Target.
CRM software allows you to keep track of the existing and potential customers’ contact information, the history of your interactions, their online behaviors and preferences, as well as notes and other data. You don’t have to capture all the data but it sure helps if you can learn more about your customers. The more you learn (and love) your customers, you will be able to make the right decisions about how you operate your company and how you market your business. CRM can also help provide continuity when it comes to your customer service.
Some CRM systems can complicate your business process. Choosing the right tool for you and your team is a critical decision. Always stay focused on the ultimate goals for your company and use CRM as a means to help you make decisions that will help you achieve them.
Founded in 1987 on Mercer Island, Washington by Ken Uchikura, the vision for PSPinc was to help the Japanese market grow by popularizing the PC in Japan using already established U.S. software technology. At the time, the use of personal computers was minimal in Japan, in part because software solutions built in the U.S. were limited to domestic machines – unfit for Japanese hardware and language requirements. Ken sought to fix this disconnect and close the technology gap between the two countries. For the next 10 years, PSPinc licensed, exported and published U.S. software for Japan from our home office in the States. We provided translation and adaptation services to American software companies that wanted to enter the Japanese PC market. At the same time, we published KanjiWORD, a Japanese-language word processing software, enabling Japanese language capabilities for users of non-Japanese versions of Windows. Following that success, we published KanjiKIT, which became the standard software for using Japanese tools on non-Japanese versions of Windows.
In the 1990s, PSPinc shifted focus to offer proprietary software applications and internet services to businesses of all sizes domestically and abroad. In 1995, Ken brought a T1 internet line into PSPinc’s office, which was followed by the first web server going online in January 1996. A data center was built in 2000 to provide reliable, secure web and email hosting services to PSPinc’s first clients seeking a presence on the web. With that, websites were developed for companies such as Tully’s Coffee, Pro Golf Discounts and Park Place LTD in Washington.
Our web services eventually outgrew our internal data center so we moved into the data center at Fisher Plaza in July 2007, where it currently resides and is overseen by our dedicated server team. In 2009, PSPinc broke ground on a secondary data center at our Bellevue headquarters, giving us the capacity to service more than 40,000 customers. That same year, Ken Uchikura stepped down as CEO to focus on research and development for the future, naming Mayumi Nakamura as his successor, and she remains PSPinc’s current President and CEO.
Over the years, we have grown into a team of skilled software designers, web and graphic designers, programmers, account managers, customer service and support to keep up with the ever-changing world of online business.