Five useful things to ask your customers

Using a tool such as MasterVision to create a unified view of your customers can provide great benefits for your organisation. These can be maximised by ensuring that you request the right details about each customer at the point of data capture. Most campaigns ask for name, address, e-mail, and contact permissions, but the following may also provide useful insights:

1. Mr or Mrs?: Knowing the predominant gender of a customer segment can be helpful when creating targeted campaigns. An audience which is 90% female may respond to different language, branding and messages than one that is mainly male. Since it’s sometimes tricky to work out a customer’s gender from their name (is ‘George’ a male or female?) make sure you ask for it separately.

2. Separate first name / last name: You may wish to address an informal message ‘Dear John’ or a formal one ‘Dear Mr Smith’ rather than always using ‘Dear John Smith’. Extracting first name and surname from a single field is harder than it looks (e.g. ‘Maria von Trapp’ complicates a ‘split on spaces’ rule), so capture them separately from the outset to allow more flexibility in customer communications.

3. Postcode / Zip code: Many organisations request 3 or 4 lines of address from each customer. Ensure that you ask for postcode specifically in its own separate field, since it is less prone to typos or variations in spelling than county or city names, and therefore enables more effective segmentation. It can also be used to lookup or verify addresses at the point of input.

4. Mobile / cellphone number: It’s common for online forms to request telephone and fax numbers. Few customers will wish to be contacted via fax, so unless this is crucial to your business, ask for mobile number instead. This is likely to be far more useful should you wish to contact a customer urgently. It may also provide an opportunity for communicating with your customers by SMS message.

5. How did you hear about us?: Many organisations spend a lot of time and resources analysing usage patterns and ‘referring’ web sites to build up a picture of where they are gaining new customers. Whilst this can certainly be helpful, it may also be beneficial simply to ask new sign-ups what prompted them to use your service.