The best way to streamline your electric cooperative or community-owned utility services online is by converting your PDF forms and applications into online forms on your utility website. We touched on this in my blog, Self-Service Websites, but now we’re sharing the secret with tips on how to best utilize the forms to build a great experience for your organization and your site visitors.
Some online forms utilized by your organization, such as starting customer utility service, may require some personally identifiable information.
These are items such as:
- Social security number
- Driver’s license
- Tax ID number
- Bank or credit card information
In order to protect your site visitor’s sensitive information, we recommend against sending it over email. There are a couple of ways to keep your site visitor’s information safe.
- You can exclude it entirely from the online form. This is a good option if you will already be contacting them after they first submit the form. You can then collect the required info at that moment.
- If you’d like to still include everything in the form to keep everything together in one place, you can set the notification email to exclude the form information. It will require an extra step in that you will need to log in to your website’s backend to view the entire form entry. However, this will keep their info secure, and you will still get notified when a new application is submitted. Your site visitors will appreciate being thoughtful and acting in accordance with best practices when it comes to handling their personally identifiable information.
You can simplify complicated forms by using conditional logic. This hides specific form fields that only appear if the site visitor selects a certain answer from a previous question. This hides non-relevant information for that visitor, but you can combine multiple forms this way as well. This works well in the case of a service application for both Residential and Business customers. The questions that appear can be determined by a question about the service account type, and this means you’ve got one application to update as needed.
Conditional logic works with whole pages as well as individual fields and is a great option for displaying requirements for the separate forms before going into the form fields.
There are several different options for creating custom confirmation messages. Your confirmation message can display on the page that the form was initially on, or the thank you message can be displayed on a separate page. The latter is a great option if the form is located on the bottom of a page, where they may not see the message immediately after submitting.
You can also set up an email notification to be sent to the person submitting the form. This can be just a simple thank you message but is especially helpful with multiple-step forms. The email can let them know the next steps they need to take or provide a link to your website where they can complete the next step.
Whichever way you choose to go, make sure your message is joyful and warm. This creates a humanized web experience for the site visitor.
You can set the notifications for your forms to be sent to one person in your organization or to multiple people. But did you know you can create multiple custom notifications? This allows a form to be sent to specific people depending on how a site visitor fills out a certain field. If a site visitor selects a drop-down saying they have a customer service question or a human resources question, that form will then automatically send to that specific person or department.
Link your form from different pages and pre-populate a field automatically. If a site visitor is on a page that mentions contacting customer service, you can create a link or a button that will take them to your Contact Us form. You can then eliminate a step for them by having that form field pre-populate the dropdown to automatically select the Customer Service option for who they want to contact.
Use these tips to make your forms recognizably powerful – for you and your site visitors.