About one year ago on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in my office when the phone rang. An exasperated fellow on the other end wanted to know why my DJ didn’t show up for a wedding that day. Concerned, I asked what name the reservation was booked under and the location of the reception. This gentleman didn’t know it, but he had thrown me into a near panic, fearing that I had blown it. Big time.
Upon checking my calendar and files, however, I found no record of a reservation at that venue or on that date in question. When I calmly informed the caller that it was not my service he booked, he became extremely irate and insisted that he had indeed reserved my company’s services for this wedding. For a few seconds, as the sound of his angry voice screamed in my ear, I second-guessed myself. But after I double-checked the calendar and client information files, I was able to tell this person, with extreme confidence, that he did not, in fact, reserve my company. As it turned out, he apologized when he later realized it was another company that he had booked.The moral to the story? I would not have been so confident if not for my efficient client tracking system.
As we all know, when your mobile company grows, so do the problems associated with tracking client information. It takes only one mistake to overbook your company, resulting in a cancelled gig, a tarnished reputation and a Tylenol headache. Whether you operate two DJ rigs or 12, an accurate tracking system is crucial to your continued success. But what’s the best method?
Well, there are two ways of tracking your bookings: a manual system or a computer program. Both have their advantages; both, of course, also have their disadvantages. If you own more than five systems, I advise using a computer program. If you’ve got fewer than five, manually tracking your bookings is certainly manageable — beyond that, such a tracking system is impractical.
This article is the first of a two-part series. This month, we’ll concentrate on manual tracking systems, since most fellow DJ/owners I know still track client information this way. Next month, look for a dissertation on the uses of a computer program.
The most important aspect of a manual tracking system is its user-friendliness. If it’s incapable of providing for you quick access to a client’s file, what’s the point? For me, valuable information about a client and an event contained in a file folder looms only 30 seconds away.
When manually tracking each booking, from the instant you receive the initial phone call to the date services are provided, the following components are required:
A blank reservation form.
A “Contracts To Be Sent” in-basket.
A monthly calendar, with at least six to ten lines for each date, to record the name of each client and their event’s time slot.
“Contracts Pending” file folder: A file folder for client information, awaiting the signed contract and deposit.
Monthly file folder: A file folder in which to place the client information sheet, with the signed contract, when it is returned with the deposit.
When a client wishes to book a reservation, consistent documentation is important. For this I use pre-printed forms, attached 30-thick to a clipboard near my phone. When clients are booking, this blank form contains all the questions I’ll need to ask them. This insures that I don’t forget to ask important information about the event – there have been numerous occasions, before I started using this form, when I had to phone a client back to fill in the details I had overlooked during the initial call.
On this sheet, you will include the usual information, such as the client name, address, phone number, and the date, time and location of the event. This sheet should also contain additional entries, including:
The date the contract was mailed to the client.
A quality-control question requiring you to double-check that the reservation has been marked on your calendar. Mine simply reads “On calendar?” A check mark next to this verifies that I have listed the booking on my calendar.
The date and amount of deposit received.
A space to document payments received on account.
A space dedicated to specific needs that the client requests from your service. This is important, especially when a client changes the event time or location after they’ve returned the contract and a deposit.
A space to document the DJ personality-type the client wants, such as fun and interactive, or low-key and laid back.
A space to document the type of lighting and equipment to bring.
One advantage to using this customer-information sheet is that you now have a separate document from your contract. I do know DJs who use their contract as a client information sheet as well. The problem with this, in most cases, is that you must mail the contract to the client and await its return with a deposit. This makes it difficult to adequately track vital information — such as the date the contract was mailed to the client and when it is due back. And there will be times when the client will call you, before returning the contract, wishing to change information. If you have a separate customer information sheet on file, adding new information about the event is easy.
Let’s review the process by which a phone call turns into a confirmed reservation. First, when a client calls to make a reservation with your company, this doesn’t mean it is a confirmed reservation. No reservation is confirmed until you have in your hand a signed contract and a deposit.
The reservation process begins when you fill out a blank customer information form with the necessary information. From there, the completed client information form is placed in the “Contracts to Be Sent” in-basket and the client name is penciled in on the calendar. In my office, contracts are typed and sent out to clients every other day. l six of my systems are “booked.” You will note, however, that the Robinson event scheduled for 7-11 is NOT a confirmed booking, as there is no star designation next to the name. This client has not yet returned the contract with a deposit, and this will prompt me to call them with a gentle reminder.
When the deposit has been documented, the customer information sheet and contract are then placed in the permanent monthly folder for future reference.
With this manual system it’s nearly impossible for me to take a reservation in error, simply because there are too many checks and balances. In order for overbooking to occur, you would have to commit the following errors and omissions:
Neglect to document the booking on your calendar at the time the reservation is made, or…
Fail to create a client information sheet, or…
Forget to log the deposit-in on the information sheet when it arrives, or…
Forget to place a star symbol next to the client name on the calendar, indicating that the reservation is confirmed.
This is why, in over 17 years of business, I have yet to make a crucial mistake and overbook my services. If you make a firm commitment to working under contract and deposit only, this system will work well. On the other hand, if you frequently make verbal commitments, without a written contract, you may be setting yourself up for overbooking, or even (gulp!) forgetting about a gig. The same goes if you develop a habit of writing down client information on a stray piece of paper. Quite simply, your client information sheet should be the only place you document client information. This will prevent a predictable lapse in communication down the road.
Of course, I realize that there are close friends or relatives for whom you will provide DJ services, and you will occasionally wave the formalities of a contract. In these cases, it is still important to fill out a client information form and log the event on your calendar for each and every client, without exception. That you are providing your services to a friend or relative does not change anything; you are still committing one of your DJ systems for this event and must account for that on your calendar.
Whatever method you use to keep track of your clients, I believe that a solid system, accounting for every reservation, is essential. Do you have 100-percent confidence in your record-keeping system?
This article originally appeared in the DJ Times magazine, and is posted on this site with their permission
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