What is an Inquiry record, and how can I use it to track my incoming COVID-19 calls?
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away SBA had asked all resource partners to track each and every incoming phone call, and upload these interactions with non-clients into the EDMIS system as "Information Transfer" records. SBA defined the Information Transfer record as follows:
- Information transfers are contacts with individuals of a substantive nature that can be considered counseling or training. Recipients must report information transfers using SBA Form 2226. Elements that should be reported on the SBA Form 2226, include the following: phone calls; information packets disseminated; newsletters; website visitors requesting information; clients using onsite library materials; and clients attending presentations that do not qualify as training events.
In Neoserra, the "Inquiry" record was thus born.
Very quickly, both the resource partners and SBA realized that tracking every interaction with non-clients was too cumbersome and time consuming, and SBA dropped the requirement, however, the Inquiry record remained in Neoserra. Most programs disabled the Inquiry record from the interface, but with the current COVID-19 crisis, the Inquiry record has found some new life.
Many programs are struggling with the overwhelming volume of incoming phone calls regarding COVID-19 issues and concerns. However, many of these inquiries never become clients, which means that time spent answering these questions are not recorded in the database and thus, not recognized as services rendered.
The Inquiry record may be able to assist you in tracking incoming calls. The inquiry record, in its simplest form, is like a counseling session with a contact. However, please be aware that it is NOT a real counseling session. As of today (April 6, 2020), neither SBA or DLA track time spent with non-clients. Thus, any time recorded in an Inquiry record with a contact will not be exported to EDMIS nor included on the standard scorecards, and will not count towards your counseling hours.
In this FAQ we will discuss the following topics:
- How to enable the Inquiry record?
- How to customize the Inquiry record?
- How to record an Inquiry session?
- How to convert a contact to a client record?
- Tracking inquiries on the COVID-19 panel
Only Administrators can activate the Inquiry record within your database. Administrators should go into administrator-mode and then select Administration|Configuration|General. Here you can click to edit your General Settings and activate the module:
This will create a new Activity menu option, as follows:
By default, the Inquiry record includes the following fields:
Again, in administrator-mode you can customize the fields on the screen and the individual pick list choices that are offered as part of the Inquiry record. Since there is a tremendous data entry burden on the counselors to track all their time spent with non-clients, we recommend streamlining the interface of the Inquiry record as much as possible to ensure that you only capture the information that is truly essential. We recommend the following customizations:
- Contact/Inquiry Date/Inquiry Type/Center/Funding Source: These fields are all mandatory and must be part of any Inquiry record, however, you may want to consider updating the Inquiry Type picklist choices. The list presented by Neoserra is based upon the old SBA requirement and probably should be updated to properly reflect the type of interaction your program might have with non-clients. By the default the list consists of:
- Answered Question/Telephone Call
- Information/Referral Provided
- Newsletter Developed
- Presentation Attendance
- Use of Library Resources
- Web Request
- Subject: We would recommend removing this field from the interface and to capture the details of the interaction only in the Notes.
- Sub-funding Source: Unless you intend to track your inquiry time to a sub-funding partner, we recommend disabling this field for simplicity of data entry for the users.
- Session Type: This field is presented to mimic the counseling session form but may be confusing to your users, and we recommend disabling this field again for simplicity of data entry for the users.
- Counseling Area: This field probably should not be disabled if you intend to use the Inquiry record because it will help you keep track of the type of assistance that you are offering to these contacts.
- Additional Assistance: Again, for simplicity of data entry for the users, we would recommend disabling this field on the Inquiry record.
- COVID-19 related? This field should not be disabled if you intend to use it to track your COVID activity. Users should be advised to check this box for it to appear on the COVID-19 panel.
In addition to customizing the Inquiry record itself, we also recommend that you take a look at the field requirements of the contact record that are not primary contacts belonging to a client record. In other words, when dealing with clients, we often want to know the gender and veteran status of the person you are working with, but you should consider whether this level of detail is also mandatory when entering in contacts that do not belong to a client record. Again, please take a look at the Administration|Configuration|Field Requirements panel and edit the "Fields Used for Contacts - All," as appropriate.
Keep in mind, that the Inquiry record is to be used with contacts, NOT clients, and as such, any time recorded as an inquiry will NOT be exported to EDMIS nor included in your "Total Client Hours".
Because this is a contact-centric session, the contact record must exist in the database before you can create an inquiry record. If the contact has not yet been created, then you must create it first by choosing View|Contacts and then selecting the "New" menu option.
Fill in as many details as you have gathered about the individual, and click "Save" to save the contact record. To record the inquiry session, choose New|Inquiry directly from the contact record:
Fill in the fields presented. The following fields are worth noting:
- Contact: The contact field is mandatory and you cannot save the Inquiry session without a contact record.
- Time Spent: Only actual time spent with an inquiry is recorded, not prep or travel time since it is assumed that you would not prep for a session with a non-client, nor travel to a non-client's facilities.
- Counseling Area: Choose the appropriate area of assistance to track the type of assistance being offered to non-clients.
- COVID-19 related? Users should be advised to check this box if the inquiry is related to the COVID crisis. Inquiries that are marked as such will appear on the COVID-19 panel on the Neoserra home page.
Not to sound like a broken record, but it is important to keep in mind that time spent with a contact is not counted towards your total client counseling time. Nor can you track milestones, capital funding activity or government contract awards with contacts. As such, when your relationship with an individual advances to the point where you are providing one-on-one counseling services, you will want to convert their contact record to a client record. There are two ways to convert an existing contact into a new client, as discussed below:
You can navigate to the contact record and select More|Make Client:
Information will be carried forward from the contact record to the client record but this information can be modified, as appropriate.
Alternatively, you can go to View|Clients and click New to create a new client and then choose Existing Contact as shown below:
When you create a client record using an existing contact record then the following information will be carried forward from the contact record into the client record (assuming the information was present in the contact record):
- Work phone number
- Fax number
- Email address
- Street address
The company name will also default to the person's name. All this information can, of course, be modified. The carry forward is only intended to help with the data entry effort.
To find all clients who started off as inquiries, you can create the following contact filter:
- Click View|Contacts
- Select Filter|New
- Choose the "Any Inquiry" filter parameter and enter a date range during which the inquiry would have taken place
- Next choose the "Is Client?" filter parameter as shown below:
- Click "Apply" to see all contacts who now belong to a client record but started off their relationship with your program as a contact with an inquiry record.
As noted at the start of this FAQ, tracking inquiries can be quite time-consuming and cumbersome, however, during these extraordinary times, it may be essential to track your total efforts towards the international COVID-19 emergency. As such, your inquiry time is also recorded on the COVID-19 Panel presented on the home page and client page of Neoserra.
Any inquiry where the "COVID-19 Related" field is checked will be displayed in the COVID-19 panel:
The two inquiry-specific line items are:
- Total Unique Inquiries: If you talk to a contact on multiple occasions then we strongly recommend that you convert their contact record to a client record. On the COVID-19 panel, a contact is only counted once, regardless of how often you have interacted with them.
- Total Inquiry Hours: All time spent with a contact discussing COVID-19 issues, as recorded on the Inquiry record (in the "Time Spent" field), will be summed to provide the total number of inquiry hours on the COVID-19 panel.
Want more? Browse our extensive list of Neoserra FAQs.