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Collecting Customer Data

We are a holiday let business and I would like to collect customer data.  Things like home address - any special requests etc..

We use a number of channels (Owners Direct, AirBnB etc) to get reservations and not all the data is supplied.   So what I am looking for is a simply online form for customers to enter the data into.  However I would like this to be pre filled with info that I already have.  

So.... what I would like to do is simply send them a link.... the click on it and complete the data...

I am currently using my HTML skills to build a simple website to advertise the property... but not collect bookings.  

What are your thoughts on how best to collect data.... through something on our domain which has the advantages of being attached to more information... but possibly complex to build.... or through a third party... which will not be linked to the domain at all and less personal.


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Paul MacDonaldDirector, Information SystemsCommented:
What you're looking for is not something I would advise a casual coder to attempt.  It's straight-forward, however, and shouldn't cost much for someone to put together.

The integration with the other "channels" (Owners Direct, AirBnB, etc) may be more complex and therefore more expensive to include, but you won't really know unless you ask.

I would ask around and see if you know anyone who has had a web site built for them with a database back-end, and see if you can get a recommendation for a contractor.  Barring that, your local business consortium may be able to help.  Barring that, take out an ad in the paper and ask for references.
amacfarlAuthor Commented:
Thanks for the feedback.  Let me add some more detail to explain a little.

Overall I am not looking integration to other websites... I am simply looking for a standalone solution.  So... for example... here is a scenario..

I have from the guest... name, dates, number of people... however I am missing

approx arrival time, any special requests, any added extras like mid stay clean etc..

.... so all I am looking for is to send them a link... that opens a form... and the info that I have is pre populated... and they fill in the blanks... thats it.

as for coding expertise... I've got an IT degree and written a few applications in Java... but it has been a while and technology has moved on...

Thoughts? Still employ someone? or look to do something myself?
Paul MacDonaldDirector, Information SystemsCommented:
How do you get the customer information from your other channels?  Is it via e-mail?  Do you log in to the channel partner's web site and view it there?  How would the customer's data get from the channel partner to your database?  I presumed you would want to automate that, but maybe not.

• You'll need a database to store everything - that's pretty straightforward.  You'll need to decide what database product that is and where it's going to reside.  What database you use would depend on how much you wanted to spend and how much data you expect to store.  Where it's going to reside would depend on how accessible it needs to be.  You can host the database on your home computer, but you'd probably want to rent the use of a managed server.

• You'll need someone to host your web site.  You can host the web site on your home computer, but you'd probably want to rent the use of a managed server.
• Creating a web page to allow a customer to add/edit data in the database is pretty easy and it sounds like something you could accomplish.  

• You would need some process to generate and send the e-mail.  This could be something you do manually, with a template, but that will be tedious and time consuming if you have a lot to send out.

• You would need a way to make sure only that customer had access to their own information.  This probably means creating a log-in for each customer, but if they only get to edit their data once, you can send them a link to a page, passing a parameter that tells the page to load that customer's information.

• I presume you're not holding any information more sensitive than the customer's name, phone number, and home address, so privacy issues are probably not a concern, beyond the aforementioned login issue.

• You'll need some way to get the data out of the database so you can use it.  It's generally possible to just read the data in the various fields of the database, but that's not the most convenient way.  Writing a web page that lets you call up a customer's information is probably what you'd want, so you'd need to write that as well.

• If you have any reporting requirements, those will have to be built too.  How many customers did you have last year?  The database knows, but you need to know how to ask it.  What months were most profitable?  What months were the busiest? Etc.  

It's all pretty straightforward, but I say that as a person who's been doing it for a long time.  There are also web sites that let you build web sites, and they'll probably have most of the tools you'd need, but you'll have to figure out how to use them.
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