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Organization is at the foundation of any successful business. It’s a basic element of maintaining efficiency within your organization, but too many companies get it wrong. If you don’t know where your client’s information is or how to find it, completing your work on time can become very difficult, which can quickly put your client relationships at risk.

With an increasing amount of data, organization is more important now than ever before. The digital age has also brought new tools that can help you get, and more importantly, stay organized. Whether you’re just starting your business or are running a generational business, today we’re going to teach you to better organize your clients’ information. 

1. Keep copies of important documents

If you’re looking into how to organize client files, your clients’ important documents need to be top priority. You should keep at least one copy of all your clients’ important documents in a safe place (whether they’re physical, or more conveniently, online). 

This is especially important with the documents that you’re constantly handling in order to refer back to. Even if the document wouldn’t be leaving the office, it’s very easy to mishandle an important client document. Someone could accidentally throw it out, spill their morning coffee on it, or any host of accidents that happen every day. So for those documents that you often use to double-check your clients’ details (or whatever it may be!), it’s a good idea to keep a copy.

Documents you should hold onto include

  • Your clients’ contact information
  • Your contract and/or scope of work
  • Invoices and receipts
  • Tax documents
  • Important communications (e.g. emails or meeting minutes)

You can get rid of some of these documents if you end your professional relationship, but you’ll need to keep some of these documents for several years. And others, particularly financial and tax records, are best to never get rid of. Talk about using a lot of your storage area network!

For some people, keeping a physical format will be preferable to a digital copy. And at the end of the day, what matters is that your system works well for you and your organization. However, it’s worth noting that mistakes (such as misplaced documents and spillages) happen much more often with a physical copy than storing a document in the cloud. It’s important to consider which format fits within your organization’s existing systems or would work better for your workflow.

2. Keep client information in separate files or folders

Another key is keeping all of your clients’ information completely separated from other clients’ files. Whether it be with digital files or physical folders, poor client file organization can lead to serious problems that waste company time and money. Organizing client files doesn’t have to be revolutionary, you don’t need to try to reinvent the wheel.

You can use electronic files, paper files, or a combination of the two. It simply depends on a few factors. First, consider which way you would prefer to handle your clients’ files. For some people, physical copies are just unenjoyable and can lead to issues. And for others, to use an online software or program would be like trying to learn how to drive a spaceship. 

Then you need to consider other factors regarding each method. If you’re thinking about storing physical copies, you should ask yourself if you even have enough free space in your office to store client information. And whether or not physical file storage is something that you and your staff can responsibly handle (i.e. do you constantly misplace documents?).

Using online software to organize client information can improve your organizational IT efficiency, but you’ll need to be fairly comfortable using a computer.

When you have unorganized client information, the results can be destructive. You can accidentally send the wrong file to the wrong person, mix up deadlines, or lose track of a project entirely. These mistakes can make you seem unprofessional, harm your client relationships, and reflect poorly on your business. Using a file system is a great way to avoid doing something irreversible.

3. Use a consistent onboarding process

Try to use the same onboarding process for each of your clients. By onboarding new clients the same way, you ensure that each client’s information enters your business the same way. But what does this mean? When you bring a new client into your business, you should request the same information from each client, and store it in the same way. That way if you need to go back to access information, you’ll know exactly what it is and where it is. 

During the onboarding process, you can first ask your clients to fill out a questionnaire that outlines all of the info that might be useful to you. This could include their contact information, reporting preferences, points of contact, and anything else you may deem necessary. You can also do this through an onboarding call, but a questionnaire could be more convenient. Depending on your industry, you may be able to find tools available to simplify client onboarding.

If, for instance, you work in the IT industry, you likely need to take a different approach to onboarding than a freelance writer or marketer. You aren’t just responsible for getting to know a client; you also have to learn about the systems, devices, and users you’re working on. The right onboarding tool can streamline and speed up the process of gathering necessary information to work with a client.

This doesn’t mean you should treat all clients in the same way. Instead, create a standard onboarding process that you use to gather necessary information from each client, and then customize it to fit their unique needs. You don’t need to be identical to stay organized—just thorough and consistent. Sometimes you may need a certain document or piece of information from one client, but not from another.

4. Regularly touch base

You may have a busy schedule, but it’s crucial to regularly check in with each of your clients. Not only can this help with retention, but touching base also makes it significantly easier to stay organized within your own business. When you meet, you can ask clarifying questions, get and give updates, and share and receive the information that may be keeping you from doing the best work possible.

You only need to meet with your clients as often as you and they deem necessary. Some may only want to meet once per month, while others may want to meet every week. If convenient for you, ask if they’d like to meet in person, via video call, or over the phone. 

And for some clients, a quick email exchange might even be enough. If you use emails or other digital communication methods, be mindful of sharing sensitive information due to cybersecurity risks that are less prevalent in face-to-face meetings.

5. Use a digital calendar

Calendars are an essential organizational tool you may already rely on, but this is one area where you should go digital if you haven’t yet. Everyone knows that digital calendars allow you to schedule appointments and manage your time, but digital calendars have a few other features that almost make it a challenge for you to get disorganized.

You can put information about each meeting (or whatever type of event it was) directly into your calendar, so you won’t be scrambling for any last-minute info. Well, if you were smart enough to include that when you added it to your calendar. 

You can also connect alarms and reminders to your calendar to ensure that you’re on time for your meetings. Most digital calendars can repeat, duplicate, and share appointments, making it easy to alert changes to everyone involved. The increased functionality of a digital calendar provides another layer of security and efficiency, so you can stay organized and not fall behind.

6. Use existing email platform features

Similarly, organizational features are easy to find in email platforms that can help you stay on top of your client correspondence. Most platforms have filters, labels, or folders that let you categorize your emails however you like. Consider creating a unique folder for each of your clients, or however else you may prefer.

While you can manually organize your emails, many platforms even have features that automatically organize your incoming messages into the correct folder. It may not seem life-changing, but this can save quite a bit of time and reduce the chance that an email is categorized incorrectly. By streamlining your client communication, you can focus on the areas of your work that can’t be automated and require your full attention.

7. Store information on a secure platform

Data security is a major part of organizing information. It isn’t enough to store your clients’ information in a way that improves your workflow; you also have to ensure that nobody unauthorized has access to view your client’s files. If the wrong person gets access to your clients’ information, it can be a nightmare for both of you to deal with, and your client will likely not be happy.

When clients work with you, they trust that the information they share with you will be secure. Failure to properly protect that data can ruin your organization’s reputation, hurting your relationship with current customers and potentially building distrust among client prospects.

By using an all-encompassing security solution, you can rest easy knowing that your files and your clients’ files are safe. Some solutions may provide additional organization features, like automated data backup, that you can take advantage of. That allows you to focus on running your business and doing the work that no one can do like you. 

8. Consider a master index

A master index is a centralized system or database that contains information about a group of people or entities. Although master indexes are often used in healthcare facilities to keep track of patient information, you can also use one to keep your client information organized and safe.

You can create either a physical or a digital master index, though a digital system will likely be easier to use and maintain. You should only include identifying, non-confidential information, such as client names and contact information, to keep it secure. That way, if someone gains unauthorized access to your index, they won’t also have access to any private or sensitive information that could create a headache for you. If you use a digital index, you need to follow cybersecurity best practices as a level of protection for your clients and business. If you use a physical index, you should take similar steps to keep it safe, such as storing it in a locked drawer and only giving certain people access to it.

9. Establish a Consistent Labeling System

To maximize the efficiency of your indexing, consider establishing a consistent labeling system. This system should assign a specific label to each client or project, ensuring that all documents are organized in a uniform manner. This way, you can quickly and easily locate the information you need.
Your labeling system doesn’t need to be complicated; it could simply use the client’s initials, the project start date, the name of the person responsible for the client, a combination of these elements, or another clear identifier. The key is that you and your team can easily remember and consistently apply these labels across all your documents.

    10. Have a system for document disposal

    Finally, it’s a good idea to dispose of unnecessary files and documents once in a while. Old documents take up valuable space in both physical and digital storage areas. You only need to keep a file for as long as necessary. But remember what we said earlier, some files you’ll want to keep, and some you’ll never want to get rid of. 

    But if you really don’t need a certain document or file, there’s no reason to let it take up more storage space. Your time and resources are better spent on current and prospective clients.

    You still need to prioritize privacy and security when disposing of old documents. If you have physical documents, be sure to shred or destroy them, rather than throwing them away intact for anyone to find. You should also “shred” or permanently delete any of your clients’ digital files. Also, double-check that the files are truly outdated and unneeded before you make a permanent decision to destroy them.

    The best way to organize client files: remote file management

    Efficiently organizing client files is crucial for IT professionals and managed service providers with a growing client list. With remote file management, Atera has a robust solution, allowing you to access, manage, and organize client information and files from anywhere. With Atera, you can streamline the process, securely handle data, and ensure you’re well organized without being at your client’s office, or even yours. This can help you to save time and improve the client’s experience working with you. Take advantage of our 30-day free trial of Atera today and experience the benefits of efficient remote file management.

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