So, you’ve received a call from a frightened mom whose baby has been abducted by Vigo the Carpathian for the sole purpose of possessing the baby, what do you do? Well, in this case you call the Ghostbusters and hope that this less than perfect sequel ends quickly.
Thankfully, most client calls are nothing like this. Your likely call will be something along the lines of, “I think I’m going crazy but. . .” and then they describe a laundry list of unusual occurrences. What happens next depends on how your team works. After listening to their claims, I ask them to fill out a confidential client intake form and let them know that I’m going to speak with a fellow investigator so we can schedule a time to meet the client in their location for a more complete interview. The form helps me collect some data up front and formulate additional questions. It also weeds out people who may not be ready or committed to the process of having a paranormal investigation conducted in their location.
In my opinion, interviews are essential for not just assessing a situation but planning for an investigation. When you meet with your potential client, a lot of things are happening at one time; you are evaluating the client’s situation, collecting narrative information, assessing the safety of the location, assessing the client’s reliability, providing information, and discussing what may happen if an investigation occurs. How you do these things can determine how comfortable you and your client feel about the team and the process.
Here are a few tips for a successful client interview
- Bring a second person to the interview. There are three reasons for this 1) this potential client may be crazy and try to kill you so having someone to push in front of you as you run away is always a good thing, 2) a second set of ears means that more information is being collected, and 3) the second person may think of a follow-up question you hadn’t considered.
- I recommend not showing up at the potential client’s home in your team black t-shirt. Most clients do not want to advertise that they are talking to a paranormal investigation team and this helps minimize the strange looks from the neighbors when you arrive in the neighborhood. Also, arrive in one car so as not to draw too much attention.
- If you haven’t already done so, give the potential client a confidentiality form to sign and let them know that anything discussed during the interview process will not be shared outside of the team. I always scan and email this form back to the client so they have a copy.
- Use the client’s intake interview form during your interview. Forms let potential clients know that this is a standard process and they are not being singled out. Through this form, we will ask questions about a client’s mental and physical health as this can help us determine if a paranormal investigation is safe for this particular client. There are several medications and health diagnoses that can cause people to feel as though they are experiencing something paranormal so asking these sometimes uncomfortable questions is very important. Follow-up with questions the client skipped or that need additional information.
- Walk through the location with the potential client and take a lot of notes about where things are happening in the location. I draw a map as I walk because I will want this information for investigation planning.
- Ask specific questions about the paranormal occurrences such as what time of day, who was present, details about what was seen, and ask what it could or couldn’t have been that would be a normal occurrence. Get the client thinking about potential alternatives so they can do their own debunking in the future.
- Ask them what they hope will happen if the team investigates the location. What is the client’s expectation? This helps you determine if your team is the right fit for this situation. If not, be honest and explain why.
- Discuss what would happen if an investigation is scheduled. Include the information about who should be present, timing of the investigation, equipment that may be used, how the information is shared within the team, if any evidence can be shared outside of the team/client, the post investigation client meeting, and how planning for next steps is done.
- When all of this is done, briefly discuss your preliminary assessment regarding the safety of an investigation and make plans to follow-up if an investigation is to be scheduled. At this time, the potential client may decide that they do not want an investigation. Don’t be offended, many potential clients worry that an investigation will increase activity.
- Finally, throughout all of this, be professional, courteous, and empathetic. This person has let you into their life and they are exposing themselves in a way that is often uncomfortable. They are likely already upset, fearful, and stressed because of the activity occurring so your calm, professional demeanor will help them feel comfortable.
If you do all or at least most of these things, you should have a successful client interview. While every situation is different, the way you approach the situation can be standardized to make yourself and your client feel more at ease with an often uncomfortable situation. If you have additional processes, ideas, or tips, please feel free to share them in the comments or on my Facebook page. As always, I encourage the community to discuss the process of investigation so we can all become better at our jobs.
Until next time, Happy Hunting!