If you are like me, the older I get, the more important it is to have a system to record when I have made a commitment to do something. I recommend entering your tasks or follow up items in a tool such as your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Let the tool remind you when you need to take action. Don’t rely on your memory!
How to Remedy Poor Follow Up
The lack of follow up or communication in general is always one of the top items mentioned when I conduct either customer or employee surveys on behalf of my clients. In one case, we launched a transaction survey process for a manufacturing client to gather feedback on five key areas. One of the areas surveyed was the level of communication given during equipment maintenance or repair. When we first began the survey, this area of communication received very low scores. To help remedy that situation, we launched a new process to utilize their CRM tool to send messages to the customer at the following milestones:
- Acknowledging the request for service, including their return authorization number and shipping instructions to send their equipment back to the company
- When the equipment was received, an estimate was provided detailing dates of the next steps
- When the equipment analysis had been completed, details were provided as needed. If the equipment was not under warranty, a request to continue was sought
- Status updates if anything unexpected occurred
- Return shipping information, including the tracking number
We then tracked the feedback each month on this area of communication. It went from being the lowest ranking element on the survey to the highest, showing a steady climb on the tracking chart.
Other than political calls or emails during an election season, it is rare, or even unheard of to hear someone say: “You over-communicate.” When conducting our customer service training, I tell the participants that if your customers are calling you to obtain a status on an order or another aspect of your interaction with them, you have failed. You must be proactive to reach out to your customers and provide regular updates before they must take their time to initiate communication.
If you get an email from a customer or co-worker requesting some information, when do you respond? Some might say that you respond once you have the requested answers or data. Wrong answer! You should always acknowledge the email or voice message letting them know you received their communication. Then you should provide an estimate stating when they will hear back from you. If your customer doesn’t hear from you, what they most likely are thinking is: “They don’t care.” If you are unable to meet your promised date, update the customer with the new time. If your customer has to initiate the communication, you have failed.
Use Special Attention Where Needed
Many of us conduct a majority of our communication by email or over the phone. When you have an upset or anxious customer, how do you assure them that you understand their urgency and are doing everything possible to resolve their problem? The answer is by providing regular updates on your progress, even if everything is on track as promised. A simple call saying: “I know this shipment is critical for your project, so I wanted to let you know I just checked in with the plant and your order is set to arrive at your job site on Friday as promised. If anything changes before then, I will give you a call.”
Sales Follow Up
Finally, I would like to address this topic of lack of follow up as it applies to those working in sales. What amazes me is when a company is trying to earn my business and they don’t respond in a timely manner with a proposal or requested information. Recently, I needed to update my prescription for contact lenses. I was trying to schedule an appointment prior to starting a few weeks of travel. I called my normal eye doctor and got their voice mail. I left a message asking if there was a chance to make an appointment to see the doctor in the next few days. It was almost a full week before they even returned my phone call. Needless to say, I have changed to another optometrist!
Same Day Response
A prompt response to a request for information (RFI) or request for proposal (RFP) is one of the top secrets to winning the business. All of our customers have an automated email alert built into their CRM system notifying them when a potential customer has requested information or a proposal. In most cases, the sales team is responding and acknowledging the request within a couple of hours.
“In the absence of feedback
customers make up their own version
of reality. Keep them in the loop.”
From Rule #1: Customer Service Handbook, C. Leslie Charles
Next week we will deal with Customer Turnoff #9: “Wrong tone of voice or poor body language.”
For questions or comments, please feel free to reach me here. I will follow up promptly!