Follow Through, Follow Up
In a recent MAP client survey, our clients rated “follow-up” as one of the top loyalty drivers in our relationship with them. Interestingly, our clients rated this attribute higher than “consulting expertise,” demonstrating the power behind that essential need to trust. In particular, people want to know that you’re going to do what you say you’re going to do—and when you say you’re going to do it! Adopting good habits around follow-through and follow-up seems really basic, I know. But still, people fall victim to poor customer service experiences every day, namely those in which there’s poor follow-through or follow-up—or both. In MAP’s upcoming book, The Disciplined Leader, we devote a whole chapter to honoring commitments. A high-impact activity that can make or break your leadership credibility, honoring commitments boils down to this: Discipline yourself to do only what you can do. Make this habit part of your leadership style and you won’t just build customer loyalty, but a legacy for being someone people can respect and truly trust.
There are many areas of your business in which follow-through and follow-up are important. But here are three that are basic, yet vital. Get it right with these, and you’ll be more likely to set yourself apart and jump ahead of your competition!
Phone calls/emails. People are busy. You are busy. But there’s no excuse for not responding to phone calls and emails in a timely manner. Fail to do this, and it can really hurt your reputation, earning you poor company reviews via word of mouth and online. If your company struggles with this, ask why. Find out from those on the frontlines what’s really going on, ask for their suggestions and solutions on how to resolve it, and find a way to fix the issue. Some technology companies easily soar to unprecedented levels of success because they always answer calls and emails, and efficiently follow through with whatever needs to be addressed or resolved. Meanwhile, some national retailers have carved out their unique competitive advantage simply by following up with unexpected post-sales calls, double checking on customer satisfaction, and gathering feedback for improvement.
Employee concerns/issues. When employees surface problems or topics that need addressing and you say you’re going to follow up, just do it. If you don’t, employees will eventually see you as noncommittal. You’ll lose their respect and destroy their trust. That doesn’t mean you have to take on every issue or concern your employees present, however. Rather, when they come to you with problems, it’s wise to push the problem-solving opportunity back onto them, empowering them to develop solutions they can own. Also, if you’re incapable of handling an issue at the time or for some good reason, know that it’s OK to say you’re not able to take it on because you’re concerned you cannot follow through or follow up at the moment. What’s more, as a leader, you have options in terms of how you manage employee concerns/issues. Remember to avoid being reactionary and biting off more than you can or should chew. Pause before you make a promise, avoiding the tendency to overcommit and under-deliver.
Customer service. The commitments you make to your customers are sacred. Violating those vows—whether spoken or stated on your website or other communications—by not following through or up can threaten and even destroy the livelihood of your business. In today’s customer service climate, in which it’s so common to have a mediocre or substandard experience, a golden opportunity exists. Simply “wow” your customers with good follow-through and follow-up, and you’ll boost the odds of winning their loyalty and respect. This, in turn, will help grow your fan-base over time and likely build customers for life.
How have you improved follow-through and follow-up in your business?