According to Harvard Business Review, the biggest complaint that customers have when dealing with any business is poor follow up. 56% complain that they need to either re-explain their issue when calling back. 62% report having to repeatedly contact the company to get their issues resolved. As a result, 65% are likely to speak poorly about the company and 48% of customers go on to tell 10 or more people about their bad experience.
How should a small business train their staff in the art of the follow up?
1. Set expectations first. If you don’t set expectations, your customers will set their own. By being proactive, you can influence how they perceive their satisfaction with the eventual outcome. Be specific about what needs to be followed up on and when you will get back to them. Then, get back to the customer in the promised time frame even if there is not a resolution.
2. Focus on after the sale. Businesses are usually great following up to get the sale, but then don’t contact the customer until they need to make the next one. This only shows that the business is interested in the sale not the success of their customer.
3. Pre-emptive strike. If there is a time of year or a product where many customers experience problems, don’t wait for them to call you. Get on the phone or email them. Sage Solutions does this with their accounting business partners around tax time to try to anticipate problems their customers might have in their business.
4. Remember. Special anniversaries of customers doing business with your company or other milestones is an excellent excuse to reach out to customers proactively.
5. Be special. Reach out with a special offer and with no strings attached. Too many times, companies only make special offers to attract new customers.
6. Get personal. People do business with those they know, like and trust. If it fits your brand, be more conversational in customer communication. Use real employee names when sending emails or leaving messages.
7. Empower your staff to make their own decisions. After sufficient training, give your employees the power to do what is best for customers in specific cases that fall outside normal guidelines.
How often should you follow up with a customer? Jason Brick suggests asking new clients to fill out a "bug me meter." This tells the small business how often the customer wants to hear from them on a scale of 1 to 10. For example, a “10” may suggest weekly contact and a “1” may mean only contact with very specific and urgent communications.
How do you follow up with your customers?