Whether you are a business owner, marketer, or in community relations, follow-up can make or break a business relationship. Most of us work in a job where people count on us to follow up in a timely manner so that they can do their job most effectively and efficiently. Not following up makes us vulnerable to losing a potential client/resident. Throughout my years in the industry, those who were the quickest to follow up where the one that got my business. I grew my previous business six-figure business solely off the fact that I followed up and communicated exactly when I said I would, often giving me a leg up with the competitors in my area.
The most important facet of follow up is doing exactly what you say when you say you are going to do it.
- Always let people know when they can expect to hear back from you. If you are unable to get back to them when you said you would, acknowledge the delay and give them a new time frame letting them know when they can expect to hear back from you.
Example: You told a potential client that you would get back to them by 11am the following morning, however due to unforeseen circumstances you will not be able to meet that deadline. Reach out to them via their preferred method of communication by 11am letting them know when they can expect to hear from you next.
- Always appreciate people’s patience with you. We live in crazier times than usual these days and people understand that there are unforeseen delays. Acknowledging the delay is received as being humble and polite. If you let someone know that you need more time to get back to them, always thank them for being patient with you rather than apologizing.
Example: “I appreciate your patience. It has been a crazier morning than expected.” A brief appreciation and explanation are almost always well received.
- Always anticipate potential barriers that may come up and communicate those barriers with transparency. People want to know what to expect, even if it isn’t what they want to hear. Let them know how you plan on tackling any potential barriers.
Example: You are working with a family on getting their loved one into your community. During the admissions process let them know what any potential hold ups might be like doctor’s order, medical equipment delivery, transportation issues, etc. To help expedite the process you ask the family if they would also let their loved one’s doctor know to look out for doctor’s orders. Get a contact name for the medical equipment and transportation company so you can be on top of any problem solving that may need to happen.
- General communication- Always ask people’s preferred method of communication. Everyone has a different comfort level with technology these days. If you use their preferred method of communication, you are more likely to hear from them in a timely manner
- Voice mail- Use your voice mail message to let people know the easiest way to get a hold of you, when they can expect to hear back from you and alternative contact where they may be able to reach you sooner
- Text messages- Prior to sending anyone a text message, you should always ask if it is okay. Texting is a great way to give updates and pertinent information to the people you are working with. Many of the families I worked with in the past were not tech savvy, so text messaging can be risky if it is not something that they are comfortable with. Some people also view texting as impersonal.
- Email- Emailing important information and documents in the time frame you gave someone is a great way to establish that you are trustworthy. If you receive an email that needs a thoughtful response but don’t have the time to respond right away, let them know that you received their email and when to expect a thorough response from you. Emails that aren’t responded to within 24 hours, typically end up on the back burner. If you are going to be out of town or away from your email for longer than a day, let people know how else they can get a hold of you or a colleague.
Tools to Remind You to Follow Up
- A daily to-do list for your next working day is key to making sure you follow up in a timely manner. You can make this list as the day progresses, at the end of your day for the following day or make your list first thing in the morning.
- Anything you didn’t complete on your list for the day, move to the next day and let your clients know that you need additional time
- Divide up your to-do list into two categories: Priority to do-list and Bonus to do list.
People will learn to trust you and your business when you follow up in a timely manner. The goal is to become a go to person that they can always count on. Be more diligent about following up and you will quickly reap the rewards!