In this age of technological advances we can get so caught up in making connections electronically, that we forget to make connections personally. Lack of human interaction and response tops consumer complaints. People want to know that companies are more than just a robotic message or an email. We’re not saying technology is bad. Far from it. We love and depend on our technology, but let’s not sacrifice our humanity to it. We can use technology to enhance communications and build connections and relationships with our colleagues and customers. How do we do that? Let us count down the ways.
10. Old school Tech – Snail Mail
A follow up letter is a great way to reach out to colleagues and customers alike. Even a form letter is better than no letter at all. Letters are a great way for companies to show that they care about building a relationship with their customers and are especially effective as a follow up tool to a sale or other big transaction. “Congratulations on purchasing your sectional sofa from the Furniture Barn.” Y’all come back now, hear? People LOVE to get mail in this email age. Snail mail is now a novelty that you can use to give great follow up.
9. Email Autoresponder
This is an easy and effective tool to use when your email inbox is jammed with correspondence. Many professionals use auto response when they’re on vacation, but you can be more creative than that. If a customer emails a complaint, for instance. Send them back a response that says the complaint has been received and will be resolved within a certain time frame and stick to that. If you can’t meet that deadline, follow through with #2 and give them a phone call to let them know you’re working on it, or might need additional information. You want the customer to rest assured that their issue is in your capable hands and you will resolve it and get back to them.
8. Text After Transaction Reply
Many companies are now using text messages to confirm receipt of an order or payment. This is a great way to follow up with customers. You don’t have to send a novel, just a couple of lines that show you’re paying attention, and to reassure the customer that their order didn’t land in a black hole somewhere. A text message response for the placement of an online order might only need to be a thank you and an estimated shipping date. Either way, you’re following up and letting the customer know their correspondence is being handled. “Your payment has been received. Thank you.” or “Thank you for your inquiry “ is enough.
It’s a good idea to schedule your (non automatic) follow up messages or calls with one of the many scheduling apps available for your computer or mobile device. You can set a guideline for a return contact and pop it right into the scheduler.This works for following up on action items from business meetings, customer inquiries and a host of other reasons. If you are supposed to get back to someone by a certain date, you can’t miss if you schedule it in advance. The event pops right up on your screen and alerts you with enough time to compose an email, make a phone call or go to your project management tools online and close it out.
6. Calendar Apps
Calendar apps for mobile devices might be the best thing since sliced bread. These apps give you the day a week at a glance and an opportunity to look ahead at available time. Add follow ups to your calendar and schedule time to handle correspondence and phone calls to your work day tasks. All of these follow ups take time, and if you schedule them ahead, you won’t get overwhelmed by your daily to-do list. Having a flexible calendar allows you to schedule time to take care of the priorities such as following up with your customers, your suppliers, advertising and marketing people and all the other follow up that is required for you to run your company.
Twitter is a greatly under-utilized social media tool that companies can employ for great follow up. It’s all about making connections. If you connect with your customers on Twitter, you can share and re-post their comments, direct message them, and send public “shout outs” to show your customers how important they are and how much you value them.
4. Social Media
Social Media sites like Facebook and Instagram also allow you to reach out to your customers, run discounts and special coupon campaigns, and give loyalty perks to your customers that can’t be found anywhere else. You can like and share information and follow up with your customers online, and not only grow relationships, but grow your brand and reputation as well.
3. Mobile Reminder Apps
You can practice the art of the follow up no matter where you are with mobile reminder apps. These tools go wherever you do and can be employed to alert you about tasks throughout your day. This is a great follow up tool because it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, you can make that call or send a message to your customer or colleague to follow up.
2. The Phone Call
Phone calls rank very highly in this countdown because they take time and effort. It’s easy to click send and put out a text or set up an automatic email. Touching base with your customers on the phone shows dedication and respect. There’s nothing worse than trying to reach a company and getting voicemail or an options menu when you really just want a live body on the other end of the line. Taking the time to connect by phone shows your customers and colleagues how important they are. This also enables you to discuss issues in detail, something an options menu simply cannot do. A follow up phone call, even if you have to leave a message, shows you value that connection enough to take the time to call.
1. Face to Face
Personal contacts rank number one on our list. Face to face follow up is highly effective, especially with business associates. A coffee meeting, lunch, or even happy hour with your colleagues can accomplish a great deal. Likewise, if you’re trying to sell something to your customer, a handshake, a smile, and a good sales pitch go a long way toward building goodwill and a great reputation. If you have a potential sale, follow up with a meeting. This isn’t appropriate or possible for all industries, obviously. When it comes right down to it, human contact is sorely lacking in our business dealings these days. You can use this lack to your advantage by following up in person whenever possible.
No matter what methods you employ, the main thing is to follow up. Let your customer and your business associates know that they matter to you, that you value them, and you want to have and keep them as customers and colleagues.