My twelve year old son, Alexander, just got braces on his teeth.
In case you don’t remember or never had them, braces hurt the first few days.
Alexander is a trooper, and knew that the pain in his mouth would eventually subside.
But that first afternoon, he was extremely uncomfortable.
Later that evening, around dinner time, the phone rang.
It was his orthodontist, Dr. DeMaio.
He was calling to see how Alex was feeling, to see if he had any questions, or if there’s anything he needed for support.
I was beyond impressed–I was shocked. I couldn’t believe he actually called Alex at home.
My general experience with doctors has been less than stellar- long stretches in waiting rooms, followed by rushed visits to get me in and out as quickly as possible.
With his prompt and warm follow up, Dr. DeMaio put himself head and shoulders above any other medical professional I’ve ever worked with.
His empathy skills were incredible–he knew what Alex was going through that night, and wanted to offer whatever help he could.
Not only was I impressed, I became an unpaid salesperson for Dr. DeMaio. I’ve told this story to dozens of people.
This one simple leadership skill- following up–sent his stock soaring.
I’m always amazed how few people make the time to follow up in business relationships.
On a personal level, if I think (just off of the top of my head) back over the last three months I can think of two landscape architects, one asphalt contractor, a web designer, and three junior consultants who didn’t follow up with me.
Why don’t people follow-up more frequently? Consider these four reasons:
- They mentally categorize it separately from the relationship.
You could say people forget to do follow up. We could use the excuse that we’re all so busy, with a million things to attend to.
I think that’s an easy out. The reason following up falls off the to-do list is because it never makes the to-do list in the first place.
If people book an airplane trip, they don’t forget about it. It becomes a priority. Following up needs the same level of focus and attention.
2. They think “If they need something, they’ll call me.”
This assumption is just not true. According to fascinating research compiled by JitBit, there’s a huge disconnect between the perception of customer service given and that recieved. For example, 80% of companies believe they deliver superior customer service. Only 8% of customers believe this to be the case. If you’re waiting to hear from others, you may be waiting a long time.
Following up isn’t just about keeping in touch–it’s about staying informed. What do people really think of you? Odds are you’re not in that 8%. Following up gives you a golden opportunity to have another touchpoint to get real-time, first-person feedback.
3. They don’t want to be nags.
There is a point where you can follow up too much. However, most people never cross that line. If you’ve got some self-awareness, you can be intentional and considerate with how and when you follow up. If you start with the mindset of “How can I serve?”, you’ll come up with brilliant ideas on how to best follow up.
4. They think no news = bad news.
Your customer/colleague/key stakeholder hasn’t called you for a week. What thoughts go running through your head?
- They hate the direction the project is going in.
- They want to make a change.
- They are upset with me.
All those thoughts are your own personal hallucinations. The fact is, if you haven’t heard from someone else, what is true is that no news is no news. You need to go and find out.
Here’s the big takeaway: if you’re proactive and follow up, you’ll stand out from the crowd and your credibility will soar.
What other techniques/advice do you have to follow-up? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.