By: Duane Cummings When it comes to customers, "Silence isn't golden." Many sales and customer service personnel work with the notion, if they didn't hear bad news from a customer, everything’s okay. Nothing is farther from the truth. Silence represents lost sales. Companies should know where they stand with customers before, during and after a contact or transaction. Many times that's difficult, but you need to be proactive. For many companies, customer follow-up is automated using an impersonal survey or generic thank you. Often the customer’s response is limited, due to the narrow scope of the topics offered in surveys. If they can't speak with a live person, they feel frustrated. To eliminate this, I ensure follow-up is timely, personal and allows the customer to share any message they feel is important. By actively listening, we capture important feedback that is used to make the customer happy and improve our company. It doesn't matter if the news is good or bad; we want their thoughts. Now, I'm not perfect when it comes to following up. However, I do understand the important role it plays in a successful business and it's a major part of my daily focus. I utilize a system that allows me to track customers, what their needs are and if known, what method they want me to use when following up. The three most effective methods for me are a personal email, telephone call or meeting in-person. There are other methods for contacting or staying in touch with a customer, but I employ these three specifically for follow-up. Many companies invest in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. Unfortunately, I deal with very few that utilize it fully and effectively. Some company's only care about top customers, others make decisions based on potential sales volume and then there are those who are just shooting in the dark. The strategy and plan you or your company should implement must match the current goals, values, and mission. Personally, I work to treat every customer like they are my only customer. For me to fulfill that mission, I need to give enthusiastic attention to everyone. I'd like to share a story as to why "following up with your current or potential customers," is this week's topic and how it can impact you and your business. Earlier today I received a call from a golfing buddy of mine. Our group of a dozen guys meets at different golf courses every Saturday. Although I have a membership at a club near home, I don't mind spending money to play new courses and socialize with friends. As we spoke about tee times for the upcoming weekend, he mentioned that four of the guys had purchased a membership at a different course from mine. I was upset, because I hoped they would join my club. When asked about the decision, his response stunned me. He explained the course they joined was the only one that followed up after initial contact. In these difficult economic times, when membership is down, only one club out of three showed interest and asked for their business. I did the math and at one hundred and seventy-five dollars a month per person, multiplied by four guys, with a one-year commitment, that's a minimum sale of eighty-four hundred dollars a year. I say minimum, they may bring guests, eat at the restaurant, buy equipment or be members for the rest of their lives. The kicker is two of the clubs that didn't follow-up are currently advertising specials on new memberships. So it makes me wonder,” How many sales are lost because a follow-up call was never made?" When I conduct training on follow-up, many attendees say, "I don't want to upset the customer by constantly pestering them." It's ironic that when I called my club and spoke to the membership director, he said he wasn't comfortable contacting people either. He felt he was pressuring and hassling them. Maybe it boils down to an untrained employee with the wrong perspective. Or, maybe they believe there's no value for the customer. I know I don't like to be hounded either. But, if someone is trying to help me solve a problem or make a decision and uses a method of communication that I'm comfortable with, I don't look at them as a bother. Actually, they are giving me attention and providing sensational customer service. How many times have you wanted to utilize someone's products or services only to find you no longer have their contact info? If they had sent an email, left a voice message or stopped by in person, you would have given them business. When dealing with new contacts, I may use all three methods and see which one they respond to. Give your customer every opportunity to tell you how they like to communicate. There are customers who don't want you dropping in. Others love the interaction and enjoy it. Many won't return a phone call, but will instantly respond to emails. My customers are busy and can only be reached by cell phone. I split time between all three methods, depending on potential, current needs and my travel schedule. If I'm going to be in an area, I always try to meet in person. I can glean a great deal more from a face-to-face meeting. No matter what, my goal is to do everything in my power to live in their world. You have already moved past the difficult introduction, now take that relationship to the next level. Remember finding new customers costs more than taking care of existing ones. I'll leave you with a project. Make a list of everyone you had contact with in the last month and ask yourself if you have followed up properly. If the answer is yes, you are in the minority and are SENSATIONAL. If not, please go back and call, email, or drop in to see them as FAST as possible before they become your competitions customers.