7 Ways to Master the Art of Customer Follow Up

customer follow up

According to Harvard Business Review, the biggest complaint that customers have when dealing with any business is poor follow up. Fifty six percent complain that they need to re-explain their issue when calling back. Sixty two percent 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 Customer 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?

22 Comments ▼

Barry Moltz


Barry Moltz Barry Moltz gets small business owners unstuck. With decades of entrepreneurial ventures as well as consulting with countless other entrepreneurs, he has discovered the formula to get business owners marching forward. His newest book, BAM! shows how in a social media world, customer service is the new marketing.

22 Reactions

  1. Nice one, Barry!

    In my case, I usually follow up one week after I get no response from prospects/clients. Most of the times, it’s not that they don’t like your proposal or not interested in your offer; they simply forget to reply to your email or put yours on their never ending “to do” list – and get buried inside.

    Here’s what working for me: A simple reminder works, i.e. “Please let me know whether you are still interested in my offer…” or simply a little humour can also work, i.e. “If you are not interested, please tell me so I will stop bugging you.”

  2. I came from a background in the restaurant industry so I know all about the customer follow up and how important it is. A lot of customers won’t proactively share feedback, they have to be nudged.

  3. Barry Moltz

    They share feedback more on Social media though- they think it is easier when it is not face to face

    • Anita Campbell

      Hi Barry, very true.

      One thing about online feedback is that if it’s negative the negativity tends to get exaggerated. We find in our contact forms that if people are even the least bit frustrated, then typing it on a computer or mobile screen seems to remove all inhibitions. Occasionally we will get a comment over at BizSugar from someone having trouble registering that is simply scorching. I feel for my team who have to read those comments.

      But the good news is, if you follow up and handle their concern, the person can quickly turn very positive and grateful. Especially if you use your #6, and call the person by their first name, and identify yourself by first name, etc. — in other words, get personal.

      - Anita

  4. I love the idea about the pre-emptive strike. I work closely with a gift-giving business and we’re busy at peak seasons like Valentines and Christmas. This is also the time where most problems arise. The idea of the pre-emptive strike may help us minimize those problems.

  5. Barry Moltz

    The best defense is a great offense!

  6. Deborah Shane

    Nice job Barry. Amazing how common sense these are but how most businesses don’t have a consistent strategy put in place to reinforce it with their employees. Hence, inconsistent customer service = lower customer retention.

  7. Barry Moltz

    I find that small businesses are overall really bad on process! its one thing that can really make their business thrive!

  8. I think being thoughtful and remember specific details about the person can also make a great impression.

  9. Barry Moltz

    For sure- a person’s name is the sweetest music!

  10. I think point one is interesting. Setting expectations up front and meeting them is very important. If you let the customers set their own expectations it’s like trying to hit a moving target. If you don’t meet their expectations, whether you set them or not, you run the risk of a negative emotional reaction.

  11. Barry Moltz

    Setting expectations is key!!

  12. We make a conscious effort to not have to “follow-up” on customer complaints as we try to resolve the problem during the phone call. In some cases, this isn’t possible in which case we do our darndest to resolve the matter the next business day.

    I believe the reason most businesses don’t know how to do “Follow-up” is because they don’t want to deal with it in the first place so they end up lying to themselves that it isn’t a problem.

  13. Barry Moltz

    agreed- fix it the first place completely!

  14. Martin Lindeskog

    Barry: As an experienced purchaser, I liked to hear from my suppliers now and then, and not only when they wanted to raise the price on their products! ;)

  15. Right now i am struggling to establish my own business, i think your advice will help be to re-brand me. Thanks for posting this wonderful idea list for us.

  16. Thanks for posting this wonderful idea list for us.

  17. Thanks barry for putting this successful management theory in simple 7 steps. if 10% to 20% strike rates on follow up can bring big difference in sales figures.sales professionals should take this as 7 commandments!!! instead of 10!!

  18. Paul Odenkirchen

    I started a folow up business. I made my own pamlets & business cards & sent them to at least 10 business and no reply from any of them. Some i have talked to and explained to them what i can do for them. Let me know what your advice is & can you help me. Thank You Paul Odenkirchen

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