No business transaction should end once the receipt has been printed. A gracious follow-up contact goes a long way toward making a small business memorable, sowing seeds for a lasting relationship.
The most successful follow-up contacts are those with the human touch. While "doing the job right" helps to win customer mindshare, a small business can take that relationship the extra mile with a sincere, personal gesture.
Roberta Perry, creator of Scrubz Body Scrub Inc., a skin care enterprise in Bethpage, New York, recalls a recent incident when follow-up made all the difference.
"A good customer of ours was booked for a massage with one of our therapists. She calls the morning of, upset and crying, because her mom of 93 had a stroke and she's been at the hospital all night," Perry says.
Perry, of course, canceled the appointment and offered kind words, but she didn’t stop there. Four days later, she called to ask how mom was doing. "I think she was absolutely floored that I did so, and she told me as much. It had nothing to do with business, and yet of course, it does."
The International Finance Corp., a member of the World Bank Group, offers some basic follow-up advice in its small business toolkit. IFC recommends:
- Call a few weeks later. An auto body shop might call customers two weeks after completing a job to ensure they are satisfied. It’s a good chance to say thanks, or to address any discontent.
- Write a note. A handwritten note makes personal contact. It shows a depth of interest that email can’t capture. Customers remember such gestures of gratitude.
- Keep it up. Don’t say thanks and walk away. Continue the dialogue, touching base periodically to see if a customer’s needs have changed. It’s not a sales call—just checking in.
- Ask for input. A simple survey or questionnaire can make customers feel included. Sharing their input gives them a personal stake in your business, and helps to keep them involved over the long term.
Remember, following up can do more than just encourage repeat business. A good follow-up can open whole new avenues.
Consider FoodtoEat, a New York City web-based delivery service. FoodtoEat effectively serves two customers: the consumers who order and the restaurants who deliver. By taking care of the latter, COO Amar Modi hopes to tap more of the former.
"For our restaurants and food trucks, we check in with them regularly to discuss their satisfaction with the service and any strategies to drive up orders," Modi says.
Among other things, this means helping restaurants to fashion discounts for their customers and even create custom flyers to drop in delivery bags. By taking time to loop back to a restaurant after orders have been placed, the company is able to simultaneously generate loyalty, and expand its base.
"These personal touches tend to go a long way with certain restaurants and food trucks, and we always welcome dialogue to boost their sales and to make sure that they don't forget about our company," Modi says.
These are just a few of the ways a small business can loop back to maintain contact with customers. Others might include:
- Small give-away events
- A holiday card with a photo of the team
- Timely reminders of scheduled services
- Special discounts for existing customers
All these may be appropriate depending on circumstance, and it may take some trial and error to determine what form of after-the-sale contact feels right for any given business. The important thing to remember: You can’t go wrong by saying thank you.