The Importance of Follow Up


I have seen plenty of articles addressing the importance of follow-up with customers. That is true, and I do not mean to take away from that fact when I say, “of course… that’s a no-brainer”. However, I believe that a little more focus should be placed on business setting follow-up. In my experience, too many opportunities are missed, and too many ideas are abandoned due to a lack of follow-up or inadequate follow-up. Let me explain.

Imagine having an idea you want to develop into an actual business or idea that could enhance a current product or service line. So you reach out to friends or past/current co-workers to ask for feedback or critiques on your idea. Or let’s say that you have an idea for a business and are seeking to make a partner out of someone you feel could do a great job and someone who could use the work. And finally, let’s also imagine that you have all of your ducks in a row and have finally pitched the idea to a prospective client, a business manager in your target market.

In three cases, you get the initial “Sure, I’ll look into that and get back with you,” but then you hear nothing. Days go by, and days eventually turn into weeks. You don’t want to be a “nag,” so you sit and wait. What are you feeling? Was the idea a bad one? Should you call and remind your contact that you have presented something that means a whole bunch to you? Shouldn’t they already understand how much this means to you?

We may never know about the outcome of these situations, and chances are pretty good that it will be the last time you try sharing an idea with that person anyway. Why? The stress, the disappointment, the frustration, the disrespect, etc. Imagine how that would make you feel. Imagine turning to someone with something that means so much, only to be put off like that. Perhaps we should also imagine what could be missed out on. Maybe the idea gets sold to a competitor, or even worse; the idea gets abandoned altogether.

Let’s change this up and look at it from a different perspective. Imagine that you’re in a leadership position and can oversee what transpires from the following situations. Also, consider that consumers love organizations that love their employees and that employees are your organization’s biggest advocates. Now, what happens when follow-up is ignored? Bad stuff, right? Perhaps more than you may have previously considered.

Imagine that a worker has brought an idea to the table, and management said they would get back to them but never did. Or, imagine inviting ideas from your workers and never providing the necessary feedback after they have worked so hard to develop those ideas for you. Do you think your workers will be eager to provide such ideas in the future? Do you think that they will feel as though you respect their time? Do you think they will be as proud of the organization they work for?

Regardless of the situation, a lack of follow-up makes YOU look like a fool. It makes you look like you are either unorganized or that you do not care. Either way, it’s bad news for you and your organization. Ultimately, you lose credibility and trust with those you have promised your time to. That’s a battle you can’t afford to ignore.

Ever hear the phrase “Employees don’t leave companies, they leave Managers“? The American Psychological Association (APA) surveyed over 1,000 American employees and found that almost 50% of the employees who believed they lacked supervisory support admitted they intended to leave their jobs within the next year. Understand that a lack of follow-up contributes to a lack of support and a reduction in trust that you will do what you say.

It’s simple; if I don’t trust you, I sure don’t want to work for you because I don’t think you’re a good leader, and I don’t believe that you respect me. It’s not just me. A Gallup poll of more than one million employed U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is because of a bad leader. It said that 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. “People leave managers, not companies…in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue.” Bad leadership, lack of follow-up, and lack of feedback; are all symptoms of the same problem.

Liz Ryan, an HR SVP and Forbes Magazine contributor, may have outlined it best. She wrote that there are ten signs that a boss doesn’t respect you. She listed them as follows:

  1. Your Time Means Nothing
  2. Your Boss ‘Forgets’ or Overlooks Commitments
  3. S/he Ignores Your Needs
  4. The Boss Explains Nothing
  5. As far as S/he’s Concerned, Anyone Could do Your Job
  6. Doesn’t Consult You in Your Area of Expertise
  7. Steals Your Ideas Without Hesitation
  8. Couldn’t Care Less How You Learn Important News
  9. Won’t or Can’t Acknowledge your Contribution
  10. Your Boss Disrupts Your Life Without a Care

Several of these listings come to mind when I think of proper follow-up. That tells me that someone that doesn’t follow up probably doesn’t respect you. If you don’t respect me, I will not respect you… let alone trust you. Consider this; a global survey found that over a quarter of all employees do not trust their company leadership. Your lack of follow-up is just making things worse. This also means that if your workers are your best brand advocates, you could have a serious problem on your hands.

The good news is that a solid leadership development program and a commitment to follow-up would greatly aid in this fight. Make no mistake about it; if you tell someone that you will take a look at something, you promise your time to them, and your follow-up is essential. Do not procrastinate on the follow-up if you can help it. If you must postpone it for any reason, ensure that the follow-up is formally scheduled and that an update is provided to the person, you promised your time to. During that time, explain why you are forced to postpone the follow-up and emphasize the importance of their contribution. This will demonstrate your respect for them and earn you respect in return.

There is another phrase that I would like to share with you. Some of you have heard it, and some of you haven’t. Either way, you need to take it to heart. “The fortune is in the follow-up.” In many ways, it would be difficult to find a more accurate statement for this topic, and this is especially true when you consider the ramifications of not doing so. Act accordingly.

Be sure to check out my article titled, “Breaking Down Ethical Reasoning.