A vanishing art – the follow-up

In our age of instant communication, one of the vanishing arts is the art of the follow-up. Before our instant communication, people were not as diligent to this art, but even now, when it should be so simple to do, it is seemingly a missing part of communication. What do I mean by the follow-up? This is a quick response to let the requester or sender know that you have the ball, understand the message, received the message or recognize the effort of the sender. Further, when you have executed the request or favor, it is the communication to the requester that you took care of it.

I should be able to stop there and people should realize that is something we all must do. But, many of us do not, so it leaves the requester or sender wondering. Even when I worked in a client service setting, there were not as many colleagues who were good about letting you know they took care of something, which should be a modus operandi.

In marketing settings, this happens all the time. You reach out to people you want to do business with or have a meeting with and get zero response. I have often said “no” is an acceptable answer, so it is OK to tell me no. One of the better follow-up people I worked with would say “just tell me no or kiss my foot or something.” Yet, we would rather leave people hanging with expectation. However, that is in marketing, where you expect these kinds of responses.

One of the worst examples of the failure to follow-up occurs when I am forwarding a resume for a friend to someone else in a large organization. What becomes embarrassing is when that person fails to let the person know something and you have to chase it down. I usually tickle file follow-ups with people, but it need not be so hard. You end up embarrassed with your friend because someone else did not follow-up. Again, a “no, we are not interested or have no openings” would be fine.

What surprises me most is when I am a customer and get these kinds of responses. Nada. Nothing. I sit here wondering “did he or she receive my message?” or “maybe the person does not work there anymore.” When something is meaningful to me to know it is being done, I make a note to follow-up. “Did you get my request and do we need to provide any further information?” I have noted before that the customer service is on a steep decline. And, all it takes is a just a little more communication than is done and it would improve by a noticeable margin. Such as:

– I received your request and will take care of it by the end of the week. I will let you know when I have done so.

– I have it on my list of things to do. When is this needed by?

– I wanted to let you know I took care of your request. Here is  a copy of my response.

– Thank you for your request. Unfortunately, we cannot comply with such request, but do thank you for reaching out.

– We cannot easily comply with all of the items in your request, but can more readily respond to these items. Will that be sufficient?

Please follow-up with others. It will make all of our lives better. And, it will reduce a few headaches.


12 thoughts on “A vanishing art – the follow-up

  1. Huge pet peeve. There are times that I’m the one who feels guilty because it appears to be”nagging” to some who said they would…and no word if they did or didn’t. I’m guilty of a lot of other things…don’t need to add someone else’s bad manners to my already filled list! What to do???

  2. A lack of response does appear to be much more common in my experience. I currently work in a small office which actually has a written protocol to address this: calls and emails must be returned within 24 hours, even if the response is only to acknowledge that the message has been received and will be addressed at a later point. I appreciate it more and more, although it would be nice if it wasn’t a rarity. Many more letters over the past year than before, I’ve had to make more and more use of the phrase “just writing to ensure we aren’t each waiting on the other,” and I’m not even marketing or selling, just trying to close out (or resume) open matters.

    • Daphne, great approach and I love your diplomatic prod. I may borrow that. I also like “do you have every thing you need from us?” I do believe too many think communication occurred not realizing a comforting step is needed. Thanks for sharing.

  3. This has been a peeve of mine, especially since texting entered our lives. My office manager sent me a text yesterday that read “call me”. Seriously!!! The disconnect with people is haunting to me because I am a people person. I just can’t seem to except the avoidance of verbal contact. A happy birthday text from my 65 year old sister stung like a knife. However, I let it go because she has just entered the texting world and was probably happy thinking she was hip. It’s not acceptable!
    I have a serious love/hate relationship with technology.

    • Lisa, great comments. The “call me ” one irks me as well as the BD text. Now if she said, I have a card on the way or I will call you later, but wanted to wish you happy BD that would have been better. Technology allows people to hide from communication. Thanks for your comments. BTG

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