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The art of following up
When it comes to growing a business, all too often we are so focused on gaining new clients that we fail to address the needs of clients we already serve. While new clients are certainly important for business growth, customer retention and satisfaction are keys to driving profits. Most surveys across industries show that keeping an existing customer is four to six times more profitable than attracting a new one.
There are many different customer retention techniques, including education, loyalty programs, consistency, and customer service. However, the easiest to implement and the one most often overlooked is follow-up. Following up with your clients shows you care about their experience. It also demonstrates your level of commitment to your products and services. And finally, it helps build a relationship with your client.
Follow-up seems easy enough. We should check back with our doctors after they have seated a case, we should send a thank you note after a client attends a CE program, and/or we should confirm the office has received the information they requested and ask if they have any questions. So, why don’t we do it?
We Don’t Want to Be Too Pushy
May people resist regular follow-up because they don’t want to be viewed as a nuisance. Our clients are busy and the gatekeepers (ie, receptionists) try to keep all but critical phone calls and visits away from the doctor. When it can take multiple calls or visits to make contact, it can feel like you are being a pest instead of a resource. There is a very fine line between following up and becoming nuisance, and it is important to know where one ends and the other begins.
It’s easy to forget to follow up considering how busy we are. We may have every intention of contacting our client, but we get caught up in the day-to-day busyness, and following up with a client tends to take a back seat to more pressing issues.
We Don’t Feel it is Necessary
No news is good news, right? It is all too easy to take your clients for granted and to assume that if you don’t hear from them, they are happy with your current work and will automatically come to you with additional needs. Or, your presentation or CE event was so comprehensive, they have all the information they need and will call if they have questions.
We Do Not Know How
Many people have never received formal sales training and have not learned why they should follow up and how to make this happen. Here are five strategies you can use to improve your follow-up process and increase the likelihood of retaining your clients.
1. Make it a Part of Your Day
Put it on your Outlook calendar and make it a priority. If you have a CRM system, attach a notification to the doctor or to the case to make a follow-up call a certain number of days after the case was delivered.
2. Arrange a Follow-Up
If you call and the doctor is busy with a patient or out of the office, always ask when would be a good time to follow up. This tactic lets the gatekeeper know you are not trying to be a pest and want to work with the doctor’s schedule. After a presentation or a lunch and learn, ask when would be the best day and time to follow up. Put it in your schedule and stick to it.
3. Use a Personal Touch
How many times have you ignored a voicemail or left an e-mail unread? On the other hand, how many times have you left a handwritten note addressed to you unopened? E-mail, texts, and Facebook messages are all great tools, but in our technology-driven world, a personal note can be the difference that gets through to a client.
4. Become a Resource
Not every message you send to your client needs to have a sales or marketing message. Do you know that the office is struggling with photography? Send them a link to a good dental photography website. Has the doctor expressed interest in zirconia? Send him or her the latest zirconia study.
5. Have a Plan
Every time you call, visit, or write a note, have a purpose for your contact. Calling and saying, “I just wanted to follow up on your cases,” does not go far enough. Reference specific cases or questions the doctor had. If occlusion has been a problem for the doctor, ask specifically about the occlusion on the case. Having a plan and being specific will help you build your relationship and the level of trust the doctor has in you.
Great follow-up requires thought, effort, and energy. If you are not connecting with your current clients and giving them a reason to stay with you, your competition is giving them reasons to leave you. The more consistent and effective you are at executing your follow-up plan, the more you will increase your sales and improve your customer retention.
Deborah Curson-Vieira is the marketing and communications manager for Dental Prosthetic Services.