Follow up and follow through are two completely different things, but both can make or break the relationship that you have with your customers.
I have a personal example that will demonstrate both dynamics.
I belong to the local Chamber of Commerce. Through this association, I am supposed to receive a discount on various products at Office Depot. Recently, I signed up for the discount program through the Chamber and was told by the contact at Office Depot that everything was set and once they ran my credit card through the machine at the store, I would then receive the discount.
While I was at the store, I noticed some office furniture that I felt was worth considering. I asked the store manager if there was a discount. He explained that he would have to run my card through and then void the transaction. He ran the card through with the purchase tags and the totals came in at around $1,000. No discount came through, but the manager said that he did not think furniture was discounted. I then went to purchase the supplies that I needed. The transaction total was $176.00, my card ran through, no discount. Since it was around 8:00 pm, I could not contact my Office Depot coordinator and asked the cashier to void the transaction and that I would return the following day. I assumed that perhaps the paperwork and the computers needed time to get all of my membership information matched up still to receive the discount. I was led to believe that there would be as much as a 50% discount on most of the products I was purchasing.
The next morning, I contacted the Office Depot coordinator and explained the situation. He apologized and explained that there had been a glitch in the setup, but that it should be resolved now. I explained that it is a 30 minute drive for me to the store and that I needed to be certain that everything was set up. He told me that he would verify that it was. He followed up by calling me back within 30 minutes and told me that the computer showed that everything was activated and that there should be no issues.
I headed back to Office Depot and my purchases, still in the basket from the night before, were rung up again. However, this time when my card was run through the machine, it was declined. Now, completely irritated and perplexed, I just gave my personal credit card to use to get the supplies I needed for a workshop that night. My drive home left me worried that someone had stolen my corporate credit card number and maxed it to the limit, or that somehow I had exceeded my limit which I believed to be quite high.
Upon arriving at home, I contacted my corporate credit card bank and was informed that they had frozen the account because they had two purchases late the night before at Office Depot, one for over $1000 and the next for $200 within five minutes of each other. That crossed their security lines and they froze the card. That meant that when the manager rang up the furniture, he had never voided the transaction. That also meant that the second transaction that night had not been voided. The credit card company told me that Office Depot would have to contact the credit card company themselves to void the transactions. It also meant that I still had not received my discount.
At least the card had not been compromised, but now I had nearly $200 on my personal card that I would have to expense to my company, and had wasted an extra 2 hours in driving time and time spent in the store. I contacted my connection to Office Depot and he apologized for everything. I asked him to please contact the store manager to have them void the transactions from the night before and to see what they could do about refunding me for the discount I never received.
This incident happened one month ago. To this date, I have never heard a word from Office Depot. I had to contact the credit card company myself to verify that the charges had been voided, which they had. I have not heard a word from my contact through the Chamber about the discount that I never received. The only thing that I received was the Office Depot catalog and his business card. At the very least, I expected a sticky note acknowledging that things had been taken care of and to apologize again for the extreme inconvenience and expense.
Because of this, I am actively purchasing my supplies at other office supply stores. Because of the lack of follow through to reassure me that the charges had been voided and to credit me the discount that I should have received with my membership, it tells me that Office Depot clearly does not value customer loyalty.
To follow through means to make sure that all of the dots in a process are connected and that the customer is informed every logical step of the way. It also means fulfilling responsibilities so that the customer is not inconvenienced. Remember, I had to contact the credit card company to make sure that the charges were voided. That should have been done by the store manager, who then should have contacted me to tell me that it had been voided and to apologize for not voiding the charge in the first place.
Companies that look out for their customers as part of their corporate culture and make life as easy as possible for them are the ones that are known for their superior customer service. They also experience the highest customer satisfaction ratings, which in turn leads to higher customer retention, which in turn leads to higher referrals, which leads to an increase in profits.
The main point here after this lengthy example is that when you say you will do something, do it. If you sense that there has been an issue, follow through to make sure that everything was completed in the best interest of your customer. They will thank you for it by returning to your company again and again.