Organizing clients and customer contacts

Dear Kathi,

I have a home-based business and often drop the ball on customer follow up. My intention is to keep in touch with my active customers on a weekly basis and to contact my inactive clients and prospective clients every month or so. What type of system or systems would you recommend so that I can actually become organized and keep in touch with my clients.

Keith, Cardiff

Keith,

The most important key to customer follow-up is keeping all of your contacts organized within some type of database. Computer programs like ACT or Now Contact can organize and prioritize your client names. If you don’t have a contact management program, you can also use your email database or create a spreadsheet in Excel.

Whatever method you choose, it pays to make the right data base choice in the beginning. Choose a contact management system that will grow with your company, morph with different tasks and upgrade with improved technology. Researching and implementing the right system from the beginning will pay off in spades in the long term.

Once your contacts are saved into one database, you can begin to create your company follow-through protocol. For this task, you will need to set up a calendar reminder system.

If you use a PDA, your reminders can be programmed into your schedule. In ACT and Now Contact/ Now-Up-To Date for Mac, your reminders pop up in your daily schedule and provide a quick dial option from your computer. You are alerted every day when a client should be called or a follow up appointment scheduled. A huge benefit of these programs is that you can schedule all of your follow up calls and letters as you input a new contact name. There is also new technology available that allows you to download your tasks and client info into your cellphone.

The software from your email database or an Excel spreadsheet will also work but it is more difficult to link directly to a reminder calendar. To use this system, store each name into a group. For instance, group your weekly calls, monthly calls etc. into subfolders. This method definitely requires more time and personal organizational skills. You will need to print this list regularly, make hand-written notes and refer to it as you make calls.

If you don’t use computers yet, you can rely on paper methods for follow-up. As you meet a new contact or gather a referral, record it onto a master list. Make sure each name has ample space to the right of it for checkmarks to record each completed task.

While you are recording the new contact info, address several envelopes to that person and note on each envelope when it should be mailed. Additionally, mark your schedule for the follow-up calls. At the appointed time, mail a follow-up letter to the recipient. As you make follow-up phone calls and send letters, keep track by adding a checkmark and date beside the name.

Pre-printed postcards are a very cost-effective way to keep in touch with customers and prospects. Mail these on a regularly basis.The best follow-up occurs when it is scheduled into recurring time slots within your workweek. This might sound basic, but calls fall through the cracks as we get caught up in the “busyness” of our business. When you block the same hour every day for customer follow-up, it will become a habit and you will more likely attend to the important task of generating good customer service, referrals and client rapport.

Kathi is a professional organizer, image consultant and event planner based in San Diego California.

Please submit your questions to: advice@addspacetoyourlife.com

San Diego Professional Organizer

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2 Responses to Organizing clients and customer contacts

  1. Justin says:

    Great info. I use outlook for most client manangement. However, i am having a problem when new leads come in (about 5/6 per week). These are generally just a lead requesting a quote but i want to follow up with them later and keep them in our database for future marketing. Do you have any suggestions using outllok to simplify this process?

  2. Kathi says:

    Make sure to input the inquiry names and contact information into your database as you receive them.

    You can set up protocol (and rules) within Outlook to follow up in numerous ways. For instance, you could set up hot lead or mild lead follow up patterns. The hot lead might be set up so it reminds you to follow up within 7 days, the mild lead in one month. You choose whatever follow up pattern makes sense for you. You can also sequence it for numerous follow up reminders as the months progress, perhaps once a month or what ever works best.

    Check out the reminders, tasks and follow up or flag buttons within Outlook to see what is easiest for you and the way you use your email.

    I would also highly recommend that you start sending a regularly scheduled newsletter with free tips about your industry. This is a great way to stay in touch with leads and also provide a valuable service to them. Go back to my home page to sign up for addSpace eTips to see the free information and tips I offer every two weeks.

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