You know you should follow up with clients, that it’s part of good customer service. But you worry about intruding, irritating, being perceived as a pest. And now, on top of typical questions about follow up (how, how often, when to stop), there’s the complication of what to do about clients whose services were interrupted by the pandemic.
Here are our guidelines for effective follow-up practices, both in general and pandemic-related:
Reframing client follow up
First, let’s adopt a healthy perspective about client follow up. Too many trainers avoid the practice out of fear of being pushy. We urge you to trade in that notion for the reality—follow up is about showing up. It’s about good customer service, making sure clients have what they need from you. It’s about recognizing that life gets busy and sometimes people need (and are grateful for) a gentle nudge. Following up with clients who have outstanding appointments or who have finished a class is thoughtful and professional—and it often generates additional work. That means more revenue for you and more help for dogs and their people.
So set down those worries about being a pest. It’s not likely to feel that way to your clients, especially if you follow good follow up practices. Let’s talk about those next.
Creating a follow-up schedule
A follow-up schedule will help make sure reaching out to clients actually happens, and will relieve any worries about when and how often. Make those policy decisions up front once, and you never have to fret about that again.
Unfortunately there is no collected industry data to indicate the optimum number of times to follow up, or the spacing of those contacts. If you need some guidelines to get you started, we generally recommend a schedule that looks something like this:
Private training clients who haven’t finished a package: Send two scheduling reminders within the first week, another the following week, and then a check-in a month later if you still have not heard back.
Private training clients who have finished a package: Send a thank you follow up within a week, and three check-ins at the 1 month, 3 month, and 1 year mark.
Students who have finished a class: Send a personal recommendation for their next class within a few days, followed by one or two reminders within two weeks, and then check- ins at the 6 month and 1 year mark.
You can adjust these general recommendations to best suit your business, but they should give you a sense of what a thoughtful, engaged follow-up schedule can look like.
Ideally you’ll also stay in touch over the long haul via your regular marketing channels such as email newsletters and social media, too.
The idea with all of this is to stay in front of the clients and students you worked so hard to get, by showing them that you care about their results and progress and reminding them that you are there. Doing so will increase the amount of repeat business you enjoy.
Put your follow ups in your calendar
Set aside a regular block of time in your weekly schedule to take care of follow ups. Depending on the size of your business, one or two hours should do the trick. Next, schedule follow-ups for each client into that block of time. This will set you up for an easy, efficient, consistent follow-up process.
How you follow up is up to you. Choose the mode you’re most comfortable with. Email or phone are the most common options, but you could also text if that’s been your typical mode of communication with clients. The advantage of email is that you can write template letters that you simply personalize, to make follow up as efficient as possible. (If you’re a little more techie, you can use your email newsletter or other automation software to schedule your follow ups to go out automatically!)
Don’t fret when you don’t hear back. People are busy and like everyone else, your clients are likely juggling all sorts of competing responsibilities and priorities. It doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate hearing from you.
In the case of clients who don’t complete their package with you despite your repeated attempts to reach out, it’s okay to let go. You can’t be responsible for others’ choices. If you’ve done your due diligence and made the effort to provide the service you were paid for, let go the guilt or worry if they choose not to finish. They may be happy with progress already made and just too busy to let you know, or they may have more pressing life issues at hand at the moment.
Setting up for success
Part of setting up for success is creating your follow-up schedule and then calendaring your clients into it. You can also create follow-up success by employing strong policies and protocols to reduce the likelihood of clients not finishing with you in a timely manner.
To protect your schedule and your clients’ progress, consider pre-scheduling all appointments in your packages up front, instead of scheduling from one appointment to the next. Back that up with a strong cancellation policy for both private training and classes and for ongoing services like dog walking.
The pandemic has accelerated some of these issues, particularly with students and clients choosing to wait to resume in-person services, even when given the choice to continue with you online. Moving forward, add a policy to your contract allowing you to transition clients and students between in-person and online services as you see fit for safety. Doing so will protect not only your income but your clients’ and students’ training progress.
Pandemic follow-up notes for dog walkers & daycares
Ideally you kept in touch with your clients while shut down. Either way, you’ll want to reach out to let clients know when you’re resuming services, and what those services will look like, including any pandemic-related policies. (If you haven’t resumed yet, you can also touch base with clients to ask them what they’ll need and their timing for coming back, to help you plan.)
If you don’t hear from clients, plan to follow up with check-ins a week out, two weeks later, and a month after that. Ask them how they and their dog are doing, let them know you’re there if and when they’re ready to pick back up, and that you’d love to hear from them either way, just to know they’re alright. Dog walking and dog daycare are founded on long-term relationships, and you’re reaching out within that context. Even if some clients don’t return to your services, you’ll want the chance to connect and share well-wishes.
Need effective client contracts with strong policy language?
Our Business Toolkit for Trainers, Business Toolkit for Walkers & Sitters, and Business Toolkit for Daycare & Boarding all include easy-to-use client contracts, in addition to a wide variety of other tools for your business. And we’ve updated them with COVID-19 specific policies, too.