How’s your follow through?

In my experience, lots of people say yes to things they never provide. Some people even volunteer to do something that never materializes. And they don’t even have the professionalism to get back to the person or group to whom they committed to tell them they won’t be delivering what was promised.

Two recent occurrences of this reminded me of how rampant this bad habit is.

* I ordered some special shoes from a store that specializes in shoes for difficult feet. I purposely went in 3 weeks before a trip abroad and was assured they would arrive before I left. When I hadn’t heard anything 2 days before my trip, I called them and was told I would be called back the next day. I reminded the clerk of the time sensitivity and he assured me he’d get back to me before I left. He didn’t.

After my trip I called again. I was told I’d be called the next day. I wasn’t. This happened one more time, then I went into the store to talk to the manager. She said they’d been swamped. I said, “Then your people shouldn’t promise things they can’t fulfill.” She nodded. I said it was all about managing expectations — that lying and saying you’ll call back and then you don’t is bad business. She nodded again.

Part of the problem is my expectation that merchants will actually do what they promise. I should know better and take my business to places that have proven their integrity and reliability. However, when expertise is in short supply, we put up with bad behavior. However, when the competition increases, few customers would put up with this lack of follow through.

* I’m remodeling my kitchen and gathered contractor recommendations from neighbors and friends. Most contractors called me back, but a few didn’t. Of those who did, most made and kept appointments to look at the projects. They all promised proposals. About 80% of them sent those. Even when I followed up with the other 20%, they promised a proposal but I didn’t receive one. I sent a thank you email to all those who sent a proposal, asking specific clarifying questions. Only about half responded.

Of the final 4, I asked for references. They all said they’d send names and numbers, but only one did. Guess who got the business?

Follow through is essential. It shows you’re a professional and serious about wanting the business. If you know you can’t provide something, don’t promise it. If you promise something then find you can’t deliver, let the person know. This makes you someone others want to work with, whether on internal projects, or with customers.

It takes diligence to track your promises, and a system to ensure you did what you said you would. But when you do, you’ll stand out from those whose promises are empty. You’ll show you’re a true professional — one that others can count on.