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Improve your follow-up participation

helpline flow follow up

The success of your follow-up program hinges in part on how many contacts you can make and how much outcome data you can collect. And that is very dependent upon how many help-seekers will agree to take part in your program.

Asking a client to agree to a follow-up can be intimidating, and it takes skill and experience to ensure their participation. Here are some tips guaranteed to turn more of your inbound contacts into follow-up opportunities.

Build rapport – The success or failure of getting a caller to agree to a follow-up contact actually begins from the first moments of the call. Building rapport and trust between the specialist and help-seeker is a key component to the success of the call itself, but also impacts the chances of future contacts. If your specialist struggles to make a connection, or the client doesn’t feel heard or helped, they’re unlikely to welcome a call back. But, if your help-seeker feels connected to the call specialist and feels a sense of trust, they’re much more likely to agree to hear from your service again.

Don’t ask – One strategy that will help you get a “Yes” is to not ask them the question at all. Asking someone, “Can I call you back tomorrow?” gives them a choice of saying “Yes” or “No.” What if you make the assumption that they want to hear back from you? Instead of asking permission, try telling them you’re going to reach out to them again, and put them in position of having to refuse. Sound uncomfortable? It’s all about the delivery and can take some skill to pull off. Some example phrasing:

  • “I’m so glad you reached out to us today. Hey, I’m going to call you back tomorrow just to see how things are going, what time is good for you?”

  • “I want to check in and see how you’re feeling tomorrow, what’s the best number to reach you at?”

  • “Just to be sure you got everything you needed, I’m going to call you back to make sure those referrals could help you. How’s Thursday afternoon?”

  • “When we get back in touch to check in, what works better for you, should I text you or call you?”

  • “We want to help you through this, I’ll check in again tomorrow to see how you’re feeling.”
If done correctly, your client won’t feel pushed or pressured, they’ll feel cared for.

Pick your moment – There’s no rule saying that you have to schedule the follow-up contact at the end of the interaction. If there’s a moment earlier in the call that feels right, take the opportunity then. Maybe it’s when you’re giving referral information, or at a moment when the person needs to be reassured that you truly care. If you find that moment at some point earlier in the conversation, schedule the follow-up then, or at a minimum, plant the seed, and continue your conversation. Then come back to the topic at the end of the call to remind them you’ll be following up and firm up the details.

Avoid the “S” Word – Surveys and feedback are important, no doubt, and there’s a great likelihood you’ll need to collect data from the client when you follow-up. But, there’s usually no reason the help-seeker needs to know this when scheduling the follow-up. The word “survey” can be a turn off to many people, so knowing this is expected of them may discourage the very thought of being called back. If you must give them notice of this, then the word “feedback” may be safer (e.g. We’d like to call you back and get your feedback”). If possible, don’t mention either when you’re scheduling the follow-up contact. Instead…

Make it about them – The client should feel like you’re following up because you care, because you want to know they’re okay, because you want to continue helping. This shouldn’t be hard, because of course you DO care and you DO want to keep helping! The more you make them feel like there’s nothing in it for you, and that it’s all about being there for them, the better your chances that they’ll want to hear from you again. And the more successfully you do this, the more eager they’ll be to give back to you by answering your survey questions when the time comes.

Continue helping – Speaking of what’s in it for them, don’t forget to let your callers know that they have something to gain from hearing from you again. Having the chance to talk about their situation again may be an attractive prospect. Maybe you can offer them additional referrals, or brainstorm more options with them dependent upon what’s transpired since you last spoke. If they feel like you’re an ally on this journey with them, they’ll welcome continued contact.

Give them options – Give your help-seekers options for how they can hear back from you, and consider how they reached you as a guide for how they may wish to be contacted again. Phone callers may wish to be called back, but make sure they know you can text them or email them, too, if those provisions are in place. Research conducted by Varolii Corporation in 2013 found that text messaging was quickly becoming the preferred channel of communication for most American consumers, and one in five consumers were equally likely to prefer a text message as they are receiving a voice call. Consider your client’s age as well – 36% of 18 to 24 year olds said a text message was their preferred form of communication with businesses. For help-seekers whose initial interaction happened via live chat or text, there’s a good chance they’ll reject a follow-up by phone. Convenience may be key for some clients; your ability to reach back out by alternative channels could improve the chances they’ll agree to future contacts from your service.

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Dana joined the iCarol team in 2013 after 12 years of direct service and administrative duties in the Helpline Industry. You'll find her presenting Webinars, Tweeting, Blogging, Facebooking, and producing other materials to help others learn more about iCarol.

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