Follow-through doesn't just mean tracking issues. Follow-through is about results. A co-worker of mine couldn't understand why his boss was unhappy with his performance when a project was delayed because a vendor hadn't returned a call placed two weeks ago. It wasn't his fault that the vendor hadn't called back, right?
There's actually a magic question you can ask to assure the vendor is following through.
Vendors depend on satisfied customers so they are motivated to call you back, right? That's not how the world works: You can't assume that a vendor will call back. You have to take responsibility for a project's timely completion:
- Call them once a day until you connect. Call every day. Don't wait for them to take the intiative.
- Call them early in the morning. If you reach them early in the day, they can spend the rest of the day working their bureaucracy to get you the answer or results you need. If you call them at the end of the day, then your request gets forgotten by morning.
- Log that you've called them in your PDA/PAA.
- Always leave voicemail. Without leaving a message, it's the same as not calling. You need to leave physical (or virtual) proof that you called. You don't have to be original each time. Simply say, "This is [Your name here]. Please call me at [your phone number]. I need [status update | whatever] about [project]. Thank you."
Another tip: The order isn't "in" until they can tell me a shipper's tracking number and/or delivery date.
I've been stung many times by vendors that were late to ship something. "Oh, I'd been sitting on this order for a week because there was a form you need to fax me." Why didn't you tell me? Don't these people work on commission? Have they found some magical business model that not shipping a product makes them money?
The wrong question to ask, and I know this because I used it unsuccessfully for years, is "Do you need anything else from me?" Silly me. I thought that a highly motivated salesperson would take this opportunity to finish the deal so he could get commission. The problem is that people don't want to feel that they are making work you so they think they are being polite by answering "no" to this question. After being told there was nothing more for me to do, many times I've called back a week later only to find out there is some credit approval issue, or design sign-off, or contract to be signed, and so on.
Therefore when it seems like everything is done, I ask the magic question: "Can you tell me what date it will arrive?" Suddenly it clicks in the salesperson's brain to tell me that the product isn't available until next spring, or that while I've filled out the credit application, he hasn't submitted it to their finance department. (These are all real examples).
Once I get a delivery date, the question changes to, "Can you give me a tracking number?" That's the real proof that the order hasn't hit any snags. For important projects I call every day until I receive a tracking number: Always in the morning. Always leaving a polite message if I receive someone's voicemail box.