One of the biggest and most common causes of customer complaints and frustrations is a lack of follow up. This means we have a great opportunity - master this simple business practice and your business will really reap the rewards.

All of us have had to deal with a business that is just plain lousy at following up. They say all the right things, make big promises and then consistently fail to deliver in the most frustrating ways. Sadly this is more common than most of us would like to admit.

We live in a world with high expectations, with more communications tools than ever before and a host of information at our fingertips. So why on earth are we so bad at something as simple as following up with our customers?

I believe that it is simply because it isn't treated as a priority. There are too many other distractions that ironically get in the way. Of course this simply means that most businesses are losing a pile of business, just because they can't make a follow up call.

If you are serious about building your business, increasing revenue, getting more people referring you and talking about you online (in a positive way), the answer is to become a follow up guru. Set yourself this challenge - be the best in your industry in your town at following up your customers.

And here are a few simple ideas to help:

1. Clarify when and how you will follow up (and make sure you do)

When talking about following up with a customer, we need to deal in specifics not vagueness. This means make a specific arrangement for following up, as in a certain day and ideally even a time. Then figure out how you will make contact - as in phone, email, face-to-face visit etc. So rather than "I will get back to you next week", change this to "I will call you next Tuesday morning at 10am". Once you have made this commitment, it is essential that you do it.

2. Get organized

I think one of the main reasons why people are not as good at following up as they should be is a lack of organization. We need to manage our diary and our work practices well to ensure that we not only remember to follow up with our customers but that we also make the time to do it. I suggest committing a certain amount of time each day to follow up. If you don't have any specific follow up to do, call some old customers who haven't been to your business for a while to see if you can encourage them to come back.

3. Send a "thank you" note

Many years ago it was very common to send a "thank you" note to customers. Today it is rare, and that is what makes it a wonderful opportunity. Sending a note, thank you letter or some other form of communication (like a card) are all great ways to connect with customers.

4. Never assume

It is always good to make a call or at least send an email (and I much prefer making a call) to ensure that a customer has received something that was sent to them. It is surprising how often we assume someone has received something and we wait for them to contact us, instead of giving them a quick call just to make sure they have actually received the item. Assuming has left many a customer thinking that the sales person simply didn't bother sending the items and the sales person assuming that the customer doesn't want to buy. There is no room for assumption when it comes to customers.

5. Make a call after a sale

Often the end of the sales process is when the customer pays the money, but this is a wasted opportunity. Smart sales people (and smart businesses) will make the effort to contact a customer after a sale has been made to make sure they are happy. Once again, this used to be much more commonplace, but now it is a rare occurrence. Doing simple things like this can make your business stand out from the crowd in surprising ways and in the modern business environment this translates to generating word of mouth publicity about your business, and that means more customers.

If you become a "follow up guru", I guarantee that you will see marked improvements in sales, customer retention and word of mouth referrals, three outcomes that every single business owner would be more than happy to achieve.