What is the Importance of Reminders and Follow-Up Letters in Business Communication?
Substantial effort and paperwork in controlling offices is wasted in sending repeated reminders towards getting statements, reports, clarifications and such other feedback from branches and other units.
Various types of periodical returns and statements are not received till reminders are sent. In fact, people in some organizations are so used to receiving reminders that the matter receives attention only after getting a reminder; sad but true.
Reports on performance, achievement or otherwise of targets, new contacts made, complaints received and a host of such routine reports, essential for the review and monitoring of progress, are seldom submitted without follow-up efforts.
Sanctions of loan proposals and financial clearances get delayed for want of clarifications. Important letters sometimes are not even acknowledged, even when the letter itself ends with a request to acknowledge.
Reminders and follow-up letters are, by their very nature, avoidable and wasteful. Working without getting any kind of reminder is the hallmark of excellence. Every person, manager, branch or office should strive to work in an environment that obviates the need for any reminders.
Sometimes reminders and follow-up letters are taken to ridiculous levels. There are umpteen reminders sent at periodic intervals. Stereotyped, cyclostyled reminders which do not elicit positive response are followed by telegraphic, telex, facsimile and telephonic reminders.
Finally, the words in the reminders get more and more intense and carry an element of threat of punitive action. Also, ordinary reminders signed by the dealing officer are followed by the ones signed by the manager, divisional manager and general manager.
It is possible that the situation degenerates to such an extent that an appropriately worded letter by the chief executive officer may be the only recourse left.
Conceding the fact that managers and departments carry out multifarious functions and are often exposed to exigencies such as manpower shortage, an efficient work culture in every organization, especially in the public sector, is very much wishful thinking.
But at the same time, any organizational work culture that tolerates reminders and follow-up efforts beyond reasonable limits has to be viewed with concern. First, it implies avoidable wastage of time, effort and energy in pursuing something which should have happened in the normal course.
Second, it implies wasteful expenditure in terms of paper, typing, telex and postage on an ongoing basis. Third, as successive reminders are put up to the higher authorities for signature, it implies avoidable consumption of executive time for an activity that is not productive.
Finally, it gives a poor impression of the person, unit or organization itself. It is unproductive to send reminders repeatedly and file their copies as a record of unproductive efforts. What ultimately matters, is the effectiveness and not the frequency of follow- up efforts and inconsequential records.
One cannot, perhaps, wish away reminders and follow-up communication. At the same time, sending repeated reminders as a matter of routine must be eschewed. People in various levels in the organization should imbibe a more responsive work culture, show greater respect for authority and an appreciation of the need of statements, reports, returns, feedback and even acknowledgements.
The trend nowadays is towards that of a paperless work culture. In that endeavour, the first priority should be eliminating reminders and follow-up letters.