Customer Service Representative Formal Letter

Outline – Good & Neutral News Writing


Learning Objective Summary
1 Properly assess the reader’s reaction to your message. Properly assess the reader’s reaction to your message.

If the reaction is negative, indirect order is your likely choice.

If it is positive or neutral, you probably will want directness.

2 Describe the general plan for direct-order messages. Describe the general plan for direct-order messages.

Begin with the objective.

Cover any necessary explanation.

Systematically present any remaining parts of the objective.

End with adapted goodwill.

3 Write clear, well-structured routine requests for information. The routine inquiry is a basic direct-order message.

Begin it with a request—either (1) a request for specific information wanted or (2) a general request for information.

Somewhere in the message explain enough to enable the reader to answer.

If the inquiry involves more than one question, make each stand out—perhaps as separate sentences or separate paragraphs.

Consider numbering the questions.

And word them as questions.

End with an appropriate friendly comment.

4 Write direct, orderly, and friendly answers to inquiries. When responding to inquiries favorably, you should begin directly.

If the response contains only one answer, begin with it.

If it contains more than one answer, begin with a major one or a general statement indicating you are answering.

Identify the message being answered early, perhaps in a subject line.

Arrange your answers (if more than one) logically.

And make them stand out.

If both good- and bad-news answers are involved, give each answer the emphasis it deserves, perhaps by subordinating the negative.

For extra goodwill effect, consider doing more than was asked.

End with appropriate cordiality.

5 Compose adjustment grants that regain any lost confidence. As messages granting adjustments are positive responses, write them in the direct order.

But they differ from other direct-order messages in that they involve a negative situation.
— Something has gone wrong.
— You are correcting that wrong.
— But you also should overcome the negative image in the reader’s mind.

You do this by first telling the good news—what you are doing to correct the wrong.

In the opening and throughout, emphasize the positive.

Avoid the negative—words like trouble, damage, and broken.

Try to regain the reader’s lost confidence, maybe with explanation or with assurance of corrective measures taken.

End with a goodwill comment, avoiding words that recall what went wrong.

6 Write order acknowledgments that cover problems and build goodwill. Write order acknowledgments in the form of a favorable response.

Handle most by form messages or notes.

But in special cases use individual messages.

Begin such messages directly, telling the status of the goods ordered.

In the remainder of the message, build goodwill, perhaps including some selling or reselling.

Include an expression of appreciation somewhere in the message.

End with an appropriate, friendly comment.

7 Write claims that objectively and courteously explain the facts. Claims are a special case. Even though they carry bad news, they are best written in the direct order. The reason: the reader usually wants to correct the problem and requires only that the facts be presented; also, directness strengthens the claim.

Follow this general plan:

Somewhere early in the message (in a subject line or incidentally in the first sentence) identify the transaction.

Then state what went wrong, perhaps with some interpretation of the effects.

Follow with a clear review of the facts, without showing anger.

You may want to suggest a remedy.

End with cordial words.

8 Write clear and effective operational communications. Operational (internal) communications must also be clear and effective. The following instructions explain how to write operational communications:

Organize most of them in direct order.

Write the casual ones like good conversation.

But make them clear and courteous.

Give administrative communications (policies, directives, procedures) the importance due them.

Organize them logically; strive for clarity.

Critical Thinking Questions (for Practice Only)

1. 1. When is the direct order appropriate in inquiries? When would you use the indirect order? Give examples. (LO1)

Directness is appropriate when the reader is likely to receive the message positively or neutrally. Indirectness is appropriate when the message is likely to be received negatively. As will be noted in Chapter 6, however, some exceptions occur (for example, when a negative inquiry will be accepted routinely or when one feels the reader will appreciate directness). The examples the students give will have to be judged on merit.

2. “Explanations in inquiries merely add length and should be eliminated.” Discuss. (LO3)

order now

Explanations often help the reader to answer the inquiry.

3. 3. Discuss why just reporting truthfully may not be a sufficient strategy for handling negative information in messages answering inquiries. (LO4)

A true but negative statement presented without concern for its effect may get more emphasis than it deserves. Negative information stands out. The effect would be to give a wrong impression. For example, to report that “John Smith once spent a night in jail” might overshadow all else that is reported about him. If John Smith is basically a good person, it might be necessary to de-emphasize this negative point by positioning and wording it carefully.

4. 4. Defend a policy of doing more than asked in answering routine inquiries. Can the policy be carried too far? (LO4)

Doing the “extras” is really just being friendly. It is behaving as most of us like to behave in our personal relationships. The result can pay off in goodwill benefits. After all, treating people the way they like to be treated creates goodwill. In business, goodwill is worth money. Yes, the policy can be overdone.

5. 5. What can acknowledgment messages do to build goodwill? (LO5)

One can build goodwill by writing friendly, considerate, and helpful acknowledgment messages. In such messages one can use warm and personal language and can do the “extras” that make customers like the company. One can express appreciation for the order, welcome a new customer, and include resale material in the message (to enhance the customer’s opinion of the company’s products).

6. 6. Discuss situations where the following email forms of an order acknowledgment would be preferred: form message and a special message. (LO5)

A form message would be preferred when the order is a standard one, fitting all factors covered in the message. The special letter would be preferred for unusual circumstances that need explanation, such as substituting merchandise, changing shipping dates, or other complications.

7. 7. Discuss how problems (vague orders, back orders) should be handled in messages acknowledging orders. (LO5)

Vague and back orders can be handled directly when the information is likely to be accepted as routine. When it is likely that the customer will be upset by the news, tact should be used. When tact is required, the negative news usually is subordinated by position and by words. That is, it is not placed in a position of emphasis; and the words used are carefully selected so that they do not emphasize the negative aspects of the situation.

8. 8. Why is it usually advisable to do more than just grant the claim in an adjustment-grant message? (LO7)

One who makes a claim may have reason to question the quality of the good or service involved. Unless his or her confidence in the good or service is restored, future business may be lost. Thus, often it is advisable to try to explain what happened or to do whatever is needed to regain the lost confidence.

9. 9. Discuss the use of directness in internal-operational communications. Why is it desirable? Can it be over- done? When might indirectness be appropriate? (LO8)

Most of these messages concern the company’s work. The participants know that their messages will be interpreted impersonally. Thus, they can engage in straightforward but courteous communication. It can be overdone if one becomes too frank—that is, if courtesy is not apparent. Indirectness is in order when the reader’s reaction to the message is likely to be negative.