I once had to write a negative business letter to inform a customer that the goods he had ordered one month earlier could not be delivered on the promised date. The manufacturer had delayed the goods due to complications at the port and it would take sometime before the goods were cleared for delivery. This delay would cause severe losses to the customer. As the sales person who had engineered the deal, I had to write the letter on behalf of the business. What made the letter effective? Before I could say give any reasons for failing to supply the ordered goods, I started with a buffer statement.
This is a positive statement that helps to create a connection between the recipient and the writer (Bowman, 2004). It helps to reduce the shock and should be as neutral and meaningful as possible (Guffey, 2003). I complimented the customer for the long-term relationship that he had shared with the business. I also told him that the business had enjoyed working with him and that he played a significant role in the business. It was only after this that I gave the new explaining thoroughly what had happened (Guffey, 2003).
It was also important for the heading not to scream the bad news before the client could read the content (Bowman, 2004). I believe the buffer statement made the letter effective because then the customer it showed sensitivity to the recipient as suggested by Locker (1996). In explaining why the goods had not been delivered, I made sure to include the date of order and the promised delivery date which the manufacturer did not meet. I explained that the business had relied on these dates and that is why he was promised the delivery on that particular day.
I explained that it was not the company’s fault and that everything possible was being done to correct the situation. After writing the letter, I made a promise to deliver the goods as soon as they were delivered by the manufacturer citing the date of delivery. This was meant to remove doubt over the delivery and to show that the business was still committed to the deal. As I concluded the letter, I remembered to write that the management hoped to continue having a good working relationship with him.
By writing this positive closing remark, I presumed that the customer would feel important and feel that the business still valued him (Guffey, 2004). This way, chances of leaving the business for another were minimized (Smith, 2004). Ways to soften the blow and maintain goodwill It is possible to soften the blow after a negative letter and maintain goodwill. This can be done in several ways. The most important thing is to make sure that the mistake is corrected as promised in the letter. This way the recipient will realize that it was a genuine mistake.
Making a second mistake could lead to complete destruction of goodwill. Smith (2004) notes that; it is also wise to maintain constant contact with the recipient of the negative letter. In this case for example, updating the customer on the progress made so far can help to maintain the working relationship. This way, he or she is likely to forget previous strains in the relationship hence maintain goodwill. Another way of softening the effect as suggested by Guffey (2003) is to offer compensation for the loss caused. Free gifts and samples among others aimed at restoring customer confidence in the company.
Bowman, J. P. (2004). Business Communication: Managing Information Relationships. Michigan: Western Michigan University. Guffey, M. E. (2003). Business Communication: Process and Product. 4th ed. , Mason, OH: South-Western, a division of Thompson Learning. Locker, K. O. (1996). Factors in Reader References to Negative Letters: Experimental Evidence for Changing What we Teach. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 13(1): 5-48. Smith, B. (2004). Business Management. New York: McGraw Hill.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 8 January 2017
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