Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Emphasizing good news, part of Business Writing Strategies.
- Documents that give good news also use the Direct Strategy. In this type of situation, your reader will actually be glad to get your information and will have a positive reaction, may even be excited. Giving good news is always more fun than giving bad news. Both because we know the reader wants to read our message, and because we know we will have a happy reader. Some examples would be that that bank tells you that your loan was approved, your boss tells you that you got the promotion or your vacation days were approved.
Or the types of situation we're going to analyze, the claim letter and the adjustment grant. First the claim letter. The one you write when you are a dissatisfied client or customer. You let the company know that you are not satisfied, and you are claiming you have something coming, a replacement or refund for example. Why would that kind of situation, we have a disgruntled client or customer, be considered good news? Let's digress for a minute. Obviously, it's not the same kind of good news as getting a raise.
However, customer complaints can be a valuable source of information, and they give a company the opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one. In fact, one study shows that a dissatisfied customer that the company can turn into a satisfied one, becomes an even stronger customer than before. Customer service expert John Goodman estimates that only about 50% of customers will actually let the company know about a problem. They just take their business someplace else.
But, tell an average of about four other people about the bad experience. According to a study by the Verde Group, this negative word of mouth advertising results in 50% of shoppers choosing not to visit a particular store because they heard about someone else's bad experience. So, claim letters are in the good news category because first, they let the company know about the problem, and second, knowing about it gives the company the opportunity to fix the problem, and to reduce the negative word of mouth advertising.
We can fix problems only if we know about them. Why claim letters are considered good news may now make more sense. So let's look at how to apply the Direct Writing strategy by asking those all-important questions as we plan how to write a claim letter. First, the reader reaction. The reader won't be happy that you had a problem, but is glad that you're letting him know. Next, what's the purpose? The purpose is to identify the bad experience and to let the reader know what will make you a satisfied customer.
In other words, what you want done. And now the final question, how will I open a claim letter using the Direct Strategy? With the problem and the solution. Here's an example. "Please refund my $116 I was charged "for the tree trimming work on May 30 "that did not get completed according to our agreement." This opening identifies the problem, and the requested solution. Notice that this opening is direct, but not rude or harsh. Opening with "Your incompetent lawn maintenance workers "ruined my trees and I demand a refund" is not the way to get cooperation.
Tone strategy is discussed in another lesson. Now let's look at the adjustment grant. Change roles. You are now the tree trimming company. You examine the complaint, and decide to give your customer that refund. That really is good news. You are granting the adjustment requested. Even though the original situation was negative, the solution will be good news to your reader. So first, the reader reaction. The reader is going to be glad that her claim is being adjusted. Next, the purpose. The primary purpose is to give the good news, and the secondary purpose is to persuade the reader to remain a customer.
And that final question, how will I open this adjustment grant letter using the Direct Strategy? With the good news! So here's a direct opening for the adjustment grant letter: "Your law maintenance account has been credited for $116." Notice that in that opening direct sentence, no mention is made of the problem. That will, of course, have to be discussed later on in the letter, just not in the opening. And the needless "I received your letter" or "I am writing to you" are avoided in all document openings.
So, companies consider claim letters good news and customers consider getting what they ask for good news. Two more situations that should use the Direct Strategy.
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- Deciding when to begin or delay the message
- Presenting information
- Getting support for ideas
- Understanding the audience
- Communicating internally and externally
- Choosing the appropriate language and tone
- Using business writing outlines and templates