Writing Corrective Actions for customers?

Subject: Writing Corrective Actions for customers?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, "Hemstreet, Deborah" <DHemstreet -at- kaydon -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 2008 11:15:19 -0400

Deborah Hemstreet wondered: <<I have been asked by a client to write
a letter that communicates corrective action information (based on
the customer's complaint) to the customer.>>

A thankless job if ever there were.

<<1. What do other companies communicate to their customers?>>

First, the trick is to be very careful to avoid blaming the customer,
no matter how obviously they are at fault. The goals are to reassure
them that their complaint is being taken seriously, and (as in all
procedural documentation) to help them resolve the complaint. Either
tell them what to do to solve their problem, or tell them what you
are doing to solve their problem. You want the person to believe that
the problem will go away so that they don't have to complain again,
and that you want them to remain a customer.

<<2. Should this be a form letter?>>

Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that such letters should always follow
a consistent form in content and approach. No, in the sense that most
consumers, like you and I, can recognize a form letter at 100 paces,
and feel like our concerns are being trivialized whenever we receive
one. Just like resumes, responses to complaints should be consistent
in overall content and approach, yet customized to the specific needs
of the situation.

You can certainly include standard boilerplate text (signatures,
legal disclaimers), and can reuse standard procedural information if
that's relevant, but the meat of the letter should always be
customized to the extent that this is possible.

<<3. Is the information given to a customer different from that in
the internal corrective action maintained by quality control?>>

Of course! Very different audiences, thus very different content and
approach. Internal QA needs a concise, clear, accurate description of
the problem and how you expect to solve it. The goal of communicating
with them is to help them prevent future complaints. In contrast,
what you communicate to the customer is reassurance that the problem
can be solved, and a way to solve the problem (either by themselves
or by your) until QA can ensure the problem never happens again.
Think of what each reader will do with the information and you'l see
how it differs.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Writing Corrective Actions for customers: From: Hemstreet, Deborah

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