Be sure to follow the bad news letter structure when delivering bad news or making apologies:
- The buffer/cushion (paragraph 1) works to set up the communication and put the reader into a more receptive frame of mind.
- The explanation (paragraph 2) explains the purpose of the communication and provides a brief (when appropriate and necessary) overview of the situation.
- The negative news message (paragraph 3) directly addresses how the bad news directly affects the reader/customer/recipient.
- The redirect (paragraph 4) discusses specific actions that you will take (or that have already been taken) to remedy the problem. In the case below, this redirect also includes a solution strategy enhanced with a soft-sell message (a subtle, low-pressure method of selling, cross-selling, or advertising a product or service). This can also work as a conclusion.
Here’s an example of a well-structured bad news message:
|Buffer or Cushion||Thank you for your order. We appreciate your interest in our product.|
Explanation – reasons why
|We are writing to let you know that this product has been unexpectedly popular, with over 10,000 requests on the day you placed your order.|
|Negative News – focuses on what they can do||This unexpected increase in demand has resulted in a temporary out-of-stock/backorder situation. We will fulfill your order, received at 11:59 p.m. on 09/09/2009, in the order it was received.|
this example also includes a soft-sell message
|We anticipate that your product will ship next Monday. While you wait, we encourage you to consider using the enclosed $5 off coupon toward the purchase of any product in our catalog. We appreciate your business and want you to know that our highest priority is your satisfaction.|