The Importance of Tone

The Importance of Tone

Ever see something like this?

Dear Mr. Smith:

We have received your inquiry regarding the feasibility of your returning to us a video you recently purchased from our video distribution outlet. Since you appear to not be cognizant of the well-established fact that all video returns must be accompanied by a receipt, we regret your ignorance. However, allow us to enlighten you about this rudimentary matter: If you are not in possession of a receipt of purchase, our company is not in a position to offer you a refund.

For your subsequent video purchases at our fine store, may we recommend that you keep track of your receipts more carefully? We trust that you will be more responsible in the future, and we are glad to have provided this elementary information that apparently eluded you before.

I remain,
Mr. Edmund P. Swank
Owner, Manager, Director, and CEO of Uber-Superior Videos

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that poor Mr. Smith probably won’t be buying any more videos at this place. But consider what would have happened if he had received a letter like this:

Dear Mr. Smith:

Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding refunds for video purchases. Our policy, as stated on the information card you received when you signed up for membership, is that a receipt is required to receive a refund for videos purchased at our store. This is to protect us from fraud.

However, we regret your inconvenience and would like to offer you 50% off your next video purchase, as well as a free movie rental. This is our way of saying “Thanks” for being our customer.

Please always remember to keep all receipts, as they will be needed for exchanges or refunds.

Thank you for your business.

Ed Swank
Owner, US Videos

Both letters said the same thing. However, the first letter was stilted, aloof, and condescending. In stark contrast, the second letter acknowledged the customer’s position, used words of courtesy, and politely explained the store’s policy. It even offered an incentive for the customer to return to the store for future purchases.

Remember, tone is important in whatever you write. Always consider carefully how your message is likely to be received, and try to be considerate of the recipient’s perspective.