Today the good old form of communication with letters is being greatly influenced by the emergence of Internet and e-mail, the peculiarities of which transform some principles of written communication. Nevertheless, the usual way of interaction via letters, be they of paper or electronic origin, will continue to demand observation of certain rules in order to enable the most effective communication. In this regard, the field of formal business correspondence is especially rich in rules that can significantly increase the effect of a particular letter on its addressees. Let us overview the composition of one formal business letter, and try to single out approaches that its authors use and their effects on the audience.
First of all, an important rule of letter writing is to initially define the recipient or the audience of a letter, which is often decisive for the further composition. In our case the letter is addressed to a concrete person, but we can expect that as it was actually sent to many customers who have purchased or rented a certain model of Audi it is audience-oriented. The authorship of the letter belongs to Audi company itself, which is typical for formal letters, and which sets the seller-buyer relation between the sender and recipients stemming from the seller`s responsibility before customers. The task for authors of the letter is at least to minimize dissatisfaction of their customers, and also even try to boost the image of the company by convincing them that for Audi customer care is of the paramount importance.
A distinctive feature of this formal letter is that its language and structure are simple, and its first paragraph instantly introduces a reader to the matter. While this approach is better than overblown introduction, the beginning of the letter still seems to be hurried. However, it looks like this letter is not the first piece of information about the ignition coils problem sent to Audi customers, so its authors could presuppose that the recipients will be acquainted with the matter. Besides, if customers have already encountered the problem themselves, then such quickness in letter`s pace is good in order to show that immediate action is taken and to avoid customers` irritation. For this purpose the energetic tone chosen for the letter is also helpful.
The authors of the letter managed to compress a lot of information into a short space, which should incline readers not to postpone reading the letter. This was done by keeping the most important information in the text, and by indicating website and phone number for specific questions. Also, blocks of information are logically organized, which strengthens the positive impression from conciseness of the letter. Building on this, it must be noted that authors did right by devoting separate paragraphs to highlighting of the fact that customers will have only minor inconveniences when replacing ignition coils, and that reimbursement of expenses related to the coils problem can be done. This strategy observes the important condition of business letters` composition that interests of a reader should be emphasized, but I believe that to immediately win readers` favor it would be better to place this information closer to the beginning of the letter before the technical description of the problem.
The layout of the letter includes usage of a kind of a postscript. From the first sight, the address offered for sending of receipts can be taken for the end of the letter. While in fact it is not, the paragraph that follows can be recognized as the postscript. Considering the fact that most people who open a one-page letter usually initially look in the end of it to see the signature of the sender, this paragraph could actually become very important and serve as the main message of the letter. In this case the statement of the highest priority of custom care as the main principle of the company can help in winning the favor of the reader. If the authors deliberately put this paragraph in its place, this would signify that we have correctly identified the purpose of the letter.
All in all, I believe that this letter, while not devoid of imperfections in some aspects, is an example of a rather effective piece of communication. However, this would be true only if we correctly determined its context (i.e. that it is not the first letter sent to the customer on the subject of ignition coils problem). In this case the letter manages to provide an adequate approach to the solution of the problem and shows resolution in actions of Audi company.
Geffner, A., B. (2000). How to Write Better Business Letters. Barron’s Educational Series.
Munter, M. (2003). Business Communication. Harvard Business School Press.
Dear J Lee,
We are now accelerating the process of replacing all ignition coils in cars potentially affected, whether a malfunction has occurred or not. We are writing to you today to invite you to return to your Audi dealer to have your vehicle updated.
If an ignition coil becomes inoperative, the engine and its electronic controls are designed to keep your vehicle running. Your malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) will illuminate and you may experience some deterioration in performance. This condition may also affect the emission of your vehicle. You can continue driving and should take your car to the nearest Audi dealer for repair.
The update to your vehicle will take less than one hour. Please call the service department of your Audi dealer to schedule an appointment.
If you are the lessor and registered owner of the vehicle identified in this action, please forward this information immediately by first class mail to the lessee.
If you have already incurred out-of-pocket expense, please write us at the address below, and we’ll be happy to reimburse you. Please include any receipts you might have along with your letter.
Audi of America. Inc.
Attn: customer Relations
3499 Hamlin Road
I want to emphasize that taking care of you, our customer, remains our highest priority and we thank you for your patience. If you have any further questions, or require assistance locating an Audi dealer, please visit audi.com or call us directly at (800) 822-8987.
Thank you for your continued loyalty.