Care for your customers with good writing

As a consumer, how many times have you received written communication about a product or service that was confusing or even incomprehensible? A friend recently received a newly formatted utility bill with no accompanying explanation. She told me that the bill was so unlike the company’s previous communication that it took her a while even to realize what it was! In contrast, another company that was also updating its billing format sent an advance notice with a complete explanation of what to expect, including a sample bill.

Which company made a better impression? And which company probably received a flood of calls from confused customers who were unable to interpret their bills?

Clear written communication is a must for good customer service. Sending customers murky messages will lead to higher volumes of calls to your busy customer service staff. The final outcome: frustrated customers and overloaded front-line workers.

In today’s hectic world, customers are inundated with information. Wasting their time with confusing messages is not an option if you want to have a reputation for good customer service. Here are ways you can assure that your company puts its best foot forward in its written communication:

•  Become familiar with readability tests. The Flesch Readability Test, for example, involves counting syllables, words, and sentences in a paragraph and then putting the numbers into a formula to come up with a readability score. Years ago, when I worked for a large insurer, the state mandated that we apply the Flesch Test to our insurance policies. Yes, the test was tedious, but I quickly found that it was teaching me the fundamentals of readability—short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Now, even years later, I regularly think back to the Flesch Test when I’m editing copy. It’s amazing how many unnecessary words can be cut out of nearly any first draft!

•  Consider a specialized writing course. Information Mapping, an international company based in Waltham, MA, helps professionals in all types of organizations master the skill of making complex information easy to understand. Several friends who have participated in this training program are among the clearest communicators on paper that I know. To learn more, visit

•  Understand that different mediums require different writing techniques. The Internet, for example, requires a whole new way of writing. Because people scan when reading on the Web, messages should be approximately half as long as they would be in a letter or brochure. Key words should be highlighted and bulleted lists used wherever possible. Sun Microsystems’s Web site contains an excellent tutorial on how to write effectively for your Internet audience; check it out at

•  Test drive your customer service message. Something that may be crystal clear to you may make no sense at all to customers. This happens because it’s all too easy to forget that you are privy to important background information that your audience knows nothing about. Of course, it is critical to involve your front-line workers so they can provide guidance and prepare for any questions. In addition, it makes good sense to test your message on a few people outside of your organization. See what questions they have. These are the same questions that are going to come into your customer service lines!

You fight hard in the marketplace to get customers. Take extra care when communicating with them and you’ll be sure to keep them for a long time.

1 comment

  1. Communication between consumer and company is so important. It can be of any type of communication like oral or written communication. That communication must be done properly.

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