Managers and staff at Leaders, a letting agency with branches all over South East England, are well practised at managing relationships with both the tenants and landlords who use their services.Initially, the client suggested a set of courses in letter-writing skills, along with further courses in report-writing for some delegates, to support their professional development.However, further consultation revealed that there was a real need to improve people’s skills at responding effectively when writing in response to complaint letters. This task posed a major challenge; often the facts of the situation were disputed and emotions were running high. As a result, the letters Leaders staff wrote in reply risked being unconsidered, defensive and, at worst, adding to the problem.
A series of one-day workshops was designed and delivered over the period of a year for managers and staff of branches in different regions. We explored how to write letters in such a way that maintained professional credibility, but also addressed genuine grievances. Universal principles were covered – how to manage the writing process; how to structure points clearly in a logical order for the reader; how to use good style to enhance the effectiveness of the message. To make the training truly relevant, real life examples of complaint letters sent to Leaders, along with the replies written by Leaders staff, were used within the workshops. Analysis of this correspondence heightened the participants’ awareness of potential pitfalls, and provoked discussion of how to respond clearly and empathetically, while maintaining the Leaders point of view. (The letters were censored to render them anonymous, unless the Leaders person involved person involved volunteered ownership, which happened on several occasions.)
After the training, the delegates understood how letter-writing was an integral tool for building and repairing relationships with their customers. They also reported they were much more confident at communicating on the page. Several of them choose to have further training in report writing.