• Block letter formatting (see page 117 of the textbook)
• One-inch margins all around
• Left-only justification
• 12-point regular Times New Roman font. (Although 11-point Calibri is Word’s default font, serif fonts like Times New Roman are more reader friendly for longer texts because the serifs draw the eye forward, while sans-serif fonts like Calibri are more effective for very brief texts in which you want to hold the eye.)
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Writing Assignment 3
Bad News Message – Giving Bad News to a Customer
You are the sales manager at Easy to Be Green. One of the company’s services is to design and install energy-efficient heating, cooling, and insulation systems in both new and existing buildings. Because these systems are custom-designed and involve a variety of sub-contractors, no changes can be made to the design after a date specified in the contract.
This morning one of your sales people, Chris, comes to you with a problem. The construction manager at Greenfield Community College, a new client with a huge campus and many ongoing construction and renovation projects, has written to Chris requesting a change in the location of a venting apparatus to accommodate a change in the campus’s overall design plan. The request was made two weeks after the date specified in the contract and a month before the planned beginning of the installation. Chris contacted EBG’s design engineer, who said that the change could be made even though it was past the deadline, though making the change at this point would add about $5000 to the overall cost.
“Great,” you say. “Forget the deadline, and we might even absorb the added cost. We want to make this customer happy.”
“Not so fast,” says Chris. Apparently there is a zoning restriction on this kind of venting location. This restriction is not well enforced, and many businesses in the area violate it. EBG naturally has a policy against violating zoning restrictions, though occasionally, the engineer told Chris, they have bent the rules on this particular restriction since it is so weakly enforced and since it doesn’t have environmental implications; the restriction has more to do with the visual profile of the building.
So Chris consulted the legal department to get their input, which was not encouraging. The company lawyer told Chris that EBG was currently working with city council members to have some (unrelated) environmentally-friendly but controversial legislation passed, and it would not look good for the company to be found in violation of another city ordinance while this other legislation was being debated; the opponents of the legislation would certainly bring any company violations to the public’s attention and make the most of the situation.
You know that the answer will have to be no, and the client will not be happy, nor will Chris. In fact, Chris asks you to communicate the bad news to the client, and you agree that this is a good idea. It’s important for Chris to maintain a good relationship with the client, and this will be easier if the decision comes from someone else.
You ask Chris to stop by in the morning, along with the design engineer, to help draft the letter. You want to write this letter carefully because a lot could be at stake.
One of the most important features of a bad news message is the reason for the bad news, which ideally should be airtight and should not cause you to lose the good will of the recipient. The best reason in terms of maintaining good will is the zoning rule because that takes the decision out of your hands, but this client may know that the rule is often not enforced. However, you certainly can’t get into an explanation of why the company cannot bend the rule at this point. The most airtight explanation is the contract deadline, but customers never like to be told no on the basis of “policy,” and clients who are spending a lot of money are accustomed to having exceptions made in their favor. You want to explain the negative decision in a way that will allow you to keep the good will of this client, and both of the possible reasons that you could give have both strengths and weaknesses.
Write a one-page letter to Greenfield’s construction manager informing him/her that you cannot make the requested change. Note that you have chosen to write a letter rather than simply making a phone call or writing an email because this message might be considered a kind of addendum to the contract and therefore you want a written record and you want it to be more formal than an email. (You wouldn’t use a memo because the message is external rather than internal.)
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