Reply / Response / Refusal

A. Reply and Response

There are numerous ways to reply to or respond to a mail/e-mail. In general, the response should be prompt, specific, and helpful to the recipient. Before writing the reply, you should first:

  • review the original letter and list the points you will need to respond to.
  • find out information on some of the points you don’t have the answers to, if required, refer to someone who has the answers.

How to write an effective Response and Reply

The response letter is a good opportunity to demonstrate customer service, thereby creating and reinforcing a good image for your brand (whether it is personal or business) and maintaining customer loyalty.

Recipient - Address to the person who sent the original letter. Be sure to start with a polite title, such as "dear", followed by the other person's name. Use Mr, Mrs, Ms, or other prefixes followed by the last name if you don’t know the person well. Greet this person directly, instead of using a generic opening, such as "To whom this may be concerned."  Make it clear that you are responsible for responding and communicating directly with the recipient.

Tone - Use a courteous, professional, and conversational tone.

Introduction - Mention early exactly what you are responding to and what you are providing. Let the recipient know that you are responding to his / her letter within the first paragraph. This assures the recipient that his / her letter has been received and processed.

Clear and Direct - Answer the enquiries in the original letter as directly as possible. Address each question or concern raised separately and as completely as possible. Be clear and direct in your response to avoid ambiguity.

Concise - Keep it short and simple. This means that you should know exactly what you want to say; try to express it in the shortest possible words. A few words per question is enough to answer the person's initial inquiry. The shorter your responses are, the more likely that they are read and understood.

Explanation - If you can't meet the request of the recipient, clearly acknowledge it. Provide the explanation needed to ensure a clear understanding. If you need more information from the recipient in order to respond, ask for the information politely. If possible, provide additional and complete information that is relevant to the recipient. 

Apology - If you are at fault, express your regret but do not be excessive. Accept the responsibility for the fault and do not suggest the recipient shares the blame.  Remember to be polite, apologise where necessary and say that you hope to continue business with the recipient. Where there is potential litigation, you should consult a lawyer and your insurance company before admitting any liabilities.

Thank you – You should thank the person for writing about the issue whether you can answer their queries or not. Being polite and appreciative will help you maintain a positive relationship with the recipient even if they are not fully satisfied with your response.

B. Refusal / Rejection

It is not easy to write a refusal/rejection letter to convey bad news. The letter itself conveys negative emotions, and you must strike a balance between firmness and politeness. You have to convey the message in a way that does not offend the recipient and you only have one chance to get it right.  Be diplomatic in dealing with the refusal as much as possible, especially when writing to an angry complainant.

How to write a Refusal / Rejection Letter

Tone - When rejecting a request, be sure to use an understanding tone, but at the same time give a firm answer. Your message should be simple, clear, and not ambiguous – “no” means “no”, but you can express it in a less blunt manner. Your rejection letter should be brief and concise.
Explanation - You should always try to give a fair and reasonable explanation for your rejection based on facts and not emotions. This will help to preserve goodwill and ensure that the recipient will see your explanation. One way to blunt the rejection is to give your reasons first then say no. That will help to blunt the rejection. It will also help to explain your reasons for rejection if you can gather the evidence you need to support your position. Give reasonable grounds and don't make excuses.

Express Regret - Sincerely express your regrets after explaining why you have refused or rejected the request. It is not necessary to achieve the goal in an indirect way. It may convey a wrong message. That said, don't highlight rejection. Obviously, you don't need to use bold or underline to indicate your rejection. The rejection should only be mentioned once at the start and there is no need to repeat it. Expressing regret will help to make the rejection sounds less offensive.

Courteous and Polite - Be courteous and polite, even in the case of a refusal/rejection. Don't need to be emotional, sensitive, or personal. Don't ridicule or make fun of, and don't use insulting or negative language in the rejection or refusal.

Thank the Recipient - Express your appreciation and close with a complimentary or polite comment to make it clear that in spite of the refusal, you are not rejecting the individual. Do not get personal or make the requester thinks that he/she is the reason for the refusal.

Encouragement - Try to encourage optimism at the end to make the negative message more acceptable. It will also help to calm the disappointment of the recipient. Depending on the situation, you may want to keep your options open by saying something like "whilst I cannot help you now, I will bear this in mind and let you know if the situation changes". Alternately you may want to provide other sources of information that your recipients might be interested in for a better chance of success as a "consolation prize".This allows you to maintain a cordial relationship with the recipient.


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