Our Reading Panel played an important role in improving some of the letters we send to our customers.
They reviewed letters we send regarding gas servicing and made suggestions on how they could be improved.
The panel was asked to review the letters, considering the following issues and questions:
- Do the letters use plain English?
- Is the wording understandable?
- Are the tone and style suitable for the subject matter?
- Would you recommend any amendments or suggestions?
- Is there anything you find confusing?
Following the review, a meeting was arranged between the panel and relevant colleagues.
It was an open discussion where the panel members could explain the feedback they'd given and our colleagues could provide responses on whether suggested changes could be implemented.
As a result, improvements were made to our letters. We feel these changes have made the letters easier to read, less intimidating and more helpful.
Changes made after our Reading Panel review
Contractor gas service letters
A sentence regarding a fine of £50 has been removed
Changes to text
The subtitle on the letters was changed
“URGENT Annual gas/heating safety and smoke detector check.”
“IMPORTANT Annual gas/heating safety and smoke detector check.”
The panel felt the initial paragraph was inflammatory and suggested it be changed
“We recently made arrangements to carry out your essential annual gas/heating safety check, but this has not been completed. This must be carried out immediately to ensure your continued safety and those who live near you.”
“We recently made arrangements to carry out your essential annual gas/heating safety check, but this hasn’t been completed. This urgently needs to be completed to ensure your continued safety and those who live near you.”
The font size of the COVID-19 guidance included in the letter was increased and the text was simplified
- “On arrival of our operative, please unlock (but not open the door), move to another room (not effected by the service/repair), closing the door and so allowing the operative to enter. (This is to maintain the minimum 2m distance from any persons effected).
- Our operative will be wearing PPE for the duration of the service repair.
- Our operative will clean the work area with disinfectant and the carry out the works.
- On completion our operative will clean work area and then inform you that they are complete and leaving the property.”
- “Please ensure everyone maintains the minimum 2m distance.
- Our operative will be wearing PPE for the duration of the service/repair.
- Our operative will clean the work area with disinfectant and then carry out the works.
- On completion, our operative will clean the work area and then inform you that they’ve finished and are leaving the property.”
Landlord gas service letters
Changes to text
Paragraphs were changed to use plainer English, making them easier to read
“The work will take between 1 and 2½ hours and we can be flexible with appointments to suit you. We ask that you ensure that the area around any appliances is cleared to allow easy access to carry out the work. Longhurst Group cannot accept any responsibility for damage caused to personal possessions.”
“The work will take between 1 and 2½ hours and we can be flexible with appointments to suit you. We ask that you ensure that the area around any appliances is cleared to allow easy access to carry out the work. The Group will be careful around your home and your belongings but aren’t responsible if there’s any damage to your belongings.”
The paragraph regarding carbon monoxide poisoning was changed to include plainer English and was moved further down the letter. It was felt by the panel that having this paragraph near the start of the letter would appear threatening.
“Every year, around 50 people in the UK die from carbon monoxide poisoning. It's really important that your heating appliances are checked and serviced as soon as possible. This is to make sure they're still in good working condition."
“Every year, around 50 people in the UK die from carbon monoxide poisoning. It is really important that your heating appliances are checked and serviced as soon as possible. This is to make sure they are still in good working condition.”
The panel was keen that we make clear that if customers have a support network, such as a carer, they can speak to Longhurst Group as well.
“Please contact Longhurst Group on receipt of this letter if the above appointment is not a mutually convenient date and time for this work to be carried out. You can discuss your appointment by calling our Customer Service Team on 0300 123 1745. It is very important that all appliances are serviced regularly and your co-operation in this matter is very much appreciated.”
“If there's anything you don't understand in this letter, please do call us on 0300 123 1745 and a friendly member of our team will help. Alternatively, if you have a support worker, family member or a friend who can speak to us on your behalf, they can call us. We want to work with you to make sure items such as your heating and cooker are working as they should.”