While customer service departments and representatives generally are doing a better job of addressing consumer satisfaction in a timely and complete manner, it’s not always sufficient to rely on others to move the process forward. In some cases, the impacted customer needs to go further and farther to pierce the normal routes and get needed attention and resolution at other levels—typically higher up the food chain. While the challenge can seem daunting, it can be surprisingly straightforward and satisfying.
Sometimes, the best customer service solutions come from a force of 1—you.
Ample empirical evidence over the last three decades documents that any of us can effect better customer service results by refusing to accept mediocrity and aiming for greater heights. In this case, heights refers to finding and connecting with someone in the executive offices—and circumventing or escalating beyond regular customer service departments.
As a practical matter, especially now when front-line customer service emphasis is higher than ever, first try the normal route so that you can document that this effort was made before going up the food chain. Take note of the rep’s name, ID, any other identifying information so that you can reference it later if needed. Also take notes about the content of the communication itself.
Increasingly, especially with such firms as Amazon, the rep will follow up a call with a email detailing the conversation. If attempting resolution via such non-voice digital channels at live chat or virtual assistant, attempt to capture the written back-and-forth discussion by copy/pasting the information into a document, or taking screenshots/photos.
I’ve had the good fortune to use this technique to effect a variety of beneficial resolutions with a variety of behemoth corporations—including Kaiser, Bank of America, Comcast, Electrolux, Costco, CenturyLink, AAA, and Amazon.
The secret sauce to my success is surprisingly simple. One process involves finding a PR person who by nature is more inclined to “keep the peace” with the public—and therefore be resolution-oriented. Although it’s getting harder to do in many cases, the time-honored process has been simply to Google the company name followed by the term “press releases.”
Often, releases that come up contain a media contact with appropriate contact information—email and phone, sometimes with social handles as well.
The key is to reach out and describe the issue in a very candid, complete and collaborative manner. In essence, that means trying to enlist the support of the PR/media relations person either directly or via a referral to someone empowered to help resolve the problem.
Usually, this is an executive office representative. (If unable to locate a PR or media relations person, Googling the term, “XXX company executive office contacts” sometimes will bring up current and useful information. If there are multiple contacts, consider contacting at least two of them to increase the chances of being acknowledged.)
Once connection is made at this level, satisfactory resolution generally follows. Given my reportorial and writing experience, including writing this customer service blog for 2 ½ years, I’m guessing that part of my success is based on a quick check of my background. But, more than that, I believe it’s tied to asking for help in a polite manner, clearly stating the problem, and in most cases, tying it to a concern about inadequate or absent customer service.
There’s also the common-sense conclusion that anyone resourceful and diligent enough to reach beyond regular customer service channels will be willing to persevere and potentially create a “reputation-damaging ruckus”—so better to address the issue sooner than later.
It also can help to reinforce the initial outreach to restate the issue via a second communication channel. If starting with an email, do a follow-up phone call if possible. Or, if the phone number is tied to a cell or landline capable of receiving texts, send a text.
In the ongoing evolution of better customer service across all sizes, shapes and types of companies, always remember the power of 1 when needed.
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Mark Lusky (aka The Happy Curmudgeon)
is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm. He’s a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience, and author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage.