A phone call may be the least effective way to communicate with a company, because the deck is stacked against you. From the script-reading drones, to your inability to create a paper trail, you’re at a clear disadvantage, as we covered in a recent post.
Not so when you’re using email.
Email is the great equalizer. Think about it. Every executive has an email address. Every employee does, too. An email can be forwarded with lightning speed to anyone, anytime — including a government agency, a competitor or a consumer advocate. (So far, corporate America hasn’t come up with a way to give itself an unfair advantage, but I’m sure it’s working on it.)
When do you start sending your complaint to someone higher up?
When they give you a final answer. If you get an email from someone with an abbreviated last name, like John L. or Bob M., telling you that they will not respond to any future inquiries about this issue — that essentially, they’ve given you a “final” answer — then it’s time to take your grievance to the next level.
When you’re getting the same form letter again and again. Worker bees aren’t rewarded for creativity, so often they’ll send you the very same rejection letter twice. It’s a sign that they aren’t paying attention, and probably not even reading your complaint. Time to appeal.
When you hear the buzzwords of rejection. Phrases like “at this time” and “we never would knowingly disappoint you” and “although you are a valued customer” are signs that the company is setting you up for disappointment. It is paving the way for a “no.” (Put differently, have you ever read an email giving in to a customer’s demands, in which those phrases are used? Neither have I.) You see those words, you hit “forward.”
When you’ve waited long enough. Most email complaints should be acknowledged immediately by an autoresponder, followed by a more meaningful answer in two weeks or less. Anything more and you should resend the letter. If you have to wait more than another week or so, you should appeal.
It probably goes without saying that any correspondence in which the company comes off as dismissive, flip, rude or unprofessional should immediately go to a supervisor. Fortunately, those are few and far between.
How about you? When do you say “enough is enough” and take your case to a higher authority?
(Photo: full res/Flickr Creative Commons)