Service providers have a terrible reputation for taking our money and offering us rubbish customer service in return. When problems invariably do occur they’re never very helpful, either talking to you like a moron or garbling obscure instructions in an accent you can barely make out as English.
I was told over the phone a week ago that I couldn’t speak to an operator’s superior because of the Data Protection Act; a piece of UK legislation which allows individuals to know what records were kept about them on computer databases. When some-one busts out such a random excuse you might as well just hang up, you’re never going to land that fish! However, letters and emails are a different story. But how can you write a missive that gets the job done?
Getting Things Done: Start With The Wrong Targets!
First of all, go to the top. My internet provider is notorious for not replying to emails, they don’t share their email addresses very readily and don’t call you back when they promise to. (Before you ask, they’re the cheapest on the market, that’s why!) I went to their website and looked at the structure of the emails that were provided. I knew the name of the person I wanted to contact but not the address so I was able to extrapolate that the structure was first.surname@corporation .com so I was able to address the mail to the right person, I also CCd a few people who did put their email addresses on the homepage and their high profile proprietor, MD and CEO. I doubt he likes getting complaints direct to his inbox so I knew I was onto a winner.
Second, make it their problem. It was deliberate that only one of the people I addressed was responsible for dealing with my problem and she had ignored messages I had sent via the website’s comments & feedback pages in the past. I asked that if the person addressed wasn’t the right person to contact that they could pass the complaint on to the right person and CC me in so I knew who I should be contacting. The point here is to make it their problem, they can’t help but they know if you don’t get satisfaction you’re going to keep bugging them about it. If it’s not their baby they don’t want to clean up after it so they’re eager to get it off their hands.
Now that you know who you’re sending it to and why, how should you structure your email?
Remain polite or at most sardonic. If you fire off a raging email not only will you forget half of what you want to say you’ll just be written off as a crazed ‘problem client,’ your mail will go straight in the trash and your address added to the blocked list.
Put your name, account number and street address in the first paragraph. It makes it far easier for them to find your records so they don’t have the excuse of “I couldn’t find your details…”
Next, describe your problem in precise detail, if you have accurate dates and reference numbers then definitely use them, offer the poor service providers no wriggle room, I didn’t keep this data but it can be assumed that if an engineer had to be sent then records will naturally have been kept.
Make ‘Em Laugh!
Be funny! If you can put together a narrative which makes the reader laugh they’re more likely to read through to the bottom and be sympathetic with you. As Roger Rabbit says when Angelo refuses to turn him in “That’s right! A laugh can be a very powerful thing. Why, sometimes in life, it’s the only weapon we have.”
Put the emphasis on them to do something. They hate being dismissed! The outcome of my complaint makes no difference to me as I’ve already migrated and they’re pressing us for money I don’t feel we owe them thanks to their failure to provide the service. This must be confusing to them and it piques their curiosity, why complain if you really don’t care? The entire point of my email was that my old housemate isn’t penalised for the internet provider’s incompetence, making it clear just how dissatisfied we were with their service legitimised the complaint.
So, how effective was the email I sent? ‘Simon’ got back to me in 15 minutes telling me that the complaint had gone to the CEO of complaints and indeed ‘Ken,’ the man in charge, wrote to me within 15 minutes of that mail to ask my phone number so we could have a cozy chat. For a company that’s criticised all over the net for never replying, I guess that’s pretty good work!
@DanCash learned these tricks working in digital marketing and project management. Knowing what triggers a reader’s behaviour is an important tool, not only for business but for those who need to deal with the faceless corporations.