Got a problem?
You probably want to talk with someone in charge right away — someone who can clear up your grievance quickly.
What do you get instead? You call the 800-number and you’re connected with a call center in Bangalore or Manila or someone’s living room. And all they can seem to do is repeat your complaint and tell you how sorry they are.
You send an email through the company’s site, and what do you get back? A form response that says your feedback is very important, and we’ll have an answer for you soon.
You probably want to scream.
Well, take a deep breath. Finding the right name at a company is my specialty.
Sometimes I get lucky, and a whistleblowing employee leaks a company directory to me with all the names, numbers and email addresses (if you’re one of them, then thank you; if you’re thinking of it, here’s my email address (email@example.com)). But more often, it’s research and guessing that gets me to the right person.
I’ve posted many of the names and number on my site, On Your Side, thanks to contributions from my readers and my longsuffering research editor, Vanessa. The travel category is complete, and we’re moving on to other industries. If you have any suggestions, please contact me.
Here are five ways to find a manager quickly:
1. Knock on the front door
In almost every case, my recommendation is to use the online form to contact the company first. (There are a few exceptions, and I’ll get to those in a future post.) Send a brief, polite email through the site. Keep a copy for yourself, just in case the browser “eats” your note, which has been known to happen. Your grievance might be addressed in a timely manner, but it probably won’t be. If it isn’t, then at least you have a paper trail to prove you tried to get your problem resolved through channels.
Companies (and consumer advocates) frown on people who go straight to the top without giving the customer-service department a chance to help. Be sure to keep all the emails between you and the company.
2. Ask for a manager
Before going on a wild goose-chase in search of the right name, why not ask? If your email correspondence is hitting a dead end, then ask if you can have the email reviewed by a supervisor. You never know – it could be forwarded to someone in authority who can give your complaint the attention and consideration it deserves.
I wouldn’t hold your breath. Usually, you’re told that the answer from the company is “final” and that a manager is unavailable. The company is wrong on both counts.
3. Go hunting!
Start with a simple search, using terms like the company name and “vice president” — in quotes – and “customer service.” Often, that yields a name of a current vice present in charge of service, but an email may not be readily available. Ironically, companies go to great lengths to conceal the phone numbers and email addresses of their top customer-service managers, because they don’t want people contacting them. (That backfires when angry customers take them to court, but I digress). In order to find an email address, add the term “email” or “e-mail” to the search. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.
4. Search the site
Assuming that you found a name, but no email address, your next step is to search the company’s site. You can do that by typing the prefix “site:” followed by the company URL and then “e-mail.” This will only search the company’s site, yielding any instances of the word “email.” You won’t find the name of your manager, but you will find out the company’s email convention, which is usually either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Now try the same thing for a phone number. You should be able to get the main company number, and that’s all you need.
5. Put it all together
If you’re trying to call the VP, phone the main number, dial “O” and ask for the person by name, or use the automated phone tree to dial by last name. You may get through to an executive assistant, or you may get voice mail. Either way, leave a short, polite message with your relevant details. Now it’s time to guess the email address of your vice president. Use the naming convention from the last tip. Now visit this site (verify-email.org/) to see if the email address works. Once you’ve verified it, you’re free to send an email.
Finding the name of a manager to whom you can appeal isn’t difficult. Nor is tracking down that person’s phone number or email address.
Getting them to see things your way? That’s a whole ‘nother issue.
Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate who blogs about getting better customer service at On Your Side. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or send him your questions by email.