How to Achieve Customer Service Nirvana

(N.B.: Steve Poftak will depart from his usual wonkery today to provide true service journalism.)

Frustrated trying to resolve a customer service issue? Trapped in a labyrinth of phone prompts and outsourced customer service reps with no ability to solve anything? Come with me.

First, harness the true power in big corporations: the IT department. Even the most powerful titans of industry bow before the IT staff and submit to company norms around email addresses.

So, if you can find the structure of a company’s email address convention — for example — you can email almost anyone. Drop the company’s name (“@acmecorporation”) into a search engine, and you’ll almost always get a number of examples.

Next, look up the leadership of the company in question — most have it on their website or, for public companies, it will be in their SEC filings — and take down the relevant names. In most cases, you want to focus on the operations, logistics, and customer service people, not finance or HR. Combine these names with your work in the previous step to create emails (e.g.

Third, and crucially, write a concise note in a temperate tone with a clear explanation of what is happening and what you want to have happen. Don’t rant, don’t make it personal, don’t give them a reason to discard you as a malcontent. To the extent, you can write from a shared perspective — “you have an issue with your warehouse’s ability to fulfill orders from your website that I would like to address …” — do so.

Bonus points: A frequent cause of customer service issues is the trend toward outsourcing customer service, marketing, and fulfillment. If you can figure out contact info for the outsourcing service provider (typically by tracing their phone number through an online search), grab the emails for their management, too. Nothing gets a reaction faster than explaining to a company that a vendor is not doing their job.

Next, it all comes together: email your concise, temperate letter of complaint to the leadership of the company (and the outsourced service provider, too, if relevant).

Now, sit back and wait for a response. In some cases, I end up with an “Executive Customer Rep” who has the authority to troubleshoot my problems, other times the executive themselves will birddog the problem. Either way, the problem gets resolved. Good luck. See you in Nirvana.