Ever had an issue with a company where you just can’t reach a human being? You’re directed through endless email queues, tedious “tech support”–your issue is falling on deaf ears. Isn’t it incredibly frustrating? It’s enough to make you wonder if any human beings actually work at these companies!
Here’s how I not only found a top executive at a large company, but got an urgent issue with that company fixed in record time…
Recently, I found a bug in a popular piece of software: the Alexa toolbar for Firefox. Firefox notified me that a new version of the toolbar was out, and I clicked to install it without thinking much of it.
When I opened Firefox, I immediately noticed that links in Gmail and Facebook were displaying blank pages when clicked. I used the first rule of tech support to troubleshoot: Undo your last change. I disabled the Alexa toolbar and restarted the browser, and sure enough, the links were working again! Uh-oh. Big problem for Alexa.
I went to the Alexa site and clicked the “Help” link, which led me to their customer support forums. Another user had already reported the problem, so I added a “me too” response.
I gave Alexa a day to respond. The next day, they still hadn’t responded, and there was no indication that anyone from Alexa was even reading the forums. I decided to escalate.
Step 1: Find The Right Person
I perused Alexa’s management page, looking through all the names and trying to figure out who would be the best point of contact.
Tip: Don’t always shoot for the president. Sometimes, someone lower on the food chain (such as a middle manager) often will have more time to listen to voicemail and may even pick up his/her own phone!
I decided the most likely person in charge of the toolbar would be Steve Dawson, Alexa’s software engineering manager.
Step 2: Find The Company’s Phone Number
Phone numbers can be tricky. Alexa doesn’t publish theirs on their website. I decided first to try whois for their domain name. To use whois, I went to domaintools.com and typed in alexa.com. All companies are required to have phone numbers on their domain names, but some will be an invalid number.
I dialed the phone number and was excited to find I had reached Alexa’s headquarters. Lucky–Alexa had a real phone number on their listing!
Step 3: Dial by Name (or Ask for a Specific Person)
“Support” usually sends you to a low-level person who really doesn’t have any leverage in the company. If you really have an urgent issue, you need someone who can fix it right away. So, instead of waiting for a prompt like “support” or “sales”, I opted to dial by name. (If you get a receptionist, you can do the same thing by asking for that person, and then saying “An urgent issue regarding [your problem]” when you call.)
The phone rang a few times and I was directed to Mr. Dawson’s voicemail. I left a message clearly explaining the issue. And I did one important thing that made sure my message would get attention…
Step 4: State What You Want Them to Do
You need to not only be able to clearly state the issue, but also clearly state what needs to be done. Do you need them to call you back? What, exactly, can they do to resolve this issue for you?
In this case, I didn’t care whether anyone at Alexa personally followed up with me or not. I mentioned the forum where no one had replied, and asked him to have someone reply on that forum. I didn’t leave my phone number or request a followup. If this is a general complaint, you can ask them to issue a statement, post a blog, or email their customers once it has been fixed.
Step 5: Ask Your Contact to forward to the Appropriate Person
After I explained the issue, I said “If this isn’t your responsibility, can you please notify the person whose responsibility it is?” This ensured that I wouldn’t encounter a “That’s not my job…delete!” Hopefully, most executives wouldn’t do that anyway, but this safeguards against that.
Step 6: Follow Up (and my Success Story!)
The day after I called, I checked the forum. Sure enough, there was a post timestamped just a couple hours after I called! In it, an Alexa employee said they had rolled back the toolbar to the previous version and were working on a fix. He apologized for the inconvenience the issue had caused.
Now, there’s no way to know for sure my phone call was the catalyst. But there are facts supporting that. A day went by and there was no response in the forum. A few hours after my call, an Alexa employee responded and took action to resolve the issue. Either way, I will chalk that up as a victory!
- Find the right person.
- Dial by name.
- Clearly state your issue and what action you need the person to take. Ask them to forward to the proper person if he/she is not the right person to resolve the issue.
- Follow up to ensure that the requested action has been taken.
Finding the company’s real phone number can be tricky. For huge companies, Get Human offers phone numbers.
If you know the city and state where the company is located, or can find it on their website, using the yellow pages is also an option. YellowPages.com has most listings in the U.S. (They’re showing Alexa’s phone number correctly, too.)
This technique not only works, but it works well. Use it wisely, though: Don’t use this for sales calls. Use it when you have a real issue with a company and need serious help resolving it.
Have you used this technique (or a similar one) to reach an executive at a business? What other techniques have you used that are successful? Let me know in the comments!
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