1. Be timely.
If you’re not just looking to vent but you want to resolve a problem, try to make a supervisor aware of it in the moment.
2. Be resourceful.
Get your complaint to the right person. If you’re at a restaurant or hotel, ask to speak to the manager. If you’re contacting a larger company after the fact, a low-level call center agent is often a waste of time, and likely to make your blood boil. A “live” help screen person denies you an all-important paper trail if you need to escalate the case. But starting out with the CEO is also usually a mistake. Try to find a mid- to upper-level manager or vice president who oversees customer service. Elliott.org lists direct contact info for many big companies.
3. Be firm but respectful.
Even if you’re furious, resorting to profanity or threats will come back to bite you. Before you hit send on an e-mail, make sure it would not embarrass you if you accidentally sent it to your mother.
4. Be honest.
Clearly state what went wrong and offer relevant details (e.g., time of your call, name of employee you spoke with). If you tried the main customer service line without success, forward any previous correspondence and encourage the senior person to review the tape of your earlier call. A paper trail is your friend.
5. Be succinct.
Have empathy for how cluttered this senior person’s inbox and voice mail must be. Anything more than a couple of paragraphs is too long.
6. Be clear that you are interested in having management restore your faith in the business.
Never allow managers to play the blame game of pointing the finger at another department or entity. It is now their responsibility to make things right. Give them a general sense of what they’ll need to do but avoid being too specific. It’s usually better to let the company make the first offer. Make it clear it’s not all about the money.
7. Be generous with feedback.
If managers do work hard and succeed in restoring your faith, send them — and their supervisors — a positive e-mail. They earned it. And spread the word about their responsiveness.