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Providing High-Level Feedback

Most of the options discussed in this area involve looking outside the company you are dealing with, because by the time you get to this point you have exhausted attempts to resolve the matter with the company themselves. When dealing with large companies though, there is actually one place within the company you may still want to consider: going to the top. The highest executives of the company still belong to the same company as the departments you have been dealing with, but in a large firm they can essentially be in "another world". They can be a useful avenue of appeal if you end up with few other alternatives.

It is a common phenomenon in large organizations that sometimes the people in the upper echelons of management don't really understand what is going on "in the trenches". The person who is running the company may not realize that the actions of his or her customer service and sales people are alienating customers. This isn't always the case, but it does happen. Certainly, lower-level managers won't make an effort to tell upper management if they are doing anything that is unethical!

Imagine that you are the president of a large vendor and you receive on your desk a letter from a dissatisfied customer. The letter politely tells you that the customer has been treated disrespectfully by your company and he or she has therefore decided to go elsewhere, and to advise others to avoid your firm. Is this something that you would pay attention to? I certainly would! The primary job of a high-ranking executive is to build the business, and you don't do that with ticked-off customers.

To provide high-level feedback in this manner, find out the name and exact address of the president of the company, or other high-ranking executive, and write the letter to that person directly. Be respectful and polite, and explain in general terms that you are writing because communication through the normal channels has failed. Be brief, because the person you are writing to is undoubtedly very busy and won't read a five-page treatise. Don't write the letter to sound like you just want to complain a lot; make it clear that you would like some assistance in getting the matter resolved, and in as few words as possible, what you'd like that to be. Be sure to include your contact information.

The reason that this sort of letter can have an effect is that few people would bother to write it! If properly done, it clearly illustrates that there is a problem with the company, to the person most able to do something about it. Whether that person actually chooses to act or not is impossible to say--he or she may not act personally but may charge an assistant with getting to the bottom of the matter. If the vendor is truly "rotten to the core" then the president may be the one instructing the people lower down to behave poorly! But there's at least a chance that a high-ranking executive will light a fire under the appropriate people to get your problem addressed.

Next: Involving Consumer Protection Agencies

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