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Shout to the top – get results

I feel sorry for customer service people. It’s well known that they have a hard job, sitting at a desk all day and having to take the abuse of people like me who tell them their department is useless if they can’t provide “service” to “customers”. They are the bruised front-line pawns who still manage to come up smiling.

Sometimes, though, they are like highly trained pitbull terriers whose sole mission in life is to stand between you and the people who really have all the answers. The people who have the power to sort out your problem with a single phone call to a colleague or email to the right supplier. They will tell you there’s no one else you can speak to, and if you insist, they will give you some 0800 number that goes to a complaints person who is probably sitting right next to them.

There are ways of going straight to the top.

On one occasion when NTL broadband went down three times in a month, incapacitating me for long periods, I decided I needed to speak to someone in authority. I managed, through directory enquiries, to get the phone number of the head office near Manchester. I asked for the right department and got through to a lady whose first question was, “How did you get this number?” That alone gave me a sense of victory.

On another occasion, Courts were supposed to be delivering our new sofas (after two months of waiting for them to be made in Italy or somewhere). We had given our old suite away and had an empty lounge in readiness. When the sofas arrived, they were the wrong colour so we sent them away. I then spent an hour on the phone with customer support who said, “Sorry, we’ll re-order them. It will take eight weeks.” My protestations that they needed to deliver some temporary replacements fell on deaf ears.

So, I used their website and managed to get the names of the management team from the Corporate Info page, then called up and asked for the MD. “Are you a member of the press?” asked the receptionist. “Yes I am,” I lied.

I got through to someone fairly high up and then ranted at him. Either he gets me a set of sofas that afternoon or the order is cancelled and I will go somewhere else, I told him. He was very good about sorting it out, and managed to get a suite delivered for the next morning, which we used for the next two months.

One thing I know, having worked in a few large companies, is that managers high up hate dealing with the customers who actually pay their wages. If you get through to the phone of a director and tell them they had better sort your problem out, you can be sure they will chew off the ear of someone to (a) make sure your problem gets sorted and (b) make sure plebs like me are not allowed to get through to them again.

Tips for bypassing customer service and getting to the top

  • Most company directors’ addresses are published with company information on Companies House website. They can legally now hide this info, but for £2 you can download it if it is there. I have threatened to knock on Managing Directors’ doors before to make customer service people pay attention.
  • The Say No To 0870 website has a database of alternative numbers that you can call to bypass customer service routing.
  • Look at a company’s website to find company information on managers and directors. You may find phone numbers or email addresses you can use.
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