For years, the beaten consumer had no forum. You would call your television station or newspaper and hope the consumer reporter would take up the story. But then email happened. And then Twitter. And now the scale has evened.
You see, for every JetBlue or Verizon that interacts with their customers and solves their problem online, there is a United or Time Warner Cable, which represent the worst of the worst. At the end of the day, the company will likely win, but there is greater access than ever to people who can make you whole.
The Consumerist, a great site owned by Consumer Reports’ parent company (and formerly Gawker), introduced its readers to the Executive Email Carpet Bomb some years ago. This is the idea that, at the last resort, you can go directly to the executive level of the company, where high-level customer service staff do whatever they can to fix the issue and keep the customer happy. For the third time in a few years, it as worked for me.
I practice a different version of the EECB, what I call the Executive Email Surgical Strike. Rather than level the city with a barrage of email, I target one entity and hit it. In the case of Calphalon, that was Joe Cavaliere.
Rewind: The Wife bought me a Calphalon One anodized saucepan a few years ago. The base of the pan has lost it’s costing and began rusting. That’s no good. Since the pan has a lifetime warranty, I filed a warranty claim, boxed it up and sent it back.
That was November.
I called customer service and emailed the warranty contacts to no avail. And then I forgot about it. Last week, while making dinner I went looking for that pan and forgot that it was off in the ether.
And then I got mad.
And then I did research.
Calphalon is owned by Newell Rubbermaid, the global company that owns (wait for it) Rubbermaid. I dug around, found the staff list and there was Joseph Cavaliere, global chief customer officer. But, no email was listed. You have to do a little work in these cases. Every large corporation lists a media contact in their press/media contacts. You won’t actually email them, but you need this information to determine the naming convention for email addresses. In this case, it was first name, period, last name, at newellco.com.
Equipped with my email address, I wrote my concise, polite email that asked for assistance:
I’m writing to you as my contact with Calphalon customer service center has been less than fulfilling. As the chief customer officer, I thought you could possibly assist with my inquiry.
In early December, I returned my Calphalon One saucepan because the bottom of the pan had began to rust. I don’t ever use metal utensils with my Calphalon pans, careful to protect my investment, so I became suspicious that there was something wrong. I filed a warranty claim, sent the pan in and promptly forgot about it.
While cleaning out my office after the first of the year, I found the page that I printed out after filing the claim. I contacted the customer service, as I have included below. I have yet to receive a response (as promised from the inquiry) or from my original claim.
While I hate to advance this to your office, I am not sure where else to turn. I would appreciate your assistance greatly.
I sent it, along with the original inquiry, to email@example.com and had it immediately returned. No such recipient. Weird, right?
I dropped Mr. Cavaliere’s name into Google to see if he had left the company and what I found was that in professional circles, he uses the name Joe. Within an of emailing joe.cavaliere on a SUNDAY, I had a response:
I apologize for your issue and I will have someone follow up asap
I had a FedEx tracking number and apology from customer service within 24 hours. My new pan, a 4-quart Unison, arrived today.
So when do you use this method? The EECB/EESS is the last resort. Make the call to the 800 number or send the email to the front liners. Do the traditional complaining and let them try and make it right. When they ignore you, wrong you or otherwise, ask for a supervisor. Let them try to right the wrong. When all else fails, go to the company’s corporate website and find their executive team.
Now, some people have been successful with emailing every name on the page. Me? I look for the person related to my issue. When Amica was giving me problems about paying the last expense from my car accident in the fall ($136 difference in rental car costs), I found the chief claims officer and emailed him. Within five days, I had a check. But, that was after three months of back and forth with my claims handler. Four years ago, when GE recalled my dishwasher and made four unsuccessful repairs, I emailed the VP of GE Appliances. Within hours, I had an email from him. Two days later, the head of GE’s executive customer service team was having me pick out a new $1,500 dishwasher and while he arranged delivery and installation.
Does it always work? No. Kohl’s screwed up a Christmas present I ordered in November. After being hung up on by customer service and having two emails to the Contact Us page ignored, I went to their Chief Customer Officer. This was during the week after Christmas I’ve received no response. I’ve been a Kohl’s “Most Valuable Customer” cardholder for more than 10 years.
Ignoring me cost Kohl’s a customer. Making things right means I will only buy Calphalon pans in the future.
The bottom line is that you are not totally powerless. You just have to raise your voice at the right moment