What To Say When You Call The CEO's Office

This classic article on the art of “turboing,” escalating your problem to the executive’s office, has some great advice about what to say when you get there. Here’s a line Rob Levandowski, himself a former Tier 2 XEROX customer service rep, uses to get his foot in the door once he reaches the CEO’s secretary:

“Hello, my name is ________. I’m one of your customers, and I was hoping to speak to (CEO’s name) because I’m really getting frustrated with getting a problem resolved, and I know that your company doesn’t want me to feel that way.”

Rob says this works because if they don’t help you, they’re backed into a corner of seeming like they actually do want you angry and frustrated. And despite what articles on this site might otherwise suggest, most people like to go bed at night feeling like they’re good people. The rest of the article is a really great refresher course on how to win when calling executive customer service.

The Art of Turboing [Macwhiz]
(Photo: Getty)

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  1. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    Really? You can get a CEO’s secretary on the phone and then the CEO him/herself? I call BS on this.

  2. ptkdude says:

    Ahhh… the time-tested consistency trap; my favorite!

  3. shertzerj says:

    @public enemy #1:
    From the article:

    “Guess what? You’re very unlikely to speak with the CEO, even after doing this step perfectly. The secretary will probably put you in touch with a vice-president, a division director, or a consumer advocate.”

  4. darkened says:

    @public enemy #1: You won’t get the CEO but you will get either their assistant or a special tier of support on the phone.

  5. @public enemy #1: I did once get the boss (publisher, in this case) … way incompetent secretary!

    I got a year of free newspapers, too.

  6. dgcaste says:

    The CEO is not the asshole that’s ignoring you. It’s the CSR. When CEOs find out about foul play and upset customers they like to get their fingers in the situation – it makes them feel like they’re helping their company along.

    At least not all CEOs aren’t the assholes that are trying to ignore you. There’s always Sprint and Comcast.

  7. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    @shertzerj: @darkened:
    I’m still skeptical about getting the main switchboard number. I’ve found that’s very hard to locate. I often get locked into automated answering services so every Joe off the street doesn’t call up a VP or higher.

    How busy is a CEO’s secretary? I can’t imagine. All the ones I ever knew were constantly swamped. If it worked for this guy, whatever.

  8. Dan25 says:

    I think this is great and very well written and well presented. Lona can learn a few things.

  9. Hello_Newman says:

    Also get a device like the USBBlast and ask them for their full name and tell them the call is being recorded. It’s amazing the results you can get when they know they can’t just hang up or put you on hold and get away from the problem.

  10. fang27 says:

    I once has a complaint with Kohls Department Store. I tracked down the corporate office and called the Vice President in charge of customer service after trying other routes with no success.

    I received immediate satisfaction with my problem and am still a loyal Kohls customers.

    I didn’t even have a Kohls charge account of any sort – I do now, and certainly that sort of response kept me as a loyal customer.

  11. bearfanrp says:

    Going to be doing this with Circuit City tomorrow .. I’ll see how it goes.

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is my web page that’s being disussed…

    Yes, this really does work. It does take some effort.

    One trick is finding the *real* “main corporate number.” This usually isn’t well-advertised. The best way to get it is to look at investment-research websites for publicly-traded companies, or the company’s annual report, or government filings by the company. Generally, you’re looking for a number that’s not attached to a specific person, and that *isn’t* a toll-free number.

    Then you have to know who you’re going to try and reach; that’s where you need to know the name of the current CEO. Once again, investor research sites are the way to go.

    Once you make the call to the CEO, I’d say your chances are about like so:

    25% you’ll reach the CEO’s secretary, assistant, or voicemail.
    50% you’ll reach an “executive office” of some sort set up to handle this kind of escalation. In most cases, these groups can help you, so it’s worth doing.
    25% you’re dealing with a company that just doesn’t care, and you will get nowhere.

    Among my personal success stories with this approach:
    * When UPS messed up delivery of blank checks, a senior VP agreed to have the checks redelivered via FedEx Same Day at UPS’s expense. (They then found the lost checks overnight and a very chagrined regional manager hand delivered them at 7 a.m. the next morning.)
    * When a local Barnes & Noble neglected to put out a new Terry Pratchett book on the day of the release — not even by 7 p.m. — and refused to go in back and look for them, I e-mailed the CEO. He sent me a personal reply, saying that he had that very book in his briefcase for his latest business trip, he’s a big fan too, and he knew *exactly* how upset I must feel… heads rolled, and I got the book at a nice discount…