At a time like this, who doesn’t want better service from a company? And that’s particularly true if you’re traveling.
Airline complaints remain at twice their pre-pandemic levels, according to the Department of Transportation. Hotel guest satisfaction is falling according to J.D. Power, dragged down by complaints of fees and the condition of guest rooms.
“It’s unacceptable when the airline, hotel, or travel company does not deliver what they promise,” says Janice Lintz, a disability consultant from Boston who travels frequently. “Representatives say no. They refuse to transfer a call. They drop calls.”
So if you have a problem with a travel company, is it possible to get the name of an executive? Can’t you take your complaint straight to the top?
As a matter of fact, you can. If we’re living in an age of diminished customer service, then we’re also living in a time of vigilante consumer advocacy. I publish the names, numbers and email addresses of company executives on my consumer advocacy site. I also just posted a helpful guide on how to contact the CEO directly.
But there’s more to this story. With all the bad service out there, I wondered how you were finding the name of the right executive.
How I find the name of an executive
Finding the name of the right executive can range from easy to very difficult, depending on the company.
For large companies, a simple online search will reveal all the top executives almost immediately.
But for smaller companies, it takes a little digging. My research team has found the name of an executive in the following places:
- Online directories for the local chamber of commerce will list the name of the owner or manager. One of our favorite resources is country club directories, which sometimes list home addresses and cell phone numbers.
- The Better Business Bureau frequently lists the names of company executives along with their contact information.
- Local newspapers or blogs also publish the names of company executives.
The real question is: What do you do when you have a name? How do you locate an email address?
For better service, first check the company’s site
Obvious, isn’t it? But you’d be surprised by how few people skip this step.
“Many times the information on how to contact headquarters — who the president, managers and other senior officers are — is right there at your fingertips,” says Chantay Bridges, a realtor and speaker. “There’s no need to hire a detective or search very far. If you are looking for a name and many times even an email, it’s right there.”
Bridges has used this tactic many times. Sometimes, the site will reveal the company’s email naming convention by mousing over the “contact us” link. That reveals the email addresses format of anyone in the company. More on that in a moment.
How my research team finds an email address for an executive
Once you know whom to contact, you’ll need an email address. It offers almost instant access to an executive.
Here’s how we do it.
Find the company domain name
That would be the last part of the website address, companyname.com.
Get an email naming convention
That’s how emails are formatted. The most common one is: [email protected]
Pro tip: You can find the naming convention by running a quick search of only the domain. You can do that by going to your favorite search engine and typing: “Site:company.com email address,” where companyname.com is the actual domain name. That searches only the site for any mention of an email address.
“Site:” tells the search engine to limit the results to just that site.
Test the email
Then test the email addresses using the tips I give you in this video about researching executive contacts. Don’t rely on any directory for an executive’s name or email — always verify it.
How to use LinkedIn to find the name of an executive
LinkedIn has become a powerful tool for finding an executive contact, as I noted in my latest USA Today column.
Nick Kamboj has developed a “multi-pronged” approach to finding an executive on LinkedIn and sending a message. First, he finds the senior executives with a simple search. He targets the CEO, chief marketing officer and chief legal officer.
“I then use LinkedIn and invite them to connect,” says Kamboj, the CEO of a college admissions consulting company based in Chicago. “If they connect, then I can message them directly and for free. If they do not connect with me, I can then subscribe to LinkedIn’s monthly service, which allows me to send multiple LinkedIn Inmails directly to them.”
Top executives tend to check their LinkedIn accounts more frequently because it’s a professional network. So you have a reasonably good chance of getting a response.
How to use an online directory to find the name of an executive
There are dozens of directories and apps that publish executive email addresses and phone numbers. One of the standouts is Hunter, an online service that lets you search and verify executive email addresses.
Eric Finkel, the CEO of a healthcare company, uses Hunter to track down hard-to-find executive addresses.
“Hunter.io scours the web for email addresses, including for pages that have been removed from the web,” he says. “Even if it can’t find the specific email you are seeking, it will typically give you the correct format of the company’s email. So, if you have the name you want to reach, you can take an educated guess at the email address. More times than not, this method has worked.”
Direct your search to your problem
Many people with a customer service complaint automatically look for the CEO. Jack Epner, a sales consultant, always targets his searches toward the problem.
“I use the company name and even a reasonable guess at a title, like ‘VP customer service,'” he says.
On companies with lots of complaints, a name will pop up right away. But even if it doesn’t, you can try a few variations. Common customer-facing titles include:
- Customer service manager
- Director of customer service
- Chief customer officer or customer experience officer
Play around with those titles until you find someone who can address your customer concern, say experts.
How to approach an executive
You may be able to find the name of an executive, but how do you encourage that person to give you better service? It’s all in the approach.
Margaret Symington recalls a case with WestJet. She’d booked a flight with travel credits. A system error caused a $5 overcharge.
“Calls to their customer service line were unsuccessful,” she says. After a series of misadventures, she finally reached a person who said the system shouldn’t have charged her an extra $5 for her flight, but that she wasn’t “empowered” to fix it.
So she found the CEO’s name and sent a brief, polite email to WestJet.
“Within two weeks, I got a call from a very nice woman to whom my case had been referred, who not only refunded the $5, but as a gesture of apology, gave me another $100 in my WestJet travel bank,” she recalls.
There it is. Keep your email brief and polite, and the executive you reach may be able to help you. I have a few more tips in this story about resolving a consumer complaint.
Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to engage in a little vigilante advocacy now. In some parts of the travel industry, customer service is circling the drain. Customer service may not improve for a while.