If you send a letter to a CEO, he or she will answer you... a Google search and some simple detective work you can have their email address rather quickly - Letter sent and letter received... it has never been easier. Keep in mind there are some caveats, but that is true with most things.
Why would you send a letter to a CEO? One major reason is they are great problem solvers, or have access to a whole organization of people that are. This can be very effective for solving a problem you're having with an organization, particularly if the CEO is at the helm. Other reasons could be to seek advice from a domain expert, networking or even presenting an idea that you think they may be interested in.
Why would a CEO want to hear from you? As a customer, you are critical to a company's success; they will want to hear what you have to say - If things are going "right" or if they're going "wrong"... and if things are going wrong, they will want to have it fixed to ensure good business governance - Good business governance is definitely high on the list for a CEO. As an employee or customer, they want to hear your thoughts, ideas and concerns as it is all about "engagement", something else high on a CEO's list.
Recently, I sent the following letter to solve a customer service issue I was having with a bank... I have edited it slightly and removed the bank's name as my problem has been solved and I appreciated the solution. I want to illustrate that CEOs get things done, not specifically the issue with the "Bank".
Subject: Why is dealing with your bank always so onerous?
Hello Mr CEO,
I have been an account holder with the "Bank" to one degree or another since I opened my very first account back in the early 70s. Todays interaction with the "Bank" continues to re-enforce how difficult it can to work with your organization and why over the years I have moved a majority of my daily banking elsewhere. I currently have a safety deposit box, a component of my daughter's trust, and a small line of credit with one of your branches.
Today's issue arose attempting to add my daughter to my safety deposit box so she would have access to important documentation in case of emergency. As part of this process we needed to set up an account for my daughter before she could be given access to my safety deposit box; after all of the identification was shared and validated we were asked for a bill to prove my daughters address, as her current address is different than mine. We could not move forward until some sort of 3rd party correspondence was submitted. As you can appreciate this information was not readily available at the time, we were told that nothing could proceed due to policy and had to come back with the information.
I appreciate that need to validate against fraud and such, but I think there was a complete lack of context on your branch's part, and in the end did nothing but inconvenience me.
- As the father, and in fact sponsor of my daughter to get access to my safety deposit box, I do not understand why a "3rd party bill with an address "confirming her driver's licence address" is needed.
- I was told that if my daughters address had been the same as mine I could vouch for her, but since it is different I could not. I do not understand the logic and why my credibility changes?
- The trust account that is currently with you is in fact my daughters, so again I do not understand why such validation is needed.
- At one time my daughter had an account with the branch, but that didn't seem to be relevant.
- My daughter already has the second safety deposit box key, so in a practical sense all you are doing is standing in the way of using it. This is particularly inconvenient if an emergency happens in the near future, as there are papers that would need to be accessed.
- In the end, the position of your bank was to stand behind a policy that wasn't even explained clearly, and put all the burden on us to track down a 3rd party bill for my daughter who is 20 years old, in school, mobile by definition and has not established herself yet with the 3rd party confirmations your policy says is needed.
I should make it clear I do not see this as an issue for my daughter but for me - a long time "Bank" account holder who has had mortgages and a sizeable line of credit with you. All I wanted to do was add my daughter to my safety deposit box, but in the end has been a onerous activity, a waste of my time, and re-enforces why my primary banking isn't with the "Bank".
As you know, Safety Deposit Boxes are a rare commodity, so I have no intensions with tub thumping how I will stop dealing with the "Bank". What I will say though," I have little interest in doing business with you except when absolutely necessary". I hope you can appreciate my perspective and the intentions of this note.
As a customer, I was pleased with the response and how my problem was dealt with. I hope they appreciated me bringing the situation to their attention, instead of me just quietly disappearing into the night. More importantly, my daughter was pleased with how they responded, and being a Gen Y, she represents the future they need to deal with..
I should point out that there are some caveats that come with writing the CEO and being effective... these come to mind.
- If you are a customer addressing a problem - Constructively and factually outline the situation, your concerns and the impact... there is an aspect of credibility that needs to be established. There is no value with emotional criticism, insults or unrealistic threats. It dilutes what you are trying to say.
- Before you write a CEO, ensure you have taken the time to investigate other avenues of resolution. Most companies have problem resolution mechanisms, but ultimately it is your decision when you escalate.
- Be prepared for a response, and with that, an expectation you want to work to a resolution; a cathartic tirade letter to a CEO is a waste of time, and there is a lack of credibility that falls back on the author.
- If you are an employee writing your CEO (and I encourage it), ensure you are bringing solutions to your discussions, not just problems and observations... they get enough of those from customers.
The letter is by no means dead... just evolving. It's faster, easier to deliver and has an increased chance of creating a dialogue... ideal for problem solving. Ask any CEO.