1. Act professional. Stay calm. Don’t lose your temper and/or use foul language. Don’t call names or assume you know why people fail to respond to your requests–quickly or at all. The person you think is lazy or uncaring is may in fact be energetic and dedicated. S/he might simply not know the answer, or your problem might lie beyond his/her authority to resolve.
2. When someone refuses to help you, ask to speak with a supervisor. Too many people assume that “that’s the end of it” when a low-ranking official says NO. If that official’s superior says YES, then that is the answer that will prevail.
3. If the agency/business clearly shows a lack of interest in resolving your problem, make your problem their problem. Make it seem (even if it isn’t true) that if your concern isn’t addressed properly, this failure will reflect badly on the agency or business.
4. If you can imply that they will face serious legal and/or financial penalties if they don’t resolve your problem, so much the better. But do not directly threaten a lawsuit. Businesses s and government agencies have divisions of attorneys who routinely address lawsuits. If you threaten to file a lawsuit and then don’t, you’ll be branded as a non-serious person and be rightly ignored. If you plan to file a lawsuit, hire an attorney and let him so officially inform the business or agency.
5. When writing letters of request or complaint, always type your correspondence. Never send in anything handwritten–it’s the instant mark of an amateur, and probably a semi-literate one as well. Such letters go directly into the trash. Make certain your spelling and punctuation are flawless, for the same reason. If writing (or typing) isn’t your forte, find someone else to handle it for you.
6. Never take NO for an answer. Keep pressing. You don’t have to convince everyone to grant your request or meet your need. You need convince only those few people who are in a decision-making position to grant it.
7. When writing a letter or making a call to an agency or business, always start at the very top–the CEO or president. If you can convince him to grant your request, those under him will quickly move to obey. And make certain you spell his name and full title correctly–big egos come with big titles, and if you don’t spell them right, your complant/request will be ignored.
8. Tell the decision-maker exactly what you want the agency/business to do for you. Oftentimes, people are so upset or frustrated that they keep complaining even after they’ve found someone who is willing to help.
9. Be prepared for delays and setbacks when dealing with bureaucracies. There is no telling how long it will take to get a business or agency to send you a report or even return your phone call. Be prepared to write multiple letters or make repeated calls to the same agency or to even a half-dozen agencies covering the same problem.
10. When appropriate, use jargon to appear knowledgeable and worthy of trust and cooperation. If you’re trying to get help from the FBI, for example, it might be helpful to throw out a few phrases like, “Who is the SAC [Special Agent in Charge] of that field office?” This implies (at least momentarily) that you’re not an outsider. Officials may well decide you have more clout than you do.
11. Act like you know what you’re doing–and even like you know more about the subject than you do. Act as though you have an absolute right to have your request granted–and that if it isn’t at the level you’re now dealing with, you have ways to obtain the desired result at another–and higher–level.
12. Be reasonable in your requests/demands. If the company accidentally damaged something that cost you $200, don’t demand that they pay you $2,000. If you suffered an injury owing to circumstances beyond anyone’s control–such as a flood–don’t claim you were the victim of a corporate or government conspiracy.