Sunday Musings: Getting The Upper Hand

Ulli Uncategorized 2 Comments

The problems and tremendous cash needs of Countrywide (as a stockholder you might prefer the name “Countryslide”) made me reflect on my recent dealings with them and how a company that size could get themselves in such a predicament.

The $2 billion cash infusion by Bank of America seems to be gone and it appears that Countrywide is on the prowl for more money. Who knows what the story may be tomorrow.

As a borrower, I had a disagreement with Countrywide regarding my own mortgage. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that company computer generated letters generally do no solve issues. Neither do phone calls to known numbers of their alleged service department. Faxes to widely advertised numbers disappear in the digital waste basket.

If you ever had difficulties with your mortgage company, or are trying to resolve an issue, you may want to follow the route that I have taken over the past 30 years, which has never failed to get results. While I did not always get 100% satisfaction, I have come close in most cases.

I have found that it’s a useless and frustrating exercise to get anything accomplished via a company’s regular service department. There is no need to even bother since it appears to me that they employ and train people in problem avoidance, and I suspect that they pay bonuses to those reps who can get rid of a calling customer the fastest.

Here’s what I do: I find out who the President or CEO of the company is, and the location he works from. In the case of Countrywide it was easy since, as a public company, this information is readily available.

Without anger, I write a letter describing the problem and my attempts to solve it. I ask for his assistance in getting this issue resolved. I mail that to him as a certified letter (personal and confidential) with return receipt. Once I’ve done that, I sit back and watch what happens.

My theory is that the guy at the top did not there (in most cases) because he is incompetent. He got there because of his abilities, but he’s handicapped because he can’t instill his beliefs and desires to run a great company in the hundreds or thousands of people working for him.

When he gets a polite but firm customer letter requesting his help, he will not be a happy camper and immediate action will be the result. That usually takes the form of a high level assistant or other competent person contacting you by phone trying to resolve the issue on his behalf, which will happen with amazing speed and accuracy.

In my dealings with Countrywide, I sent 4 certified letters (couldn’t decide which one of the top dogs to contact first) and, within a few days, I was not only in direct contact with the personal assistant to the President, but also in possession of his personal phone and fax number.

Essentially, this is a game you have to play nowadays when dealing with any large company. Don’t get mad and frustrated; just get even by knowing you can come out on top by working the corporate food chain from the right angle.

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Comments 2

  1. Ulli,

    This may have worked once upon a time but have yu had recent success. My last attempt at this was a letter to the president of Cingular based in Atlanta. I had tried 3 levels of their reps to no avail removing some roaming charges misapplied for $90 odd bucks.
    He never got the letter it was not certified however (that is a lot of effort standing in the PO line 45 minutes). His assistent routed it back to the local bay area rep who just reiterated the company line from the getgo pay up period. I canceled my subscription on the spot that was 5 years ago. They are on the third level of collection agency with all kinds of threatening phone calls auto generated and letters contracted out to some fly by night collection agency. Furthermore, ATT/Cingular called me back 6 months after dropping their service to offer me a special new discount to join under ATT as the billing front for Cingular (prior to the merger.)

    I could tell you about one other matter that just got pushed back to the local level. I think the day of the exec that cares beyond his current stock option price is long gone.

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