U-Hauled – A Case Study in CEO Letter Writting
Continuing to take the same actions while expecting new results has been called the definition of insanity. For this reason, I sometimes cringe when Dave Ramsey advises callers to contact an offending organization daily until an issue is resolved.
Calling “an idiot in an cube 300 miles away” over and over again may yield results but it also wastes time and causes much stress and frustration on my end of the equation.
Therefore, I have pursued and alternative path in such situations. I simply craft a letter to the CEO. Granted, my results have been mixed – some companies, so it would appear, want to suck – see my 6 Flags article. Meanwhile, others are honestly trying – no one always puts their best foot forward – and will proudly correct a situation once the appropriate folks are made aware of the issue.
My general approach to writing a CEO or executive team consists of 3 elements:
- Be polite, colorful, and intelligent – profane attackers are dismissed as crazies while an articulate writer represents a desired customer base
- Be brief – I use bullets to streamline the narrative, ensure clarity, and encourage brevity
- Spell out your expectations and be realistic – this offers a path to resolution and invites a welcomed next step
Now for the treat, as I put my money where my mouth is… or at least attempt to demonstrate my advice.
Below is letter I just wrote and mailed to Edward Shoen, the Chairman, President, and CEO of AMERCO and U-Haul (AMERCO is U-Haul’s holding company).
Over the Labor Day weekend I rented a truck and had a ‘less than’ experience. My level of aggrevation surpassed my tolerance threshold and so I elected to write a letter. Given the forum this site affords me, I decided to share the experience. Enjoy.
September 11, 2009
Dear Edward Shoen,
I want to take a moment of your time to share from my most recent experience with your organization – an experience guaranteed to motivate interest in your competitors for my future truck rental needs.
For clarity and brevity I will bullet the high (low) lights from my recent partnering with U-Haul.
- Ironically the lone high light came early in the rental process. Booking online was easier than I expected and it was clear and transparent – or so was the intent. That I could not select my pick-up and drop-off locations was clunky and reeks of corporate welfare. Your selected pick-up location supports this conclusion.
- The pick-up location sported a “back in 10 minutes” sign when I arrived. So much for the time specific reservation.
- Despite receiving a very clear “Due in store” amount, I was charged a second time for both the insurance and taxes. I also enjoyed a $5 environmental fee which appeared optional when watching your agent scroll through the reservation screens. Generously I consider this tactic unprofessional. Less generously I call it theft.
- When I questioned your agent, he claimed ignorance as to the web rate process and incompetence relative to investigating and correcting the issue. Rather, I was encouraged to “complain up the line” in order to “get whatever I wanted”.
In my experience, the culture of the company comes from the top so the direction I received from your agent suggests that you sponsor a blaming environment with open hostility between the corporate offices and your customer facing outlets.
- The keys I received included neither the key to the truck cab nor the correct key for the open lock chained to the loading door. An average trusting person might have found himself locked out of both the cab and loading area. Fortunately, I quickly developed a level of cynicism towards your organization such that I avoided this gapping service pitfall.
- The truck I enjoyed came equipped with its own colony of ants, resident within the dashboard.
- Speaking of the dashboard, the entire construct bounced like a basketball – including the steering wheel – whenever slight bumps were traversed.
- Following one stop, the truck would not start and required a jump.
Suffice it to say, my recent experience with U-Haul was one I am not soon to forget.
However, assuming a level of interest given your organizational titles and roles, I want to provide you with an opportunity to address this situation.
My expectations are obvious in that I require a refund for the duplicate charges. Your actions to address the balance of my negative experience are at your discretion and will influence my perception and future business dealings accordingly.
I greatly appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from your office directly.
The above letter was mailed on Friday, September 11 (same date as the original posting here), so I do not yet know how this episode will play out. However, I commit to sharing my final result with you. Whether I am ignored, talked down to, placated, or overwhelmed; I’ll share my results with you.
In the meantime, let me know what you think about my approach and/or your prediction as to how this story will play out.