Since @beesmygod has been posting a lot about bothering your local elected representative, I thought I should help a little as someone who understands government work. I live & work outside of the US, but I suspect this is applicable to many local & state/provincial governments.
ALWAYS REQUEST A CALLBACK
- If you want someone to actually look at your issue, to do more than write “Feedback noted” in a complaint system resolution field, ask for a callback. Demand a callback. You can ask for an email too, but I will be blunt: the effort that is put into returning an email is less than half of the effort you force me to put in when I call someone back.
- Pick a phone number you will be reached at during 9-5 hours (b/c that’s when government workers do their callbacks). Calls are what I recommend simply because a call requires that person to put more effort into addressing your complaint even before they pick up the phone. They have to do more than send a pre-written email template to brush you off, and it allows you to actively engage back with them rather than starting from square one when you send a return email and end up in the system at the bottom of the queue again.
- If you go with an email, pick an email address that you check regularly. You can even make a professional looking email address for your complaints, which is guaranteed to get better answers than if you ask someone to email firstname.lastname@example.org
- When you make your complaint, ask what the time you can expect to wait is, and if you don’t hear back by that length of time, call back and raise hell over it. If there is a ticket system of some kind for tracking complaints (and there usually is when we’re talking government work and accountability), ask for your ticket number. Keep it on hand. Keep all of your numbers on hand.
- Be prepared for a callback. Have your feedback/goals already written down somewhere you can easily pull up on the fly so you don’t get caught flatfooted. Don’t get sidetracked. Stay on point and have a clear end goal – you want to see your local representative support a specific bill, you want them to issue a statement on a subject.
- Get a name. Get a phone number you can call them back at. Make them accountable for anything they say or promise.
- DO NOT USE ABUSIVE LANGUAGE. DO NOT MAKE THREATS OF VIOLENCE. If you use abusive language, I don’t have to engage with you. In fact, if what you write is vile enough, I can refuse to answer future complaints from you. So be passionate, be angry, be uncompromising, but keep that language clean and keep it clear of threats. I can’t do anything to get rid of someone who is pissed but does not cross the line.
I answer a lot of dumb complaints in my particular field. After a while, it gets easy to start tuning complaints out and assuming that people are just mad for no good reason. Callbacks force me to engage. They force me to look into a problem before I call someone back – to actually investigate instead of assuming. It’s harder to tune someone out when you’re holding me accountable.
a really really great post from a professional who knows how it works