“Would you help a son take over his dying father’s phone number?”

That was the opening sentence to an email I sent to Mr. Randall Stephenson, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President of AT&T Incorporated, in May of 2018.

Here’s the rest:

I hope you will indulge me for this email as I wish to appeal to you as a person, not just the CEO.

The phone number (270) 669-4229 has been our family phone number dating back to the 60’s. My father has been given 6 months, or less, to live and the number is still in his name with AT&T.

However, he managed to run up a bill of $3,104.00 that was written off by your company and turned over to a collection agency. He filed bankruptcy so I am pretty sure the collection company had to write it off as well.

I want that phone number for purely sentimental reasons but both your sales team and loyalty department (whom have been wonderful) are not able to reinstate the number due to it being written off and cancelled.

I wish to make this my mobile number by porting it over to another provider and I am hoping you can help to make this happen for me. I know this is a most unusual request and I appreciate you taking time to read this.

Thank you for your response sir.

Was I insane? I was asking the CEO of a multi-billion dollar corporation to free up a phone number they had lost thousands of dollars on, so I could have it reassigned to a competing carrier. I felt like it was a waste of my time, but I was determined to not let this number go. I took a deep breath and pressed send.

It shot out of my computer at 6:47 pm. I was blown away when I was awakened the next morning by a call from an executive in the Office of the President, who informed me that Mr. Stephenson told her to make this happen. I got another call that afternoon from yet another executive who was going to personally see to it, as was promised by the first executive. Within a few weeks, I had the number.

Imagine the number of requests, complaints, and business email Mr. Stephenson gets. Yet, this one cut through the noise, even though I suspect someone was screening the letter.  

I believe at least part of the success was due to appealing to the person, not the title.

My momma instilled in me that no one was better than me and that I was better than no one. She said “They all put their pants on one leg at a time just like you do.”

In TV News I had the good fortune to work with everyone from the homeless to the rich and famous, and it has taught me one, immutable, universal commonality and that was, momma was right. They are all just people. With rare exception, most everyone was kind and compassionate. When you are approaching anyone for a relationship, in business or in life, remember this:  Be a human being first.

I’ve had the privilege of mentoring many young reporters and photographers in TV News. One of their biggest lessons was to first, put themselves in the shoes of those they were putting on camera, and second, to be a journalist. That meant don’t go to a house fire where someone just lost their kids, stick a microphone in their face and ask “How do you feel?” How the hell do you think they feel?! How would you?

When talking to a fellow human being, whether to make a sale, a friend, or a complaint, remember they are just like you. It will take you so much further. I reached out to the man running a multi-billion dollar corporation to ask a huge favor, and his response reaffirmed my faith in people.

Sadly, my father died within a week of me sending the letter and didn’t live to see me get that number. But thanks tothe kindness of a fellow human being, it will be my number until my number is up.

Lewis D. Chaney

Get To The Damn Point

About the Author Lewis Chaney

A TEDx Alumnus with over 25 years in TV broadcasting, advertising, and filmmaking, Lewis D. Chaney has mastered the art of getting to the damn point.

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Most companies are wasting an enormous amount of TIME & MONEY on employees with poor communication skills.

Get To The Damn Point teaches your employees how to SAY LESS and BE HEARD MORE - meaning higher meeting ROI, empowered employees, and stronger salespeople.

Lewis D Chaney of GET TO THE DAMN POINT speaks at TEDx Evansville
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