Trying to get help from a customer service representative often is fruitless.

But an executive of a company can cut through red tape and, in some cases, “bend the rules.” Here’s how to get hold of the ­executive…

1. Locate the names and e-mail addresses of company executives whose roles likely involve customer satisfaction. This might include customer service managers…­directors or VPs of customer service (or customer support)…and even the president or CEO of the company. You might be able to find the names of these execs on the company’s website but generally not their e-mail addresses. If that’s the case, try entering the ­company name and “executives” or “executive team” into a search engine…check whether you can contact the exec through LinkedIn…and/or check whether the exec’s e-mail address is listed on Elliott.org/company-contacts, which contains corporate contact information.

2. If you cannot find an exec’s e-mail address, try to figure it out. At many companies, everyone’s e-mail address follows the same format, so if you find any employee’s address, try that format with the name of the exec you want to reach. If you can’t find anyone’s address, try the two most common formats: John.Smith@CompanyName.com…and JSmith@CompanyName.com. If an address is not correct, your e-mail likely will just be bounced back to you.

3. Write a brief, polite and unemotional e-mail message to the executive. In just a few sentences, explain what went wrong with the product or service and what you suggest as a reasonable step that would set things right, such as replacing a defective item. Mention that you tried the normal customer service channels but that they “let me down.”

If you identify multiple execs who might be worth contacting, start with the lowest-level one and work your way up until you find someone who is willing to help. Or if you’re in a rush, try the “carpet bomb” approach—send your e-mail to every executive you have located all at once. There is a downside to this tactic, though—if an exec who was inclined to help realizes that you e-mailed others, he/she might assume that someone else will help you.