50 Ways To Get A Live Person When You Call Customer Service

VoIP-News has posted 50 ways to get a live person when you call customer service (an increasingly rare occurrence). My favorite is no. 32:

Do nothing. By doing nothing, you can trick the PBX into thinking you have a rotary phone and force it to get you an agent.

There’s something beautiful about its passive aggressive approach and taking advantage of their need to maintain legacy support for a quaint technology of yesteryear.

PBX Hell: 50-Plus Hacks and Tips to Get to a Real Person at Any Corporation in 10 Seconds or Less [VoIP-News] (Photo: termie)

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  1. Yankees368 says:

    Sometimes doing nothing will actually result in having the call disconnected.

    For me, usually hitting 0 a few times, or shouting CUSTOMER SERVICE or REPRESENTATIVE a few times does the trick. That, or use The Consumerist to find the corporate customer service line and get things done that way. I did that yesterday with XM, but still got awful service.

    • Kogenta says:

      @Yankees368: I agree, depending on who you’re calling, some support systems simply disconnect the line if nothing happens after a given amount of time.

      That being said, a lot of systems seem to be doing the whole, you get a support agent if and only if you’re willing to sit through the 10 min speel about call number X for this, or number Y for that. If you’re calling about A press 1, etc. And then of course if they’re busy you get put on hold in a “priority queue” and will be serviced by the next available agent.

    • jeffbone says:

      @Yankees368: How about “CANCEL!”?

      Wait, maybe that only works with Comcast.

    • LatherRinseRepeat says:

      @Yankees368:

      An alternate choice.. Press 2 for Espanol.

      Often times, the CSR’s are bi-lingual anyways. Just play dumb and say you hit the wrong button. And then ask if they can help you out, instead of sending you back into the call queue.

      • Leksi Wit says:

        @LatherRinseRepeat: Often the bi-lingual CSR’s are based in the US, too! From my experience working for a large phone company, bilingual CSR’s (in ANY language), tend to be better at helping customers than their English-only counterparts.

  2. Moosehawk says:

    or just use

    [www.gethuman.com]

  3. thefastest says:

    offsubject, the girl in that picture is hot as hell… i wonder what her secret to getting great customer service is.

  4. vildechaia says:

    thefastest – She’s carrying an AK-47 in her left hand. Just in case.

  5. OmniZero says:

    I dial zero, or better yet input incorrect information, such as phone numbers or ref. numbers, and the computer goes “I can’t find a record of that. Please hang on for a representative.” It worked for me when I called the Xbox support line the other day.

    • theblackdog says:

      @OmniZero: I just did that with Compass Bank, they wouldn’t accept my zip code as a valid one so they sent me to customer service

  6. gamabunta says:

    That’s Leah Culver.

  7. h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

    I notice they lack any mention of crying piteously “Please God help me, I’m stuck in the machine” and whimpering when it asks for your phone number. If I’ve got to be in PBX, I may as well amuse myself, and sometimes it does the trick.

  8. Hank Scorpio says:

    It’s sad that we’ve come to the point where you have to jump through hoops to actually talk to a person, only then to get someone who likely won’t be helpful anyway.

    Here at the Globex corporation, you’ll always be able to talk to a live operator. (Just don’t ask me the number, I’ve never had to call my own company.)

  9. ophmarketing says:

    The “do nothing” trick usually works, although lately I’ve noticed more of the “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Please press…” speech repeating ad nauseam.

  10. bonzombiekitty says:

    I remember trying to set up a new service with Verizon. It had an IVR, and all it said was “Thank you for calling Verizon, please speak or press your current verizon phone number”.

    Since I didn’t have a number, I had no idea what to do. I figured I called the wrong number, hung up and checked to be sure. I had the right number, so I called back.

    I tried pressing 0,#,#0,*0, and each was met with a “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that response. Please enter your current verizon phone number”

    So I tried giving a fake number. The IVR told me it couldn’t find that number.

    So I tried “I don’t have one”, “no number”, “new number”, “help”, “representative”, and “let me talk to a human”. Each was met with a “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that response…”

    So I flipped out and started swearing at it. It replied again with “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that response…”

    After 20 minutes, I figured out the appropriate thing to say was “new service”.

    • ajlei says:

      @bonzombiekitty: Earthlink has the same thing for their DSL. I have dry loop so when I was signing up I got really frustrated with the whole “we’re sorry, please say or enter your ten digit phone number again” “I DON’T HAVE ONE!!” until “representative” finally did the trick for them.

      Ugh.

    • ajlei says:

      @bonzombiekitty: Right after I hit submit, I just remembered that about four days ago I was checking to see what Verizon’s rates were for internet at my house and it asked for a phone/address, so I put in an address since, again, I don’t have a phone number here, and then it said “Our records show that you have a current verizon phone number, please enter it now” with no other options. So maybe Verizon/Earthlink live in their own little region of hell together.

  11. Plates says:

    I always like calling on rotary phones. It really confuses them.

  12. Bailen says:

    I just love these systems where I have to give the damn system all my information and have it read it back to make sure its ok, then as soon as I get a real live rep, they just ask me for all the info I just gave their damn machine!

  13. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    I haven’t looked at the list yet, so I don’t know if it’s on it (I like to jump the gun) but here’s my favorite way, if it’s a voice activated system.

    Say “Mfffelplig bloogrop mafuldi grgghergherhh funhuffff smluuuuh” and other such nonsensical babble until the system gives up and you get “I’m having trouble understanding you. Please wait while we transfer you to an operator.”

    • Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

      @Dooley:

      And there it is… #30

      30. Mumble. If the voice robot can’t understand you, it will be forced to connect you with a live person

      • Real Cheese Flavor says:

        @Dooley: I’ve had at least one voice recognition system disconnect me after several unsuccessful tries at understanding me.

        The kicker was that I was actually speaking clearly.

  14. thefastest says:

    i also noticed that the fine lady in the picture has either a lint roller or a bottle of beer with a yellow label behind her. maybe thats why she’s happy, she’s drunk.

  15. Wit says:

    The “do nothing” option has worked for me in the past, and I must thank you guys for that tip.

    It’s become a large part of my job lately to badger people over the phone because I seem to be able to get results. That said, the next time someone puts their 1-800 number customer service line on an official court document, I’m going to kick their ass. Seriously, guys, your customer service people never have any idea how to deal with the sorts of issues that arise and have been trained not to send people to the legal department. They can stonewall me all they want, but more than half the time I’m trying to pay you guys money, so it’s more than a little counter-productive. /rant.

  16. cortana says:

    I thought I had them all fooled by saying numbers in Japanese. Until one read them back to me (in english) once. I wish I could remember which company it was.

  17. theblackdog says:

    I can’t believe this suggested that you don’t pay your bill.

    • Jesse says:

      @theblackdog:

      Funny idea but I would imagine that if a company is that hell-bent on the customer talking to a computer, not paying your bill may just generate a letter or have your account outsourced to collections.

    • Michael Belisle says:

      @theblackdog: It’s a comprehensive list. There is also #15: “Go through the phone prompts”. Sure, #15 lacks a certain rebellious flair, but it’s a valid method.

      (I’m just always disappointed when following 15 has nothing to do with sending you to the right department and everything to do with giving the representative information that they promptly ignore and ask me to repeat everything as if my button presses were all in vain.)

  18. PriceIsWrong says:

    What I hate is how even if you enter your information in with the robot, when you finally do get a live person, you end up having to repeat it all with them, again.

    God forbid they have to transfer you to another arm of the business, because then you have to give them the information all over yet again.

    I swear they just put the automated entry thing there to distract people long enough to make them forget how long they’ve been on hold for a live person, just to buy the operators more time to deal with other callers.

  19. mac-phisto says:

    i like #42: “Don’t pay your bill. The company will call you.”

    & #36 is my personal favorite.

    it’s really f-ed up that when you speak what you want, you can’t have it, but when you mumble, scream, throw a tantrum, press buttons like an idiot & swear like a sailor, you get where you want to be.

    there’s something inherently wrong about that.

  20. TouchMyMonkey says:

    I like #35 – Select the cancel-service option. If a company thinks they’re going to lose you as a customer, they’ll be quick to try to convince you otherwise.

    CSR: What can we do to keep you as a customer?

    Me: Guarantee I will never have to talk to your annoying PBX ever again, for one….

  21. Donathius says:

    I’m fond of #1: Read the Consumerist.

  22. TouchMyMonkey says:

    From the comments at the source article:

    I can assure you that using a LOUD tone of voice & screaming profanities DOES get you through to a human with VERIZON’s crappy phone tree. Just remember, when you DO get a HUMAN, do NOT swear and treat them rudely, remember, these tips are to help you GET THROUGH to a human … remember to treat others as you yourself want to be treated ! Peace …

    Must be nice to be able to turn it on and off at will. I had a sergeant major who could do that. Have you at the position of parade rest in his office and turn you into a puddle of goo one minute, the next he was all smiles as he told you to have a nice day. He was awesome.

  23. wesa says:

    As a former call center monkey (multiple places for tech support and QA), this list makes me cringe. If you get to a human in one department and it’s the wrong department, that person will just transfer you to the end of the queue in the correct department. If you try to bypass the lower level techs to get to a higher level tech and you just have a simple issue, the higher level tech is going to be annoyed that you are wasting their time and just dump you back in the queue. Lists like this give people a sense of entitlement that *their* problem is the *only* problem that should be taken care of.

    • dwasifar says:

      @wesa: No, lists like this give people a sense of being able to take back some measure of control when they are systematically mistreated and abused as customers.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @wesa: you would think that a company with multiple levels of technical support could refine a PBX system to manage calls properly so that people don’t have to exploit loopholes to get to a person that can help them.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Please don’t use whois information! I was the hostmaster for a mid-sized company years ago and I would constantly get calls for shit I knew nothing about. I’m not the operator. I can’t help you. I’m the guy that ran the DNS system. I ended up changing the phone number registered with Network Solutions to a bogus number to stop the morons from calling me.

    Other than that, this is a good list.

  25. kbrook says:

    Be careful about hitting random numbers – some companies have very specific queues, where the agents are only able to do a few things (process forbearances and take payments, to us the example of a student loan company I temped for). If you need something that they can’t do, you’re just going to get tossed back into another specialist queue, defeating the purpose.

  26. wkm001 says:

    Who is that girl? She is so hot.

  27. dwasifar says:

    Sometimes there is an option for a company directory where you can dial by name. If the normal options aren’t getting me anywhere, I’ll go into the company directory and start spelling out names like “Smith” or “Johnson” until I hit one that answers, then play dumb and tell the person, “I don’t know why I got transferred to you; I wanted [x] department. Can you transfer me?”

  28. Eels says:

    UPS has one of the most frustrating examples of this. “Agent” seems to be the ONLY thing that works, and I was once on the phone for almost 45 minutes trying to get a package held for pickup.

    • djmichaelangelo says:

      @Eels:

      Those local phone #’s to UPS offices are impossible to come by, and I know since I’ve tried to find several of them! One I did manage to get (on a completely random note, just in case anyone reading this is in the central Michigan area) is 989-779-0755, which is the local UPS dispatch center in Mt. Pleasant, MI. They try to supress and erase every trace of this # from the internet, but here it is. Somebody should start a website listing all of these unlisted phone numbers for companies too cowardly to post their LOCAL phone #’s so people don’t have to deal with some clueless call center in some faraway state, that has no clue about anything in your area or what’s going on there locally.

  29. Anonymous says:

    An important thing to remember is that those IVR’s arent just tehre to be an annoyance, you actually may save time by using them. if you actually take the 45 seconds to type in your numbers the rep will probably have your information ready when he picks up the phone as opposed to if you bupassed it and he has to ask 20 questions to get your account up and verified.

    Also, if you are calling for a reason choose that reason from the computer. If you need tech support and just hit the first option, you will probably wait on hold for someone to answer, have them ask for your account info, and then wait on hold again as they transfer you to the correct department.

    • zimmi88 says:

      @UlandAstraea: Yehh… I can agree with this viewpoint slightly. If a system is set up to make the consumer’s life easier, great! The problem is, many computerized systems make calling the company a hassle, especially when you’re calling for a specific purpose that requires personal assistance. I can’t even begin to mention the number of times I’ve had some computer try to run me through the same exact troubleshooting steps I had just completed from the company’s website, as if I was some sort of dunce that hadn’t bothered to try every other solution first before calling.

  30. dangerp says:

    I’m surprised that you didn’t plug reason #1.

    The trick that I have had the most success with is #36: swear. A friend that works on PBXs told me about this one. For example, me and my wife both called sprint, and I used a more agitated voice with multiple swear words. I was connected within seconds, compared to at least 5 minutes. Awesome.

  31. itsgene says:

    dangerp is right — the rotary dial trick rarely works these days, most systems just hang up. I mean, the people who design these things now have never even heard of rotary dialing.
    But if you get a voice recognition system, just say one word: “F*ck.” They all seem to be programmed to get you to a real person immediately when they hear that.

  32. lintacious says:

    I swear by [gethuman.com]

  33. oneandone says:

    I’m trying to do this now – find out about a package held at my post office. No lukc getting to a person, since they either don’t answer the phone, or it’s busy. Hopefully after lunch it’ll be better….

  34. mwahaha says:

    I work in a large call centre with separate departments for sales (residential, commercial and national) and customer service, french and spanish. Each department has it’s own queue option in the PBX.

    The longest waiting caller goes to the first available agent. Same applies to calling between departments. I can’t call someone or transfer a caller to another department until an agent is available in that departments queue, so it doesn’t lower the wait time for the caller. And I can’t help them either (even If I knew how.) Each department and queue has metrics that are tracked and they staff based on those numbers. When I get someone looking for another department, I just ditch the call in that queue and they wait like everyone else.

    Also, it doesn’t work trying to call any Executives as they all have gatekeepers to prevent telemarketing.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Unfortunately, my experience with the “do nothing” option is that the automated system will hang up on you, and the number of systems programmed to do this seem to be increasing.

  36. describe_one says:

    I’ve found that randomly mashing buttons until you get a live voice works pretty well too.

  37. parkavery says:

    I use all the standard methods sometimes – mumbling, random buttons, do nothing, etc. But I have also been disconnected using every one of these methods, so it’s not as black and white as the article suggests (“If the voice robot can’t understand you, it will be forced to connect you with a live person…”).

    My personal favourite is when you are a good little customer and go through all the prompts, only to hear: “We are currently experiencing unusually high call volume. Goodbye.” :censored:

  38. battra92 says:

    How about the photo for that fine young woman in the photo? Anyone? Consumerist?

  39. Dave-Farquhar says:

    Hey, I like my rotary phones. I have two of them. One is about 30 years old and the other is more like 50 years old. My other phones break and have to be replaced every few years, but those ancient Western Electric (Bell/AT&T) phones just keep on trucking. I really wish I could find a wall-mount one to put in the kitchen.

    • larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

      @Dave-Farquhar: I haven’t yet found a rotary wall phone, but I did recently get a Western Electric built touch-tone phone at an “antiques mall”. I have a bunch of desk phones too. Not only do they last forever, but if a burglar comes in, you can knock him unconscious with one of those tanks!

  40. Anonymous says:

    I hope one day, all of our phones will have touchscreen menus that allow us to navigate through these horrific phone trees. I started a wiki, http://www.telephonemenus.com , to start transcribing these menus, since unfortunately THEY ARE NECESSARY! Like some of the comments on the actual article said, sometimes trying to subvert the system not only extends your time on hold (ie, getting the wrong people and getting transferred around), but it just ties up the lines for other people. I’ve only added one company so far, since school and being a new father are my top priorities, but if you have a few seconds, please follow my lead and help me build this wiki up. Thanks!

  41. lalaland13 says:

    No. 37, don’t use a cell phone, seems rather impractical if you don’t have any other kind of phone. And with more and more people disconnecting their landlines, the companies might want to catch up.

  42. zonk7ate9 says:

    Will this trick let me talk to the girl in that picture?

  43. Ed Chan says:

    Doing nothing doesn’t work so well these days, as most bigger companies have speech detection, and if you don’t speak or type numbers, they just hang up on you.

  44. Zenatrul says:

    I know for Apple Support’s IVR if you say No or do nothing it transfers you to one of the Call directors.

    And for AT&T if you put in a fake number or a incorrect number it will ask you to make sure that is the right number and if you say it is it automatically transfers you to a rep.

  45. Anthony Rinaldi says:

    Whatever you do. Never bash buttons until you hear a voice. If I pick up a line with a customer and I hear repeative button pushing, my desire to help you drops by at least 75%. You will wish you got a recording.

  46. RogueWarrior says:

    Who’s the girl? She’s way cute. What were we talking about? Oh, the petitions, right.

  47. tworld says:

    I’ve used the rotary phone routine for years, because it always works. On two occasions I got disconnected, so I’m ahead of the game.

    Here’s another . . . . when they want verbal responses. answer with Martian words, then they transfer you to a person. At that point you can stop speaking Martian.

  48. corinthos says:

    I work with att tech support. I have to call manufacturer a couple time a day for support with some phones. I’ve tried everything to get through to Palm or Samsung. They have those annoying IVRs that if you hit 0 it just repeated the menu and after twice it just disconnects. If you don’t hit anything it disconnects. With Samsung there is a way to get a person faster but it requires you to get transferred twice or more depending on if hte reps know which department is the correct one to transfer to.

    Palm did fix their IVR though. We don’t support their hotsync program and the ivr used to ask what your carrier was and if you didn’t choose the options that you don’t know then they would just refer you to call your carrier and hang up on you.

  49. Serpephone says:

    This option cracked me up:

    “Don’t pay your bill. The company will call you.”

    :-)

  50. snclfe says:

    I’ve used #32 with success in the past but more recent attempts have resulted in disconnection. I’ll still try it though – not all companies have upgraded to the new anti-rotary systems.

  51. Anonymous says:

    I work at a call center where we have to call utility companies numerous (like several hundred) times daily–when they ask me to input my phone number, dialing 800-382-5968 (800-F-you) has worked a surprisingly large amount of the time. Go figure.