50 Ways To Get Through Phone Systems

VOIP-News has a list of 50 ways to get through to a real, live, not necessarily well-trained CSR on phone systems. We’re posting this not just because their first tip is “Read the Consumerist,” but because there are some really good ideas here, like hitting up EDGAR to search for contact info on public companies.

Here are tips 1-9, from the “Numbers to Call” section:

1. “Read The Consumerist.”

2. “Go to the collections department.”
This is a department companies will actually devote resources to, so your odds of reaching a live person can jump dramatically.

3. “Search EDGAR.

4. “Find important numbers through Whois.net.”

5. “Call the number for new service.”
As with the collections, companies have a strong incentive to provide efficient customer service to possible new customers, so pretend to be one.

6. “Find the right number.”
VOIP-News writes, “If you find a specialized number, you’re more likely to get through quickly.” We agree only if it’s truly a special, not-revealed-to-the-public number—otherwise you risk falling back into the company’s automated system and miss your chance to game it.

7. “Call the retentions department.”
See #2 and #5 above.

8. “Do a Web search for the company.”
“Hit your favorite search engine and enter the company’s name, plus terms such as ‘president,’ ‘investor relations’ or ‘executive service.'” You should also try similar searches on Consumerist for past contact info posts.

9. “Find disgruntled customers.”
“Again, search engines can help you locate numbers if you enter phrases such as ‘I hate company X’ or ‘company X sucks.'”

(Thanks to Andy!)

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


Edit Your Comment

  1. shadowkin says:

    #51 : http://www.gethuman.com

    What we use at work all the time.

  2. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    I prefer to pretend I’m on a rotary phone.

    At least the computer voice is more polite then most CSRs.

  3. jamesdenver says:

    I actually use the Spanish prompt quite often. It really does get you through faster.

    All Spanish operators I’ve dealt with speak English – so I just apologize I for hitting “dos” and we move on.

  4. DashTheHand says:

    The worst thing about automated systems is that it asks you to enter all this info (account number, home number, last 4 of SS, birth date, etc etc etc) and then when you DO get to speak to a real person, you have to do it all over again.

    Talk about annoying and inefficient.

  5. krom says:

    Zero almost always works at any time on the majority of automated systems I’ve dealt with.

    Another way is to keep hitting all the “other” options. The reject state for “other” is always eventually to dump you on a human.

    Yet another way is to not do anything. Eventually the system will decide that there’s something wrong with you that you can’t work with the system and dump you to a human.

    An aside: I’ve noticed som voice systems will implicitly accept numbers even if they don’t actually say they do. When they give you a list of things you can say, the first can be accessed via 1, etc.

    PS: I hate voice-only systems, with a passion. They really suck when you are not in a private place (like the office, etc.) My coworkers don’t need to hear me yammering “YES, YES, CUSTOMER SUPPORT, NEW ISSUE, YES,” etc. Or, say, my CC number.

  6. Anks329 says:

    The worst thing about hitting zero is that some systems just hang up on you. If after a couple of responses it doesn’t understand, it say sorry and good bye.

  7. tomok97 says:

    If zero doesn’t work, I just start punching keys at random and rapidly. The phone system normally assumes you’re too stupid to know how to use a phone and routes you to a person.

  8. jtheletter says:

    I have found that simply voicing obscenities into the handset (at the automated voice prompts) for about 10 seconds takes me directly to a live operator about 90% of the time. I’m absolutely not kidding. I don’t recommend this technique if you are already speaking to a live operator. ;)

  9. floyderdc says:

    That does not work all the time. When I was at Comcast there were many times when we were not busy, I mean just sitting there and the Spanish speaking people had close to 20 calls on hold. Also in some companys because of the need for Spanish people to be available to assist Spanish speaking customers, they will transfer you back into the que if you are able to speak english. Not always right but the way it is done sometimes

  10. tomok97 says:

    I’ve gone the cussing route too but it doesn’t seem to work very consistently. Are the systems geared for certain words or for an increase in volume?

  11. B1663R says:

    My secret weapon is to call them collect. they want to deal with you in a hurry in order to stop the charges.

    most credit cards have the collect number at on the back of the card.

    BTW this was a previous consumerist post from a while back in which I’m referring to.

  12. mac-phisto says:

    i like the IVRs that are programmed (almost typed “trained” – lol) to recognize foul language – i always give that a try first. “GET ME A F&@%ING PERSON YOU STUPID, WORTHLESS PIECE OF S%$@!!!”

    sometimes it works. even when it doesn’t, it’s a good venting method. ;)

  13. DojiStar says:


    I’ll second that on calling them collect. Call them collect on the international line and you will get in almost immediately.

    Now who here wants a cheese sandwich?

  14. Gamethyme says:

    Some voice recognition systems can recognize mumbling as mumbling.

    I used to request “Half-Trained Disgruntled Phone Monkey” – the voice systems can tell you’re speaking clearly, but still has no idea what you want. Usually a human being followed in short order.

    SOME systems will lock out the voice if it doesn’t recognize what you’re saying after a certain number of attempts – then you’re stuck with keypad hell again.

  15. emt888 says:

    “Go to the collections department.”

    I used to work in a collections call center for a mid-sized cell phone company. Any time someone called our dept, we were supposed to take care of the collections issue first (if there were any) and then we had to transfer them to customer service. This was so we could spend all of our time getting money for the company. If someone got mad that they waited to talk to us and then now had to wait in queue for someone in customer service, we were supposed to lie to them and tell them that we were going to transfer them so they by-passed the queue and would get the very next CSR. I didn’t work for them for very long.

  16. Tank says:

    @jamesdenver: Great idea, I’m gonna try it next time I need it.

  17. DashTheHand says:

    @tomok97: I do that occasionally when the pounding zero doesn’t work, but I admit I laughed at your phrasing of it.

  18. Mr. Bungle says:

    I found that continually saying “No” to the voice prompts will get you to an operator.

  19. Said Not says:

    Nickle and dimed? I say ‘dollared and screwed’

  20. Piloter says:

    With the IVRs, simply shouting a wide variety of obscenities in your best high-blood-pressure imitation will get you put through VERY promptly about 90% of the time. I think there must be some special tier that ‘pre-angry’ folks get routed to, because the CSRs that answer always start off very apprehensively with their greeting. (Of course, once you’re through, be the soul of grace and poise and politesse.)

  21. bluewyvern says:

    I always used to just keep hitting “other” or 0 or nothing at all, hoping I would eventually get routed to a person. Lately with most of the systems I call, it just leads to the system saying “goodbye” and hanging up on you, which I find INEXCUSABLE.

    (Nah, I didn’t really have anything I wanted to talk about today…I just have some leftover cell phone minutes and I find pushing buttons to be a stimulating leisure activity. Kudos to the system for realizing I didn’t have any actual business to transact and putting a stop to my playtime foolishness!)

  22. bben46 says:

    I work for a small company – about 25 employees. One is a dedicated phone/receptionist. The owner says he can’t afford to not have a live person answer the phone. Every day we get customers who say they will never call our competitors who all have phone mail hell systems. BTW, orders are that if the receptionist isn’t at her desk someone pick up the phone after 3 rings.

    It works well, the boss took the entire company & Wives/husbands on a 3 day trip to the Bahamas last year to show his appreciation.

  23. randomizer9 says:

    @floyderdc: It worked the other way around where I used to work, the English queue would be full, and the Spanish operators would be sitting around knitting.

    That made talking to the 8-year old kid who was asked to call by his Spanish-speaking parents even more aggrivating.

  24. Chols says:

    I often press zero repeatedly. Sometimes it will put me straight through to a real person.

  25. smokinfoo says:

    When is an automated phone system acceptable for a business to use?

    My company is considering an automated answering menu on our main line. I’m curious of what the limit of tolerance is people have for these phone menus.