4 Tips For Getting A Human Customer Service Rep On The Phone

We’ve all been there — trapped in the labyrinth of a company’s automated operator, pressing numbers, saying and repeating the nature of your problem, hoping that someone, anyone, will eventually pick up. In an effort to help, the Houston Chronicle’s Frugal Confessions blog put together a helpful run-down of four things you can try.

1. By Voice: Say “Agent” sternly into the phone. Many systems are voice activated through each of the menus. Also try “Representative”.

2. By Keypad: Press “O” in a menu. This is typically a default to connect you through to a service rep. If it does not work in the main menu, try it in the second menu, and the third. In most systems, you do not need to hear all of the options of each menu in order to press a number.

3. By Placing an Order: You do not actually need to place an order, but most systems will punch you through to a live rep if they know you are going to buy something from them. From there you can ask to be directly connected to whichever department you need.

4. By Selecting Tech Support: Once again, I know that you do not need tech support, but select this option because you will most likely be put through to a live rep. Once there, they can directly transfer you to any department you need.

Of course, once you actually get your hooks into a live CSR, that brings up a whole host of other problems. Perhaps that will be dealt with in another list.

How to Get Through to a Live Person in Customer Service [Houston Chronicle]


Edit Your Comment

  1. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Another tactic is when the company wants you to enter an order number or a number of some kind, and either your question doesn’t involve a number or you just don’t want to deal with the system, just hit a bunch of random numbers (just make sure you enter more digits than the company’s order numbers have). Most likely, it’ll transfer you if it doesn’t ask you to try again. If it does, just hit numbers again and it’ll transfer you after that.

  2. MrBeetle says:
  3. Rocket says:


    I found this site a while back. It has a list of companies, and ways to get to a human when calling each one.

  4. Supes says:

    Whenever I get those voice-activated systems, I find they tend to connect me to a human after “not understanding” what I was saying ~3 times.

    Some good tips how to get a human on the line at various companies here:

  5. Griking says:

    Another option is to not hit any buttons at all. A lot of systems still have a fallback in place for people with rotary phones that can’t push numbers.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      Which is why they’re all going to those awful voice-recognition systems. You now have to be a little more clever than pretending to operate an obsolete telephone to get an actual CSR.

  6. InsertPithyNicknameHere says:

    Two other tricks – on some systems, requesting a language other than English will get to you a live person (since it’s apparently cheaper to have a translator as needed than to record all of the menus in two languages). Also, many systems will put you through to a representative if you don’t respond at all. So, sit and wait, don’t answer the system, and it doesn’t know what to do – thus, you get a live person.

  7. tomok97 says:

    Here’s some other things I’ve found work:

    1. Press random numbers on your phone. The system will think you’re stupid or crazy and send you to a person.

    2. Remain completely silent. They system will think you have a rotary phone and are unable to use their phone tree.

    3. Press 2 for Spanish. Most of the operators speak are bi-lingual and will be able to help you.

    • Rocket says:

      The 1st one works for me. If you press an incorrect key, or say the wrong thing, the system will usually give up and send you to a person.

  8. janeslogin says:

    I rarely fail just hitting #0* randomly.

    With some really stubborn ones like Dish Networkâ„¢ I ask for “Billing” and then go off on the billing CSR about my technical problem. Billing usually transfers me quickly to the right department.

    • MrBeetle says:

      Another tip is to curse like a sailor. Some tech support places will move you up if you sound like you are really pissed off.

  9. A Bay Horse says:

    5. Yell in gibberish on a voice activated multilingual system.

    Works for me very often. I get connected right away to a multilingual support rep and nicely ask for help for whatever reason I was calling. They help or transfer me.

  10. chefguru says:

    I’ve read that in some automated systems, if you start cursing (saying “F*ck”) it will instantly take you out of the automated system and dial a live human.

    I guess the reasoning behind this is that if you’re pissed off enough in the automated system already, and it’s going to keep you in the automated system longer, you’re just going to get more pissed off, and by the time you actually get to a live human, you’re going to be angry with them.

    I tried it once, by accident. I was in an automated system that wouldn’t recognize what I was saying, and I got pissed and said “F*ck you”, and instead of getting sent to the next menu I was trying to get to, it instantly dialed a live human.

    Try it sometime, it just might work.

    • RawWS6 says:

      This is what I do as well. I threw the f**k you down when I was trying to activate a citi card I believe and it worked. Tried it again another time I was trying to get in touch with someone at comcast (I think) and got the same result, though it took more than one. I like yelling at inanimate objects anyway, so I don’t mind.

    • EmDeeEm says:

      This is my first choice as well. It’s fun to come up with increasingly complex vulgarities. If it doesn’t work, I hit/hold 0.

  11. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    It’s been my experience that the best way to get a real human is to always select the Spanish option. It will bypass the menus and put you in touch with a bilingual American, who is high level enough to actually resolve problems and doesn’t need to escalate.

  12. apd09 says:

    I know it is off topic but does anyone else get angry while navigating the phone tree if they have to put in their account info and then the CSR asks for it again. Whenever this happens I always ask them if it transferred through because I already entered it in once and I am concerned that my info was sent to someone else and also about my privacy because I put it in the system and they need to ask me for it again.

    Honestly, I know it is because they are too cheap to spend the money and buy a system that will transfer info from the phone to the CSR but it makes me feel better to make them tell me that my info is safe and secure and they understand why I feel like I do.

    • Goldensummer says:

      Yes, because annoying your CSR right off is always the right thing to do. You’re not original and you’re not clever. Ofter they’re verifying that it transferred and verifying your account information. You called them not the other way around don’t be a jerk.

    • JeremieNX says:

      The vast majority of people who call in are stupid (a good three-fourths at least). Intelligent people (for the most part) are able to go online or use other “self-help” systems. I know many intelligent people who prefer self-help these days over being on the phone.

      As a result, many people are unable to correctly type in a simple number or they just won’t follow simple directions. That is why CSRs often get calls where the CTI fields (form fields that include account number, name, etc etc) are blank.

      Don’t like repeating information? Try actually knowing your *correct* information, have it handy, and follow simple directions. It’s amazing how well it works.

  13. adamczar says:

    Often I find saying “human!” over and over again like a ratchety old man works well. I’ve tried just not pressing any buttons at all, but oftentimes just get disconnected. I’ve also tried saying “representative,” but the system will often “not catch that,” and ask me to repeat over and over again and take me back to the main menu.

  14. smo0 says:

    So, if you’re having an issue with a “language barrier” i.e. you’re on the phone with someone from India… try pressing Spanish as your language option…. depending on the company (if this is an option) you will almost always get an English speaking rep in the US… I did this when I had an HP laptop and would call for support.

  15. Abradax says:

    3 and 4 are dangerous. In the call center I work at, if you blindly hit buttons and then ask for customer service, you get transferred back into the automated system.

  16. sybann says:

    In some cases if you do nothing they might assume you have a rotary phone – at least according to my MOM. Hasn’t worked on Virgin Mobile. They’re the worst.

  17. hey_chris says:

    i literally just yell into the phone when i get a voice activated phone tree system. after three times of the computer voice saying “sorry, could you repeat that?” or “let’s try that again. what department?” it automatically transfers you to the next available person (in whatever department) who you can then ask to transfer you to the correct person.

  18. TouchMyMonkey says:

    I find profanity causes voice-operated systems (which I hate) to throw enough exceptions to cause it to punt to a live human.

  19. leihei says:

    If you do any of these, please don’t yell at the person you reach who has to transfer you to the correct department. I understand wanting to reach a human, but when you press random numbers, you get random humans.

  20. _UsUrPeR_ says:

    A hint for the voice: cuss like a sailor. It will get you to a rep so quick, you won’t even know what’s going on.

  21. Plasmafox says:

    One successful tactic I know of is to select Spanish, even if you don’t speak it. Many PBX systems, rather than tranlated menus, will immediately connect you to… Texas, because that’s where most espanol call centers are, and most of the reps also speak fluent english.

  22. ellemdee says:

    1) Press 0
    2) Swear (haven’t tried this one myself)
    3) Mumble or enter invalid information a few times. Some systems will connect you right to a rep if the automated operator can’t understand what you want.
    4) Select the menu option for a Spanish-speaking rep. They are usually bilingual and have a shorter hold time.
    5) My personal favorite – say the word “cancel”. This is a magic red-flag with many automated systems. “Cancel” not only gets you a friendly, no-wait-time rep, it routes you to the retentions or “saves” reps who have all kinds of superpowers to actually help you.

  23. AnthonyC says:

    OT, but “O”!=”0″ on a telephone

  24. dg says:

    For the voice recognition systems – just say “Representative” or “Agent” – when it tries to weasel out and says “Hmmm, I didn’t understand that” – yell some 4-letter profanities and say “GET ME A GOD DAMNED AGENT” – it’ll connect you…

    For ones that want an extension – try “100, 123, 1000, 1023” – they’re usually the first extensions given out… sometimes I get the president of the company…

  25. Jimmy37 says:

    Try this instead: http://get2human.com/

  26. DustingWhale says:

    Pound the zero key repeatedly. By the 3/4th time you’re connected to a real person. And if you come across as smart and level-headed, they treat you well, as they’re expecting some sort of button mashing idiot.

  27. Ultraexactzz says:

    If the phone system has the whole voice recognition thing going, all you need to do is cough. Repeatedly. When it asks for a response, loudly clear your throat. It’ll ask you to repeat, with something like “Sorry, I didn’t catch that”. It might kick you to a “Push the number” system, but keep coughing. It’ll eventually send you to a human.

    The assumption is either that you have a speech impediment of some sort (and thus special need), or that your accent is too thick for the system.