Automated systems are the bane of our existence. In principle, automated telephone systems seem to make sense. The idea is that you want to make it easier to filter people into the correct department, especially for large companies, to reduce hold time and transfers.
Contrary to what you may think, automated systems do not exist to save you time or energy nor do they exist to “help get you the the right person”. The sole and absolute only reason that any automated system exists, is to save the company money on customer service by making it as difficult as possible to talk to anyone. This way, companies can massively understaff their customer service department because with much less calls coming through, they don’t have to help anyone who needs help.
Moreover, automated systems help companies with no customer service department or with a very tiny or even 1 or 2 person customer service department, trick and deceive a customer into thinking they are a large company with a huge customer service department. They can automatically direct calls and extensions to many different fake voicemails which they can hire out for someone to record the different voices like “Hi, this is John, please leave a message”. Companies which have really poor service don’t even use that, they just direct you to an automated voicemail.
In this way, it can give the appearance that there is a huge customer service staff, and there must be so many people calling in. This is not true at all. Often, there is no sales department, customer service department, returns department, or any other department – it all just funnels to one call center somewhere in India or The Philippines that they pay a few bucks a month to have the illusion of customer service when in reality providing virtually none. And by having the most complicated telephone system possible, they can maximize the amount of dissatisfied customers who stay dissatisfied.
Often this is possible because in today’s hegemonic monopolistic corporate infrastructure, the existence of small business competition is few and far between, and the existence of competition with essential services like cell phone and internet service is nearly nonexistent. Since there is no competition and much of the services are essential, these large companies can get away with not providing any or providing inferior customer service, because their customers have nowhere else to turn. If there were competition, this would certainly not occur, because companies that behave in this manner would quickly fail as they lose all of their customers to the competition who provides adequate or exception customer service and effective products.
Tips to skip the automated system and get to a real person
Since we as customers have no alternative but to use these products and services from one or a select few monopolistic corporations, and since hence we are stuck dealing with customer service and automated systems which provide inferior or nonexistent support, then it would be helpful to find a way to deal with it without having to drain our brains wading through endless automated systems only to find ourselves hung up on by the system or redirected back to the original screen, wasting hours of our valuable time.
In lieu of this problem, here is a solution to the automated system dilemma – how to get through almost any automated system without ever listening to it, and get to a real human if it exists.
Keep in mind that you must consider the operating hours, or your effort is in vain. For some services like internet, there should be a 24/7 customer service or technical support, but for others such as cell phone service and bank accounts there may not be a 24/7 support. So keep this in mind and try to call during operating hours if possible.
That said, it is often possible to get through automated systems to a helpful person even when the supposed “department” is closed, in the event of an emergency. For example, some internet may provide 24/7 technical support but not 24/7 billing. If there is a problem with your bill, you don’t want to be stuck without internet for the weekend, for example. Often, while it may take some effort and several callbacks, you can get through to a live person in another department who either personally can help you or who can refer you to a manager with more authority. This is not guaranteed, but if your situation is dire, it it worth a try.
The secret that has worked for years has been certain combinations of keys that will get you through almost any automated system. Years ago, just pressing 0 0 0 would work, but not anymore. You now have to use more complicated combinations. Unfortunately, some companies have wised up and made it even more difficult. For example, some companies have eliminated 0 altogether, and more malicious companies have made an evil system that will automatically hang up on any caller that tries to push 0 to skip the prompts. There is a solution for these as well.
The last word of warning is that in some cases, attempting to avoid the prompts will actually take longer and more effort, transfers, and waiting that just listening to the prompts. In this case, it is still prudent to skip the prompts however, because you only have so much mental energy. If like me you find yourself getting frustrated, annoying, and mentally drained trying to wade through a complicated 10 minute long system of automated messages, then it truly is worth it to take this risk. The reason is because it’s a numbers game, no pun intended.
Why it is best to skip the automated systems
Since most of the time it is faster to get to a real person than to listen to the prompts if you use the right tricks, then the long-term benefit of not losing mental energy wading through tiring prompts is worth the rare occasions when it may take longer; and it is worth the extra hassle of having to be transferred to another department 2 or even 3 times rather than listen to the automated system. After all, many times it’s actually faster to get through after being transferred one or more times than it is to try to get through the automated system.
But if you’re like me, no matter what even if it was faster to listen to the prompts, the mental drain and annoyance and hassle with having to comply with a rigid automated prompt system designed intentionally in the most frustrating way because the companies are hoping you give up and don’t get through, is worth it to just skip the prompts and never have to go through them.
The truth is, most of the time even after you entered all your info, it really doesn’t matter. Because usually it will not work, but even if it does work, 99% of the time the service representative will ignore you entered all your info for 10 minutes and just make you tell it all to them again anyway.
When I came to that realization that it always happens anyway, I ultimately gave up and never, ever, as a matter of principle, ever listen to automated systems anymore. I would rather take 5 minutes trying to skip it with 5 calls than to listen to it for 5 minutes just to have to enter everything 3 times and then repeat it again twice with multiple service reps. I would rather just skip to the service rep part.
So here are the most favorite key combinations that I have personally used for years that work about 99% of the time.
How to get to a real human, a live person for customer service
My favorite combination, which is working less and less but still usually works, is this:
0# 0# 0# 0# 0# …
Since 0 doesn’t work almost ever anymore, 0# often works. The reason is because many times they want you to enter some information and then request you press pound (#) after entering your info. The amount of times you have to press 0# will vary depending on the system. Sometimes a couple times will work, and other times you’ll have to keep doing it.
If you listen, often you will hear, “sorry – sor- sor- sorry, let me get you to someone who can help.” Sometimes you will get “I didn’t understand you” like 3 times, so you’ll hear, “i di- i di- i didn- sorry, sor- sor- sor- ok, let me get you to someone who can help”. It’s actually quite funny. I often laugh, so instead of being frustrated and annoyed by the system, it actually amuses me because I have defeated it. Completely transforms my experience.
Almost always if the 0# trick works you’ll get straight to customer service. The 0# trick doesn’t always work anymore though, so in the rare case it doesn’t work, you can try another method:
1# 1# 1# …
1# 0# 0# 0# …
1# works because usually first it will be “press another number for some foreigh language, or press 1 for english”. Some systems will force you to press 1 for english because they don’t want to allow people to press 0. If you therefore press 1 first and then the 0# repeatedly, sometimes that will work on these systems.
If that doesn’t work and they completely disabled 0, like if it hangs up on you, then you’ll have to try another method. My next go-to combination is this:
1# 1# 1# …
This often works because 1 is english and 1 again is usually customer service or something general. However, again, this won’t always work depending on how evil the corporation is and how badly they want to block anyone from getting the customer service they need.
If 0 and 1 don’t work, the most common last resort is this:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
or in some cases:
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Just press all the numbers. Sometimes the system will hang up on you after the fourth try, usually some telecom company who has a monopoly on the market or a major bank who doesn’t care about their customers. In that case, start typing random combinations like:
1 9 8 0 5 2 7 3 …
I usually recommend to start with 1 but if it doesn’t work you can try something else.
Sometimes, putting in a pound occasionally is necessary because sometimes they want some info and require pound to continue to the next screen. In that cause, something like this will usually suffice, again, random keys:
1# 8# 7# 3# 5# 4# 2# …
The above will take care of nearly 99% of systems. The random keys methods though will probably get you to a wrong department. On a rare occasion, they will hang up on you or force you to call the department directly. Often you could say, “wait! can you tell me which key to press for customer service?” sometimes that will work, but only if you’re lucky. But you won’t have to worry about this much because usually you will go straight to customer service with combinations of 1# and 0#.
There are a few exceptions. The most rare is one I have only encountered once. It would not let me press anything but 0, once; if I pressed anything else it would hang up. Another did not let me press anything or else it would hang up instantly, I had to wait for the message to complete because it automatically transferred to a representative.
How to defeat the most aggressive automated systems
Lastly, the worst number combination method is used by very few but includes Suddenlink. If you are trying to talk to someone outside of business hours, you can’t call sales, just support. During business hours you can skip to sales and then ask for support. But after hours, the automated sales will hang up on you, of course, after a 5 minute automated message designed purely to waste your time and ending with an automated “sales is closed” and a prompt click and hangup. Support will force you to enter your phone number. There is no other way.
Well, I don’t want to enter my phone number so I discovered if you enter a random number like the local McDonalds or something close to it, then it will work. Try to use your correct area code but random phone number. Often, if you enter an invalid number it will say “no account with that number” and hang up on you. But then I just started entering random 9-digit numbers with my area code and pressing # after and it usually worked and I was transferred to a representative who of course asked me to repeat it all again anyway.
In very rare cases, no key combination will work. The most evil of all, student loan providers, have an automated system which will not allow you to press any key. Instead it will say, “oh! you can talk to me like a real person!” On the surface this seems like a convenience. Trust me, it is not. It is an even more evil plot to force you into subjugation and force you to use their automated system.
In this case, sometimes key combinations will work, but if not, then you do have to say something. But you can still skip it! Just think of voice as being like numbers. The point is you don’t want to drain your brain and mental energy using the automated system, so mindlessly say the following. Basically, this is the same as the 0# 0# 0# option except you are using words. Because 0 means “I want a person” and # means “yep I wanted to press that combination”. So using that, you are still doing combinations, just with words.
So the first effective way to get through this is as follows, the word derivative of 0# 0# 0#:
“service yes service yes service yes” …
“person yes person yes person yes” …
If that doesn’t work, try,
“customer service yes customer service yes customer service yes” …
If that doesn’t work, try,
“customer service” [pause] “yes” [pause] “customer service” [pause] “yes” [pause] “customer service” [pause] “yes” [pause] …
This is only needed for the most aggressive systems.
Treat the automated voice system just like a regular automated system. The only difference is now you have to say something, which is annoying but you can still navigate in the same way.
Of course, you will still likely experience frustration, especially if you can’t defeat it the first time. Think of it like an art. The more you do it, the better you will get at defeating the systems with the least about of work and mental effort possible, so your customer service calls consist of pressing a few numbers and just waiting on hold for 15 minutes while you do other things, rather than spending 10 minutes wading through the system and then another 15 minutes on hold waiting for someone to maybe pickup just to have to repeat it all again anyway.
Final tips to getting through to a real person in customer service
Lastly, sometimes none of this will work. The reason is because now companies sometimes have totally fake (yes really!) customer service automated phone systems which do not have any way to get to a live person. They can only and absolutely only be used to get some general automated information. Or, they are designed only to play a message to you and then hang up at the end of the 5 minute message.
In this case which is very rare, you simply have to find a different number. Usually an internet search will work, especially if they don’t have their number on their website. Search something like “get human customer service x company”.
And very lastly, if you are having a real hard time with any combinations, it is recommended to go to gethuman.com and find the company. But don’t use their search – do the search in your search engine, type “get human customer service x company” or “get human sales x company”, etc., it is easier to find the result using a search that using the gethuman search on their site.
Hope this helps! Did this help you? And please share your favorite tricks for getting through to a live person from an automated system, so you can help others!