One of the great ironies of modern telecommunications is that it’s really hard to speak to your phone company. This evening, I called Optus at 8.15pm to ask about a problem with my mobile phone bill. After a 20-minute wait, I reached a person who said that she couldn’t solve my problem, and that she had toÂ put me into another queue. After a further 25 minutes, the phone line cut out. Confused, I called back, and it was then that I realised what had happened. Their operating hours are 8am-9pm, so at 9pm, they just cut off everyone who’s waiting on hold.
I’m sure I’m not the only one to face such high-quality phone service. In the US, some ingenious folks have set up the GetHuman database, listing what you have to type to get a human operator for hundreds of US companies (eg. Sunoco: “Press 00000, then mumble when prompted for an account number”). Their goal is a worthy one: to improve the quality of phone support in the US.
GetHuman even has some generic tips for getting through to a real live human:
- Interrupt. Press 0 (or 0# or #0 or 0* or *0) repeatedly, sometimes quickly. Unfortunately the same keystroke does not always work for each company. Many IVRs will connect to a human after a few “invalid entries”, although some IVRs will hangup. Â
- Talk. Say “get human” (or “agent” or “representative”) or raise your voice, or just mumble. The IVR might connect you to a human after one of these key or unknown phrases.Â
- Just hold, pretending you have only an old rotary phone.Â
- Connect to account collections or sales or account cancellation; they always seem to answer quickly. First ask them for their name and rep number (so they know you are writing it down, and thus so they are more likely to help you.) Then ask them to transfer you to the department you need. Sometimes they will put you ahead of the queue, although sometimes they will send you to the end (and thus in those cases this tip is useless).Â
- Toll call. For credit cards, if the expected wait time is too long, hangup and try to call back on their non-toll-free number, as they often have shorter queues.Â
- Selecting the option for Spanish will sometimes get you a bilingual human more quickly than if you just waited for an English-only operator.Â
When you do finally find a human, ask them how to connect directly the next time (in case your call gets disconnnected etc), and be sure to tell us so we can then list their number.
Is there a similar Australian project? If not, can I inspire you to start one?
Update: For Optus, call 1300 300 937, and press 0 repeatedly. It takes the computer voice about one minute to give up and hand you over to a person.