/ Technology

How do you beat the call centre?


Calling my broadband provider to cancel should’ve been simple. Yet, after weaving my way through a maze of automated options, I started to think there must be an easier way. How do you beat automated systems?

Working your way through a customer service line can be a painfully lengthy process. Every turn you take seems to lead you deeper into the automated system, with no sight of how many more layers of options lie ahead, and no suggestion of when you’ll get to speak to a real person.

Not only is this process time consuming, but as you may be calling a premium rate number, all the drawn-out options could rack up a hefty phone bill!

How to get through to a human when calling companies

Until quite recently my parents had a phone with a rotary dial. This meant they couldn’t follow the icy commands of the automated robots by ‘pressing 1 for billing options’. Subsequently, by remaining silent, they’d eventually be put through to an adviser. I thought it was worth giving this method a try. Unfortunately my broadband company decided it couldn’t help me if I wouldn’t select an option and the automated voice ended the call rather unapologetically.

And it’s not just a pain when calling telecoms companies. Last year we talked about getting through to a real person when calling your bank and some of you offered up some tips, including Sophie Gilbert:

‘As soon as the robot has started its sentence, I press # repeatedly in order to flummox the system and I get told after a very short time that I have exceeded the number of attempts at entering my card number and that I will be put through to one of the humans.’

I’m sure there are many other ways to get fast-tracked through a call centre line to speak to an adviser. After my attempt at giving them the silent treatment failed, I’m curious as to how effective other methods might be.

So, what are your tried and tested methods to beat automated systems? How do you cut the time of the call and get to an adviser quickly?

If you share your call centre tips, tricks and experiences by Friday 26 April you’ll be entered into our competition to win a 16GB iPad mini! The more creative the comment, the better. We’ll mull over all of the entries and pick our favourite. Good luck!

[UPDATE] – The competition is now closed. Our winner is Louise, who shared her handy tips to beat automated phone systems. An iPad mini is winging its way over to her now!

Which? Conversation iPad mini Competition Terms and Conditions

1. To enter, you must add a comment with your call centre tips, tricks and experiences at http://whi.ch/Yxwy1j Please ensure you use an email address we can contact you on. All comments must be received by midnight Friday 26 April 2013 (the ‘Closing Date’).
2. Employees of Which? Ltd, their families and anyone living in the employee’s household are not eligible to enter.
3. Entry limited to one per person.
4. Our judges will select the best entry from all comments by the Closing Date during the week commencing 29 April 2013 based on what we judge to be the best tips and tricks comment . The winner will then be announced here on www.whichconversation.co.uk. The winner will be contacted by email within 10 days of the name being drawn and the winner must claim their prize within 14 days. Failure to claim by this deadline may result in the prize being forfeited.
5. The prize is a UK 16GB iPad mini with wi-fi at a value of £269. No cash alternative is available. Which? reserves the right to substitute a prize of equivalent value at its absolute discretion.
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iain says:
19 April 2013

A good way of getting around most automated voice machines when you call a call centre is by pressing the hash key on your phone twice. This will cut out the ivr and just take you straight through to a person.

I have used the WeQ4u app quite a lot recently. It’s on iOS and Android and is similar to Say No to 0870 but the calls are all handled in the app. It also has a useful feature where you press *9 if you get stuck in a queue and when you get to an actual person the app rings you back. So you get free calls as well as not having to wait in the queue.

hoppingpinkrabbit says:
19 April 2013

I don’t know if it stops the callers in their tracks but what I do is on answering, do not give away or confirm my name or any details.

This goes as far to say that if they call me “madam” I would even correct them and tell them they are talking to a man (I am a women really). I then give any answers to any questions by tying them up in knots. So answering yes to every question.

Or just saying “maybe” to every question. Another idea is to pretend you are a child. Say you’re 8 years old and this is your phone line, you live alone and you don’t have a bank card because you only deal in bitcoins and cannot take their call because you’re in the middle of an x-box game.

I think trying to get them to not call back by being straight with them doesn’t work. I’ve bee there and tried that too many times to count. I’ve also tried reporting them and trying to get their calls barred from my phone line, but they always manage to bypass whatever obstacles you put in place so the best thing you can do is have a bit of fun, use it to see how far you can build your imagination and how far you can wind them up.

Given any common sense, anyone trying to obtain money or scam you will soon realise your not going to suddenly give in and hand over your cash, you’re wise to what they are doing and they are just wasting their time and if there is one thing a scammer doesn’t want to be doing, it will be wasting their time and give anything away for free.

Organised says:
19 April 2013

Reduce your stress levels and make your life simple by switching your phone, broadband, gas and electric to Utility Warehouse.

Speaking to a human being is quick, and costs nothing if you take out Gold membership. Also, the call centre is in the UK.

And…… Utility Warehouse is a Which? best buy. Why be with any other provider? Cost isn’t everything.

Almost as useful as http://www.saynoto0870.com is http://www.gethuman.com which provides the fastest way to get past the menu robots for companies on its database.

MDSDerby says:
19 April 2013

Just swear at the recorded message. It doesn’t do the slightest good, but boy, does it make me feel better!

sarah says:
19 April 2013

if it’s an 0845 number – i always check for an alternative on saynoto0870.com, and then use my free landline minutes on my mobile
when given the options most of the time pressing the hash key twice (##) gets you through to a human straight away

Use any of or a combination of four of the suggestions others have made:

– Use ‘Say No To 0870’ to avoid premium rate numbers

– stay silent/don’t press anything, and you usually end up being transferred to a human (although some companies just disconnect the call)

– look for whichever department is most likely to want to hear form you – sales, closing account, etc. Sometimes they claim they can’t transfer you, but you can make it very clear you want a non-premium rate number to call

– state you want to make a formal complaint, and you should be able to speak to someone you can hold an intelligible conversation with

As much as I want to rant and curse, trying to stay calm, sounding informed, and just putting my point across clearly and strongly usually goes a lot further.

chris says:
19 April 2013

Just don’t press any keys and wait to drop through to an operator or use the “say no to 0870” Web site to pick an alternative free geographical number, often that will get you straight through and it saves on the phone bill too.

ann says:
19 April 2013

– Where there is a premium rate number I always look on line to see if I can find an alternative (such as say no to 0870)
– when presented with multiple options – try 0 – which often results in transfer to human being to then direct you OR take one of the ‘new business’ rather than a current customer options – just in case they have different staffing ratios for call answering; once you get the human , they can divert you
– once you get a human , if you are not satisfied as you speak to their supervisor – there will always be an escalation process but you need to be persistent; if they don’t want to do this , say you used to work there and know that there is an escalation process and you would like to be escalated please.
– if you have a really big issue, research on line first and get the names of the exec board or non-exec board members and tell them you intend raising your issue with Mr x or Mrs Y and you know that they will then cause them even more work so would be helpful to find a way to resolve and therefore avoid that.

Duncan Lawrence says:
19 April 2013

Use Zen for broadband and telephone

You get to speak to real people, who tell you their name and give you their direct line number for when you need to call them back later on the same subject

Never looked back since ditching BT

Debbie M says:
19 April 2013

Pressing *0 usually gets me through to an adviser without having to go through all the options. Worth a try!

Graeme says:
19 April 2013

No matter which options are given, press 0 (Zero) on the phone – it still quite often takes you out of the loop and through to a person to talk to.

catweazle says:
19 April 2013

If I’m ringing to complain, I always look for the freephone number they use for new customers, give them a surprised “oh have I got the wrong number?” they’ll usually transfer you to the right department for free.

My solution to the problem of reaching a human being at TalkTalk broadband, is to get dressed, go out of my home, walk up the next road, use my Freedom Pass to travel on an above-the-ground Moorgate direction train to Highbury & Islington station, catch a southbound Victoria Line (London Underground) train from there to Oxford Circus station, emerge into the daylight, walk East along Oxford Street, through Soho to Broadwick Street, go into the TalkTalk showroom there, and speak to a knowledgeable and helpful member of staff. Then go home again. Takes a while but it’s still quicker, more likely to reach a positive conclusion, and definitely more satisfying. Healthier too.

toni quandt says:
19 April 2013

To stop me from having to deal with call centre calls, the numbers that mostly ring me up are also entitled “BLOCKED” on my phone- so that when i see the word appear, I know I can get on with my own thing and block the call centre call out!

liz denial says:
19 April 2013

I use the website http://www.saynoto0870.com/ which gives alternative telephone numbers to the premium rate numbers. It’s save me quite a lot as I get free anytime calls to all other number except premium rate ones.

Gabriella Lopez says:
19 April 2013

I have always used Saynoto0870.com

Lisa Pepper says:
19 April 2013

When stuck in a queue, do a dance to the music you’re forced to listen to. Sing along, clap your hands, really get into it. The time will pass so quickly you’ll still be singing and dancing when you finally get through. This will cheer up the person on the other end, who will be much nicer to you as a result. Also you will burn lots of calories whilst dancing. This means that you can reward yourself with a bar of chocolate once the call is over.

This is the best suggestion and should win the iPad. It also made me laugh.

foxyloxy says:
19 April 2013

When I have a complaint, I try the ordinary way ONCE. Then I go to the top. I go on line to find the mail of the Managing Director and lo and behold! I get a quick and helpful response. Now it is a pleasure almost, to deal with Talk Talk.
I would have like to have a chance at the mini tablet but being very old – 91 – I did not manage the links. Ah well….