/ 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’).
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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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richard says:
21 April 2013

Haven’t had much problem – I only use companies that have an easy to reach ENGLISH speaking call centre – otherwise I tell them why I’m leaving the company.

Morag says:
21 April 2013

I only use companies with a UK/Scottish call centre. Lots of places have direct dial 01 numbers that get you a real person rather than an automated system. I usually choose the option for other regardless of my query. When I call during very busy periods I select the option less likely to have a queue as internal transfers get picked up quicker.

A slightly niche tip for call centres, but if they have a multi language option it can be a back door in.
For example, some companies in Wales will have a Welsh operator you can dial through to who has less calls to deal with.

Fine for me as a Welsh speaker yes, but I’ve also been told that non-Welsh speakers have used this to get an answer and then jump the queue, much in the same way as dialing up the “Lost card debit card abroad” works.

Kathy Cakebread says:
21 April 2013

I try to avoid phoning them and email them instead, you get a better response that way

You may get an automated ‘We got your e-mail’ reply, but a poor firm will still ignore it I’m afraid.

Priscilla Stubbs says:
21 April 2013

I have tried the silent treatment and occasionally this works and gets me through to a human. My usual trick is to press 1 for every option and I have found this quite successful too.

It also works when dealing with a human. Humans tend not to like ‘gaps’ in conversations and sometimes will say anything to stop the silence.

ANJI says:
21 April 2013

I always email whenever possible as I’ve got a record of the conversation, it’s easily understood & it doesn’t cost a fortune like some calls.

Amy Cartwright says:
21 April 2013

Try to remember that when the call centre operative puts you on hold, even though you can’t hear them they can often still hear you – so be nice (particularly if you are trying to get something out of them, e.g. a free phone upgrade). Having worked in a call centre myself I’ve lost count if the times the caller has let the mask slip when they think they can’t be heard.

or perhaps you can mutter to yourself that ‘if they don’t get this sorted I’m leaving’ ….

Allison says:
21 April 2013

I have a particular experience that always comes to mind when I threatened to cancel our telephone and broadband agreement because are equipment was old and wouldn’t sync with the updates. Unfortunately this took many phonecalls to sort out and on one of these occasions the lady at the other had the cheek to say ‘could you please call back tomorrow as I have to go now as my friend is waiting for me’. I was absolutely speechless. Needless to say that when I was asked ‘is there anything else I can help you with today’ the answer was ‘well, I don’t think you have helped me at all!’
I’m afraid I dread calling call centres as I know I am in for a long call!

Alison E says:
21 April 2013

I try to avoid calling the call centre and instead either email or preferably use their online help session if they offer one (like eBay and apple and bt)

If you do have to call…sometimes it helps to google the company first as there are often sites that list the combinations of numbers you need to press to get through the call centre menu and get you to a human

Louise Comb says:
21 April 2013

I’m not certain this counts as a tip, though in certain circumstances it might. But it is a true story. I once needed to contact someone in an emergency who was working for Barclays Bank, about ten miles away.The only number I could find was in the phone directory, so I dialed their call centre and tried to explain that I needed to contact a member of staff on a personal and important matter. The person kept on asking me for my account number. I must’ve explained at least five times that I don’t have an account with Barclays, and just needed to get through to a specific staff member at a specific branch. Eventually, I gave up and phoned another shop in the same street as the bank, and begged a favour that they would nip to the bank and pass a message on,which they thankfully did 🙂

I’m on BT. Often when I ‘phone their (free) help line I’m asked if I’d mind completing a ‘ Customer Satisfaction’ questionnaire after the call. I usually find that, if I select “Yes”, I get through to a real person almost immediately.

21 April 2013

I actually supervise a contact centre in the motor trade – we have a lot of processes in place to make sure that the customer has the best possible experience with us. My tip would be for the customer to always go into the call open minded as we’re not all the same!

‘Talk softly, but carry a big stick’

Melanie Dye says:
21 April 2013

Don’t press anything when asked to imput a number, nine times out of ten if you do this and hang on you’ll be put through to real person straight away.

Laura Pritchard says:
21 April 2013

When the first ‘tree’ gives you several specific options, ignore them all & sometimes it gives you an ‘Other’ option which puts you straight through to a person.

Julia Spencer says:
21 April 2013

One trick that always works for me is to press the # key on my phone a couple of times. you get through to albeit a random department but then they put you through to the correct department internally.

Neelima Begum says:
21 April 2013

I usually search for companies “Calls from outside the UK” numbers as they tend to be local numbers for those abroad. I find I get through a real person quicker if I do that.

Rob P says:
21 April 2013

I Google the companies number and look for their alternative low-cost numbers. Usually the ‘Say no to 0870’ site, which comes in handy. That way, you skip out the automated systems more often than none, but may end up with a frustrated member of staff. But hey, at least you’d be through to a real person.

Kreenal says:
21 April 2013

Most often you can find 01/02/03 numbers to use instead of expensive 08 numbers by downloading an app for your smartphone from the app store for your device as well as going online to ‘say no to 0870’ website.

Lucy L Richards says:
21 April 2013

Pressing 0 # in quick succession works as a cheat code to most of the banks whereas pushing nothing works for many of the gas, electric and phone companies. (For T mobile push 0 three times.)

Chris Roberts says:
21 April 2013

Ring their sales line, you always get through to someone. Then get them to transfer you to the correct department.