Automated systems used by call centres are the bugbear of many. Hundreds of you have shared your tips and tricks, so what’s the solution to the call centre maze?
When the reason for your call to a product or service provider is to make a complaint or report a problem, being held on the line listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 for half an hour probably does little to pacify you.
Our research into broadband providers found that it can take up to eight minutes to get through to an operator at Sky. Even when you do get through to a real person, your time spent hanging around on the phone is not necessarily over; it took 17 minutes for one BT advisor to answer some simple questions about contracts and packages.
The time spent on the phone can not only feel like a waste of time, but it can be costly too – often helplines are premium rate numbers. Many of you helpfully suggested heading to saynoto0870.com to search for an alternative number and avoid racking up a large bill.
Avoiding the call centre
Some of you suggested avoiding the call centre altogether. Our iPad Mini winner Louise suggested that ‘publicly naming and shaming is the way to go’ by complaining via the company’s Facebook page or on Twitter. Tim Bain also recommends using social media:
‘I posted photos of the abysmal Virgin Media installation in my garden on their Facebook page after they took very little interest and I woke up the next day to find they’d been round and fixed it already. All publicity isn’t good publicity.’
Foxyloxy tries the phone line once, but then goes straight to the top:
‘I go online to find the mail of the Managing Director and lo and behold! I get a quick and helpful response’
Online chat is also a popular tool used to avoid calling a helpline. Apparently it’s often effective and as Jamie Lewis points out ‘the whole conversation can be saved and stored for future correspondence’.
How to get through, fast
For those queries that require talking to someone over the phone, there are plenty of suggestions for getting through to a human being quickly. Laura Caraher had some useful insights for Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Sky customers: ‘If you press 0 or # key in quick succession that also gets you put through instantly.’ Jo suggested getting the software into a tizz by ‘having a good old number bash to let out your frustrations’.
Tips for getting past voice recognition software were particularly ingenious. Claire Toplis shouts ‘I am Spartacus’ at voice recognition systems and usually gets through to an operator. Marcus sees himself as less of a gladiator and more of a rapper as he follows Missy Elliott’s advice to ‘put your name down, flip it and reverse it’ – by saying his name backwards the automated system struggles to understand him, putting him straight through to an advisor.
Skip to the shortcuts
Nigel Clarke, who has created the website pleasepress1.com, also commented on my Conversation. Nigel has spent seven years building a database of shortcuts to help people skip the options and immediately enter 1-2-4-2 or whatever the relevant shortcut may be. He would like firms to publish such shortcuts, so that automated option systems can be more easily navigated by customers.
Do you think companies should publish their shortcuts as Nigel suggests? To me, it does seem a better way to beat the call centre than say, calling up the sales line, as you’ll be taken straight to the correct department for your specific query. But do you think that it’s still too arduous a process?