Need To Speak To A Human?

Flames? Giant cauldrons of  tar? My vision of  Hell has been upgraded to an endless voice mail loop with robotic voices directing me ever deeper into the maze until, finally… disconnected. As a short sale specialist and all-around human American, I do , like millions of my fellow Americans, spend frustrating hours on hold, and, when prompted, repeating the same information until I seriously want to scream.

So, it was with great pleasure that I came upon a sneaky, geeky way to find a human quickly without suffering through the robots’ voice maze. Why wait, repeating your information over and over or plugging in the same credit card number or ZIP code? Why not GO DIRECTLY  to a human? What an amazingly novel idea. It reminds me of my childhood, long before anyone ever dreamed of voice mail or even answering machines. Only humans answered the phones in those days. We didn’t know then how good we had it.  So, here’s how to get back to the future once again.

Here’s the first fix. This doesn’t always work because different companies use different systems. One method that works with many systems is to simply push  the zero button at every prompt. Eventually, the system understands what you want and, voila–a human.  If it’s an Interactive Voice Response System [IVR], which operates by voice, then saying “Operator” at every juncture may produce the desired effect.  Sometimes the word it understands is “Live Help.” You could try “Customer Service Representative”, but your jaw might get locked up and, anyway, the system is unlikely to understand. I’ve had my Android phone for 5 months now and it understand my voice commands only about half the time.

To complicate matters more, certain companies, especially big banks, are so enamored of their salary-saving voice-bots that you have to know their secret code. For BofA, it’s press the zero button twice right after you hear the menu the first time. Bingo. For Chase, press 5, wait and then press 1, 4 and zero.

Obviously, we can’t be expected to remember everybody’s secret human-seeking code, so, luckily, we have a great website, Somehow, the folks over there have spent endless hours figuring out the secret to getting a human. The website also lists average wait times. It’s infuriating to wait on your time to talk to billing about how you are going to pay the company; the company should compensate your time. One of the worst? Facebook.

One neat trick that also works sometimes if you don’t have time to consult the website. Click the button for Spanish and then when, you’re in, back out and choose English. You’ll be in the Spanish-language area, but all the humans there are bilingual and the wait is much shorter.

Also, if you are dealing with an IVR system which is one of my pet peeves–I really hate having a robot tell me what to do!–another website called Fonolo can dig deep for you and get you directly to the end where the human is stationed. It’s an interesting approach–check it out.

Sometimes, of course, even after you get the human, you are still put on hold for a long time. I run into this frequently with banks. And, at the end of the exhausting voice maze and hold times, when transferred at least half the time the call is disconnected…GRRR. So, enterprising humans have come up with another workaround for that with a website called LucyPhone. When you are put on hold, press “***” so you can disconnect and Lucy will hold for you and call you back when the human returns. So much for “unusual call volume.”

It seems that modern technology is doing everything it can to disconnect us from each other despite the plethora of social media and ways to connect. When caught in the metallic corridors of barren techdom, we creative humans always find a way.  Sanity is back!

Thanks to Bob Rankin’s Tourbus for info used in this post.

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