heat Codes: Saving Time Waiting For Customer Service (Air Date: May 30, 2006)
By Sean O'Shea and J.P. Miles
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
It's an experience almost every consumer has to endure: calling customer service at a large or small company and getting the automated phone system run-around.
Some companies try to humanize their automated helpers, giving them names like Emily and Julie, making them sound like the girl next door.
But despite their perky voices, many of us can't stand being stuck in their automated queues.
"It's what I call voice mail jail, where you're constantly dialing numbers. The problem is, it's an abuse of technology," says Eamon Hoey, a Toronto-based telecommunications consultant.
In the United States, one frustrated technology developer started a website called gethuman.com. With the help of thousands of frustrated consumers, gethuman has compiled a list of cheat codes - ways to subvert automated systems, and get to a human, faster.
Soon, they'll have a list of Canadian cheat codes online.
And it's understandable why this kind of information will be popular. Some companies have gone too far trying to get consumers into a customer service self-serve aisle.
"There is no such thing anymore as a mediocre call centre or contact centre," said Henry Dortmans, a consultant with Angus Dortmans Associates, Inc.
"They're either really great or they're really terrible and it's because of technologies like this."
But through the Global Defenders own research, we've already discovered time-saving cheat codes for some frequently-called companies in Canada.
Take Bell Canada. When we followed instructions and waded through the automated maze, it took us a long time to get through to an agent.
But by pressing four zeros - one after each prompt - we cut through a lot faster.
Compared to spending 1:58 on hold listening to Emily's commands, our cheat call got through in just 29 seconds.
Using their voice system, we also got through faster than by standing in line by repeatedly telling the system to find us an agent. (Don't be shy: keep repeating the word!)
Over at Rogers, the fastest way to get around the voice prompts is to keep pressing zero repeatedly. Times vary, but it's always faster than waiting in line.
But pressing zero isn't always effective to defeat automated systems.
At Fido, the wireless provider, the zero button is useless on its own. Unless you hit the "pound" or "number" key first.
Then, you hit zero.
Cheating the Fido system really pays dividends.
Instead of spending 1:03 getting to an agent, we got through in as little as just eight seconds. Over and over again.
It was the same story at Aeroplan: where you can defeat the voice response system pressing zero five times (but make sure to wait for each prompt). It's a big time saver.
When we followed Aeroplan's voice commands, it took us 1:57 to reach an agent.
But it took as little as 14 seconds to reach an Aeroplan agent when we pressed those zeros.
It adds up to time saved - steps avoided - and a quicker way to a real person.
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
AMERICAN EXPRESS PLATINUM CARD NUMBER
USING VOICE SYSTEM - 1:38
CHEAT BY HITTING ZEROS WITH EVERY PROMPT - :50
AMERICAN EXPRESS CORPORATE CARD NUMBER
USING VOICE SYSTEM - 3:12
CHEAT BY HITTING ZEROS WITH EVERY PROMPT - :58
AIR CANADA RESERVATIONS LINE
USING VOICE SYSTEM - 1:31
CHEAT BY HITTING FOUR ZEROS - :15
AEROPLAN CUSTOMER SERVICE LINE
USING VOICE SYSTEM - 1:20
CHEAT BY HITTING FIVE ZEROS - :12
USING VOICE SYSTEM - 1:58
CHEAT BY HITTING ZEROS OR REPEATEDLY SAYING "AGENT" - :29
(IT'S FASTER TO USE THE KEYPAD)
USING VOICE SYSTEM - 1:03
CHEAT BY HITTING POUND THEN ZERO - :08
VIA RAIL CANADA
USING VOICE SYSTEMN - 1:03
CHEAT BY HITTING POUND THEN ZERO - :04 (OUR BEST TIME!)
ROGERS CUSTOMER SERVICE
USING VOICE SYSTEM - SKY'S THE LIMIT, VERY BUSY SYSTEM
CHEAT BY HITTING ZEROS OR ANY BUTTONS TO CONFUSE SYSTEM: WILL SAVE SOME TIME BY IT ALL DEPENDS ON HOW BUSY THE CALL CENTRE IS.
YOU CAN ALSO INSIST ON BEING TRANSFERRED TO AN AGENT. BE PERSISTENT. DON'T SPECIFY WHICH KIND OF AGENT. JUST KEEP REPEATING THE WORD "AGENT".
Sean's Footnote: The www.gethuman.com site will start to incorporate Canadian cheat codes soon. You can submit information to that site. If you have other cheat codes of interest, let us know as well. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org