CNN/Money 
graphic
Your Money
graphic
1-800-Annoy me now
12 ways to get out of recorded-message hell and get a live customer service rep.
October 30, 2003: 4:35 PM EST
By Nicole Zeitzer, CNNfn Smart Assets Producer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - It's safe to say we've probably all been victims of automated customer-service hell. I mean, of course, that maze of choices we're forced to listen to when we call a bank or an airline before, hopefully, being connected to a live voice.

graphic
graphic graphic graphic
graphic
CNNfn's Valerie Morris shares tips on how to escape automated customer service and shares a few codes that will help you get a human on the phone.

premium content Play video
(Real or Windows Media)
graphic
graphic

The live operator has increasingly become the target of corporate cost-cutting efforts. Push-button phone menus or virtual agents are replacing human beings.

You might be thinking, "Can't I just press 'zero' and be directed to a real person?" Many companies have dropped that option, leaving the caller no choice but to listen to that dreaded automated menu.

Sometimes, however there are escape codes; a combination of keys that will open the gates to a live voice.

The banking industry

  • If you're a Chase customer you could skip the automated menu by pressing 5 then pause and hit 1-4-star and zero.
  • Bank of America's escape code used to be hitting zero twice, but they may be on to us. Now you must hit zero three times.
  • You can still just press "zero" to get an operator when you call Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual.

The credit card industry

  • American Express customers can hit zero to bypass the automated menu, but be patient. It will ask for your 15-digit card account number, which you may ignore. It will then say "We do not recognize your input," which you also ignore, and you will soon be connected to a live operator.
  • MasterCard holders can hit zero three times for a live voice.

The airline industry

  • You can bypass American Airlines' menu by pressing zero twice, then when the virtual woman says she will need some information, just say "Agent."
  • For a Continental airline live operator press 3.
  • Northwest Airlines press the star key then zero.
  • Southwest Airlines actually has live operators answer every call. If they're busy you'll be put on hold, but there's no automated menu.

PC support

  • If you want to reach a live voice at Gateway, hit zero twice, but be prepared to wait on Hold for a little while.
  • For Hewlett-Packard say "agent" when you're first prompted to speak.
  • We found no magic bullet to bypass Dell, Apple, or IBM's automated voice menus.
 Top of page




  More on PERSONAL FINANCE
Why perks aren't the answer to retention problems
Why are women only saving half as much as men for retirement?
The retirement mistake that could cost you $100,000 or more
  TODAY'S TOP STORIES
Wells Fargo's scandals are hurting its bottom line
Prices are rising faster than they have in six years
Britain probably can't have what it wants with both the EU and the US




graphic graphic