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Talking to a Human
September 21, 2005 8:16 AM   Subscribe

"You have selected Regicide..." How to get a human on the phone for dozens of IVR systems. And a bonus page for Amazon, e-Bay, and PayPal.
posted by frykitty (45 comments total)

 
I love the advice for AT&T / Compaq - "No easy escape".

Great resource. Hope this stuff is still valid.
posted by lalochezia at 8:26 AM on September 21, 2005


Excellent stuff
posted by Pretty_Generic at 8:32 AM on September 21, 2005


I have found in the recent voice-recognition type voicemail systems that even if they don't specify it, saying 'Operator' will get you a live person. I think it might be a system default they forget to remove.

It has gotten me through dumbo support several times with several companies...
posted by cavalier at 8:33 AM on September 21, 2005


Why is the first line in your post about Regicide? Isn't regicide the act of killing a king? It dosn't apear on the page you linked too..
posted by delmoi at 8:35 AM on September 21, 2005


I love this.
posted by odinsdream at 8:36 AM on September 21, 2005


In fact, I just used it to get my Verizon deposit back.
posted by odinsdream at 8:37 AM on September 21, 2005


"Why is the first line in your post about Regicide? Isn't regicide the act of killing a king? It dosn't apear on the page you linked too.."

Don't know, but somehow it feels appropriate
posted by donfactor at 8:38 AM on September 21, 2005


delmoi: It's a simpson reference. Homer was interacting with the Police's IVR system.

"... if you know the name of the King or Queen being murdered, press 1."

posted by justkevin at 8:39 AM on September 21, 2005



Voice: Hello, and welcome to the Springfield Police Department Resc-u-
Fone[tm]. If you know the name of the felony being committed,
press one. To choose from a list of felonies, press two. If you
are being murdered or calling from a rotary phone, please stay on
the line.
Bart: [growls, punches some numbers]
Voice: You have selected regicide. If you know the name of the king or
queen being murdered, press one.


Google, do you use it?
posted by keswick at 8:40 AM on September 21, 2005


Google, do you use it?
posted by keswick at 8:40 AM PST on September 21 [!]


Really. Was that really, really necessary? From helpful to prick in 1 line flat.
posted by cavalier at 8:46 AM on September 21, 2005


Was it necessary? No.
Did it feel good? Yes.
Was it deserved? Probably.
posted by keswick at 8:51 AM on September 21, 2005


The Buddha frowns, dude.
posted by cavalier at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2005


To do it if it feels good, press #.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:55 AM on September 21, 2005


#######
posted by keswick at 8:59 AM on September 21, 2005


"Now let's forget our troubles with a big bowl of strawberry ice cream!"
posted by Shfishp at 9:05 AM on September 21, 2005


How do I get the Flying Spagetti Monster on the phone?
I got a meatball to pick with that guy.
posted by Balisong at 9:24 AM on September 21, 2005


Boy, 30 seconds and waiting.... I'm not impressed with Quickbase.com.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:26 AM on September 21, 2005


IVR, or as I like to call it, VoiceJail
posted by markovitch at 9:39 AM on September 21, 2005


cavalier: It wasn't so much rude as a Pulp Fiction reference. That's how I read it anyway.
posted by ODiV at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2005


Pulp Fiction references are NEVER rude. Never. Nope.
posted by weirdoactor at 10:05 AM on September 21, 2005


The start-up company that I work for creates voice recognition systems. If you're on a speech enabled system, they often turn voice recognition off for the initial spewing of instructions, just to make sure that you heard everything. So even if "operator" didn't work right away, wait till it starts giving you the main menu and try it again.

Most systems will have "operator" available as the default phrase, but some places use synonyms like "agent", "representative" and "customer service".

Saying "help" will often get you more information about keywords in the application and will often tell you the specific keyword necessary to reach an operator directly.

Also, many systems have a 3 strikes and you're out policy, where if a particular prompt doesn't understand you for 3 consecutive tries, they'll transfer you to an operator. So, if "operator" doesn't work, try saying a garbage phrase a few times to see if they will transfer you out.

The voice recognition field right now is pretty much at the Infocom text adventure stage no matter what most vendors try to tell you. There are a small to medium set of words and phrases that are actively being listened for at any time. I've actually thought about hooking up a text adventure application to a speech gateway for the hell of it.

cavalier: it's doubtful that "operator" was left in by mistake as a default. Someone would need to program a handler to let the system know where to send the call (and in big companies this is often a lot more complicated than you would think).
posted by freshgroundpepper at 10:42 AM on September 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


Oh come on, ODiV.

Does he LOOK like NOOB?
posted by Imperfect at 10:44 AM on September 21, 2005


I was just in phone-menu hell not 20 minutes ago. The best part is when you suddenly get a dial tone and have to start over again. Thank you for this.
posted by krix at 10:44 AM on September 21, 2005


Operator voice: The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now.
Homer: [screams] Aah!
posted by Lord Kinbote at 10:48 AM on September 21, 2005


I was caught in one of these's phone hell loops one time, and in frustration at yet another menu I barked, "Oh, for fuck's sake!" into the phone. A nice recorded lady immediately came on the line saying, "please hold while we transfer you to a representative..." So maybe you could try that.
posted by Cyrano at 10:49 AM on September 21, 2005


Yeah, I've been trapped in a few of these and chanting "fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck" over again in an agravated tone of voice will usually get you kicked to a human being.

And it's fun and feels good too.
posted by davros42 at 11:01 AM on September 21, 2005


I think Cyrano and Davros42 are really describing accidents of good timing, but hey.

Love the link though.
posted by scratch at 11:09 AM on September 21, 2005


Is it programmed to understand "if someone doesn't talk to me in three seconds I take all my business to your biggest competitor, register <your business>sucks.com" and host an open instance of phpBB there?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:14 AM on September 21, 2005


I used to work as a tech support phone agent for a medium-sized software company, and we had some hil-a-r-iously livid, ribald, and generally unprintable things screamed and yelled into our system while people were on hold. These eventually got converted to sound files and were shared internally, to the amusement of many -- not for the frustration experienced by the customer (which we took seriously), but because some people just. can't. stand. to. be. on. hold. While I agree that IVR systems can be evil (AT&T has perhaps the most evil system I've encountered, and their web site ain't much better), sometimes big companies need big systems like this to divvy up the load.

As more and more of these jobs get sent to Bangalore and/or converted to IVR, talking to a human who actually gives a shit about your problem is much more of a luxury than most people realize. The list as posted is handy, but I bet in a few more years it will seen as hopelessly quaint, like those old phone books with exchange listings.
posted by mosk at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2005


... So, if "operator" doesn't work, try saying a garbage phrase a few times to see if they will transfer you out.

I did this once and three days later FedEx showed up with six gold lame' bathrobes, a basket of those fancy european cheeses, a case of gauze and PVC piping. Boy was I red.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:49 AM on September 21, 2005


While I agree that IVR systems can be evil (AT&T has perhaps the most evil system I've encountered, and their web site ain't much better), sometimes big companies need big systems like this to divvy up the load.

Hogwash. What they need is to staff call centers adequately, with humans.

talking to a human who actually gives a shit about your problem is much more of a luxury than most people realize.

I think mostpeople realize it just fine, hence the list.
posted by scratch at 12:05 PM on September 21, 2005


When I worked for a company with a notoriously bad IVR system [and is listed on the link] I found it strange that people would always try and "#" out or hit 0 for the operator when since there was just one person that answered that line -- during business hours -- and the person would only drop you into the queue you were already holding in. You'd have to wait on hold for several minutes only to be dropped into another queue.

I prefer the IVR things these days. And most of the companies I do business with have good websites or IVR systems to get what I need without talking to a human.
posted by birdherder at 12:06 PM on September 21, 2005


KS: I did this once and three days later FedEx showed up with six gold lame' bathrobes, a basket of those fancy european cheeses, a case of gauze and PVC piping.

Shoot, a feller could have a pretty good time in Vegas with all that stuff!
posted by freshgroundpepper at 12:34 PM on September 21, 2005


SAY "WHAT" ONE MORE TIME! I DARE YOU!
posted by darren at 1:10 PM on September 21, 2005


When I saw a VoiceXML demo at a consulting firm I used to work for, the guys set up a particular client so that their system recognized swear words (a la Cyrano and Davros42). After enough cursing, it transferred you to a live agent.

BTW, a friend gave me a neat number to try if you want to play with voice response systems: 1-800-555-TELL, it's free. The service is called TellMe and you can tell it to get you the weather, driving directions, etc.
posted by GreenTentacle at 1:52 PM on September 21, 2005


I was just talking to UPS and tried "representative". It actually ARGUED with me:

Me: Representative.
Annoying Computer: I would be glad to connect you to an agent, but first please specify an option: "Track a Package", "Send a Package", ...
Me: Track a Package.
AC: Please speak your tracking number.
Me: (the number)
AC: I have found your information. Your package is out for delivery today.
Me: Representative.
AC: Are you sure you need to speak to an agent? I have already given you the latest tracking information.
Me: YES.
AC: Okay, I will transfer you.

I should mention that the package was NOT "out for delivery", it was mysteriously rescheduled according to their web system, and the agent confirmed this. So the computer was not only rude, it was WRONG...

Pathetic.
posted by mmoncur at 2:42 PM on September 21, 2005


I used to work as a tech support phone agent for a medium-sized software company, and we had some hil-a-r-iously livid, ribald, and generally unprintable things screamed and yelled into our system while people were on hold

You mean, companies record people when they're on hold? Uh oh.
posted by LeeJay at 2:48 PM on September 21, 2005


One of the few advantages of speaking Welsh (apart from it being easier to impress the ladies, wrth gwrs) is that it's cheaper for a company like British Telecom pay a couple of real people to handle the half a dozen calls yn y Gymraeg they're likely to get in any one day, than it would be to go through the rigmarole of recording all those damn options. Where a company has a Welsh language line, connection is almost always instantaneous, human, and (eek!) friendly.

Language rights rock.
posted by ceiriog at 4:31 PM on September 21, 2005


Most of the time I'd prefer to deal with a computer than wait for a human.

For the other times, I suppose I'd better start learning Welsh...
posted by pompomtom at 5:33 PM on September 21, 2005


The voice recognition field right now is pretty much at the Infocom text adventure stage

So never, ever say "Ulysses" to one of these things.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:21 PM on September 21, 2005


Tellme's fun. I posted my blog entries with it years ago when I wore my hair in my face, just so I could call the number and have the female robotic text to speech voice read love poems to me.

Also, there's certainly something to be said in favor of talking to live people. I use what might be called an exceedingly polite voice when answering the phone at work (if I have to say that shit over and over it might as well sound good). I pick up directly, but get mistaken for a voice system all the time. My favorite response is, "Are you a machine?" To which I reply, every time, "Yes." Most of the time people are relieved once they figure out I'm a "real person." After that they're usually pretty easy to help. Some of them seem like they just believe IVT is improving at a very fast rate.
posted by carsonb at 8:53 PM on September 21, 2005


also also, i don't know if cursings coinciding with connecting to CSRs would get happy accident status. if I had to use one of these doo-hickeys for my company, and if occasionally I had to help customers with stuff and other, I think I'd want to know when one of 'em was about to lose their shit. that'd be a good time to step in and cut 'em a break.
posted by carsonb at 8:58 PM on September 21, 2005


I take it that saying 'operator', 'representative' or 'agent' would work with UK systems too? When I first saw this I was delerious with glee, until I noticed the list was for US companies.
posted by jack_mo at 8:44 AM on September 22, 2005


The voice recognition field right now is pretty much at the Infocom text adventure stage

I like where this is going.
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:46 AM on September 22, 2005


jack_mo: those should work in the UK to, unless there's some other alias for "operator" that's common in the UK that I'm not aware of. A good system will probably pick 1 or 2 phrases that are considered to be the "most common" for it's userbase and put them in a list of global words that get listened for pretty much all of the time. (though many of the companies in this list are there because they're not "good systems").
posted by freshgroundpepper at 2:16 PM on September 22, 2005


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