Don’t Wait on Hold for Customer Service: There’s a Better Way

Luckily, cunning minds have devised apps, websites and strategies that we can use to get questions and complaints heard immediately.


Internet and mobile phone users may be accustomed to instant communication in daily life, but it can be back to the Stone Age when you call a company’s customer service operation.

Understaffed call centers, customer service numbers with complicated phone-tree menus and representatives without decision-making powers are the top obstacles to customer satisfaction, Consumer Reports’ recent survey of consumers’ experiences found. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said they’ve hung up in frustration before resolving the complaint they’d called about. 

Keep cool

As Scott Broetzmann, president of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, tells CR, “Many companies today are simply awful at resolving customer problems, despite investments in whiz-bang technologies and considerable advertising about their customer focus.”

But there’s no need to drive up your blood pressure. There are ways around the customer-service mess, including apps that help you bypass the customer-service runaround. Here are nine tips for staying sane while getting the help you need — quickly:

1. Use phone tree finesse

Here’s how to reach live help faster when calling customer service:

  • Press “0.” Hitting the “0” button repeatedly on your phone will get someone on the line at many companies. (Inside Edition, however, says the technique has lost effectiveness as companies are dodging this customer work-around.)
  • Ask for “operator.” When dealing with a voice-activated system that wants you to state the reason for your call (but fails to understand your answer) say “operator” repeatedly when prompted to explain the reason you are calling.
  • Select a different department. “Forget support entirely and press the prompt for ‘sales’ or ‘to place an order,’ where companies are likely to roll out the red carpet,” say customer service experts polled by Consumer Reports. At the minimum, someone in another department may be able to direct you to the correct extension.
  • Time your call. Make your call during slow times, not lunch time. Avoid Mondays and Fridays, a company’s busiest days.
  • Vent. Go ahead and yell at the recording. It just might help. Some automated systems are able to recognize the anger in your voice and bump frustrated callers to the head of the queue, Inside Edition says.

2. Reach a real person with GetHuman

Let me tell you a story about GetHuman. I used it for the first time recently when I tried calling a well-known shoe retailer with a question about a return. I dialed the customer service number on my receipt, full of goodwill toward the company. After 10 minutes on hold, the line seemed to go dead. I hung up and tried again. My second call ended 40 minutes later when I hung up because I had no more time to waste. By then I was furious with the company.

I’d read about GetHuman, an online app that shows users the shortest path to a live customer service representative, so I decided to give it a try. At GetHuman.com I typed in the name of the company whose customer service department I wanted to reach. GetHuman replied with the same number I’d been using, but with instructions to say, “Place an order.” I followed GetHuman’s directions. Someone at the shoe company picked up on the second ring and resolved my issue in minutes.

Also, GetHuman offers additional assistance:

Tell us why you’re phoning. We’ll try to help before Chase picks up the phone.

This allows GetHuman to try supplying either an answer to your question from its database or a phone number specifically appropriate to your issue. GetHuman also offers ways to ask a question about a company and read users’ experiences, reviews and tips.

GetHuman mobile apps are available on the Google Play and the iTunes store.

3. Let LucyPhone place your call

Once you finally get through to customer service, there’s still the possibility of being stuck on hold. LucyPhone prevents waiting on the line and listening to elevator music. Instead, the free service instructs you to hang up so you can receive a call back when customer service is on the line.

At LucyPhone’s website or mobile app, find the company you want to contact and let LucyPhone connect you to the customer service line. LucyPhone’s directions:

First we’ll connect you to the company.
If you get put on hold, press * * and we will wait in your spot for you.
When your call reaches an agent, you will get a call back.

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