“Any proverbs about weather are doubly true during a storm.” — Ed Northstrum

Key PadYesterday, the big news before the Virginia Tech incident was the Nor’easter and the morning shows were full of footage about cancelled flights and airport lines. One in particular provided a tip that should be in everyone’s anger management toolkit. Or at least mine!

The show mentioned a website called GetHuman which is the project behind a consumer movement to improve the quality of phone support in the US. Think about the number of people standing in lines at airport ticket counters, simultaneously dialing customer service on their mobile phones and never reaching a live person.

How many times have you called your bank, credit card company, airline, mortgage company, service provider, local utility or insurance company and been stuck in automated call center hell? Well, the customer service Messiah has returned and he’s ready to take your calls. This site will save you time and a huge headache. Time is money and frustration is just an unproductive distraction that I never want to experience again when I have to dial 1-800.

Bookmark GetHuman and you’re guaranteed to get to a real live human being. This is a list of 800 numbers with something for everyone. Once you have the right phone number, here are their tips to get through the automated maze:

1. “Interrupt. Press 0 (or 0# or #0 or 0* or *0) repeatedly, sometimes quickly. Unfortunately the same keystroke does not always work for each company. Many IVRs will connect to a human after a few “invalid entries”, although some IVRs will hangup.”

2. “Talk. Say ‘get human’ (or ‘agent’ or ‘representative’) or raise your voice, or just mumble. The IVR might connect you to a human after one of these key or unknown phrases.”

3. “Just hold, pretending you have only an old rotary phone.”

4. “Connect to account collections or sales or account cancellation; they always seem to answer quickly. First ask them for their name and rep number (so they know you are writing it down, and thus so they are more likely to help you.) Then ask them to transfer you to the department you need. Sometimes they will put you ahead of the queue, although sometimes they will send you to the end (and thus in those cases this tip is useless).”

5. “Toll call. For credit cards, if the expected wait time is too long, hangup and try to call back on their non-toll-free number, as they often have shorter queues.”

6. “Selecting the option for Spanish will sometimes get you a bilingual human more quickly than if you just waited for an English-only operator.”

They continue, “When you do finally find a human, ask them how to connect directly the next time (in case your call gets disconnnected etc), and be sure to tell us so we can then list their number here.”

And when you do finally reach a live human being, remember to be nice. According to 37 Signals, “The nicer you are the nicer they’ll be in response — this is simple human nature.” Click here for their Tips for Getting Good Customer Support!