When getting things done involves making phone calls, you want to spend the least amount of time and money on the horn as possible—and several tricks and services can help you do just that. With the right tones, keypresses, phone numbers, and know-how, you can skip through or cut off long-winded automated voice systems and humans, access web services by voice, and smartly screen incoming calls. Check out our pick of the 10 best telephony techniques for getting more done in less time over the phone.
10. Avoid the cost of calling 411 with GOOG 411.
Instead of calling regular 411 to get information (and an extra charge on your phone bill), Google by voice by calling 1-800-GOOG-411 to get a street address or phone number. Some Lifehacker readers say GOOG 411 works better than others; if you haven't tried it, here's a YouTube clip (courtesy of Google) on how to give it a try.
9. Get out of annoying calls and meetings with SorryGottaGo.com sounds and the Popularity Dialer.
Interrupt a long phone call or meeting (or date!) with two interesting services: SorryGottaGo.com (original post) offers a myriad of sounds you can play while you're trapped on an endless phonecall that give you the perfect excuse to hang up. (Like, someone's at the door, or you're out of change to feed the naggy public phone.) Along the same lines, schedule an interrupting call with the Popularity Dialer (original post) an incoming calling service that can make you seem "in demand." (Do we actually recommend these two services? Maybe not, but it's nice to know they're out there when you're desperate.)
8. PayPal money via voice call.
When you owe your buddy 12 bucks on the dinner bill and you're out of cash, call 1-800-4PAYPAL (1-800-472-9725) to send him the money on the spot. (Your phone must be activated on your PayPal account for this to work). Here's more on how to send and receive money via phone with PayPal.
7. Email yourself reminders, blog, and set Google Calendar appointments by phone with Jott.
"Do everything you'd ever want from the phone" service Jott supercharges your ability to leave yourself a reminder voicemail. Jott will transcribe your voicemail to self and email it to you, as well as post to your blog, add events to your Google Calendar, and more. See Kevin's full rundown on how to get things done over the phone with Jott.
6. Avoid annoying calls with a custom silent ringtone.
If your cell phone supports per-caller ringtones, reader Jim suggests selectively silencing the low-priority incoming calls with a dead air ringtone. Here's how to make a ringtone from any MP3 on your mobile.
5. Ring all your phones from one number with GrandCentral.
Sick of missing calls to the office while you're home or vice versa? Set up a free GrandCentral number that can ring all your phones at once from one number, or selective phones based on the caller—like your cell phone, office phone, and home phone. GrandCentral's got scads of neat customised phone features; see Adam's tour of how to consolidate your phones with GrandCentral.
4. Skip the greeting and get right to the beep with one keypress.
Long voicemail greetings are tedious to sit through, but on many services, specific keypresses can skip you right to the beep. Hit 7 or # to bypass that long greeting, and save time and money on your cell phone bill.
3. Name that tune.
Dying to know what song that is playing on the car radio? Call 866-411-SONG and hold your phone up to the speakers. Just 15 seconds (and a small fee), and 411 SONG will send you a text message with the song name and artist. (This only works on cell phones with SMS capabilities.)
2. Swear like a sailor to skip directly to a human operator.
When that Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system's making you navigate an endless menu of options, put your potty mouth to good use. Some IVR's are programmed to listen for naughty words and speed you along to human help when they hear them. Adam gave this trick a try and dropping the F bomb did indeed zap him right through to a human. We suggest using this trick when you're not within earshot of your co-workers.
1. Trick automated phone bots into thinking your line's dead.
If you've got automated phone marketers or political campaigns or debt collectors ringing your phone at all hours, trick the system into thinking your phone's dead. Add the U.S. Special Information Tone signal for "vacant circuit" to the beginning of your voicemail greeting to automatically unsubscribe your phone number from bot call lists.
How do you save time and money getting things done on the phone? Let us know in the comments.