Get Connected To A Human Operator Faster By Swearing Into Your Phone

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When you're looking for support about the NBN, your download speeds, centrelink, bill payments - basically any situation where you have to physically call somebody for help - the worst thing that can happen is that you end up speaking to an automated call centre. You get stuck in an endless loop of 'yes' and 'no', gradually infuriating yourself more and more.

But there is a way to get through to a real person much quicker.


This tip comes courtesy of Reddit, where back in September a disgruntled customer detailed their experience with the Telstra call centre.

The customer called the Telstra service centre to query a bill payment that was wrong. After wrangling with the automated service, going around in circles, the customer shouted a very Aussie "FAAAARK" into the phone and then, miraculously, the automated call centre service told them they were being connected to a real person.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect though is that one Reddit user popped up to explain that they had been involved in the proof of concept software that detects 'probable anger' at the other end of the line and that software would promote your spot in the queue, pushing you closer to speaking with a real agent.

Getting angry, swearing and raising your voice can actually get you through those automated call centre loops.

Other words, sayings and actions that reportedly work are:

  • 'Complaint'
  • 'Operator'
  • 'Help'
  • 'Person'
  • 'Human'
  • Smashing one button down constantly
  • Pushing zero

Some of the theories tend to suggest that it is the constant failed attempts that will put you through to an operator, but it does appear that everyone has their own way of breaking through the horrible automated call centre. Just be careful: It doesn't mean you'll actually get through to someone who can help you - you may just get put straight back on hold.

It would appear you can even be more abrasive than that though, with another user reporting that calling the automated service a "cylon toaster c***" is their preferred method. Lifehacker cannot confirm or deny if this results in being put through to an operator faster.

Lifehacker Australia is looking to test this call centre hack out in the near future, so look for a video soon! Let us know in the comments if this has ever worked for you


    Yeah, nah. It's far more likely the system just fails-back to connecting to a suitable operator at much the same time as the caller shouts a profanity into the mouthpiece. Much the same as the tone-entry systems behave - not entering any keypad tones will (usually) see it fail-back to putting you through to a human.
    Now if you want real queue-skipping tricks, see if the organisation has alternate dial-in numbers aimed at special needs/overseas customers/minority groups. Those types of numbers will have different call steering rules applied and likely get through to a human much quicker.

    Last edited 07/02/18 4:00 pm

    smashing buttons works. confuse the shite out of the automated system and it just gives up. ive never been on an auto call for more than a minute

    I used to build these, so it really depends on the designer and their level of empathy towards callers, as to whether they have built this functionality into the IVR.
    Some of the prebuilt systems have it as a standard feature, but it's not a detection of the swear word, but the volume, as very few aggravated people swear sotto voce.
    Try cheerfully singing 'you f**king c**t' to the system and see if it places you through any faster.

    Based on the manner of the call (swearing, volume, etc), some IVR's will pre-label the call as a hostile caller, so the agent knows to react in a calming and smooth manner, though bear in mind the call will most definitely be recorded if that occurs.

    If I could clear something up though, the majority of badly built IVR's is due to moronic executives with no clue on human nature, mandating unnecessary amount of granularity in the choices.
    A caller should never have to go through more than two levels, before reaching a human, anything more than that is dicking the customer around.

    Typically, pressing 1, 1,1 etc will get you to the call centre because the systems are typically designed around getting customers off the IVR and talking to an agent, so we design the first option to be for the majority of callers to choose.

    Playing DTMF tones to try and 'hack' the IVR will most likely get you placed through to a fax machine or just disconnected, as the system will think you are a fax machine.

    Even though rotary phones have not been in use for 15 years or so, most IVRs still have detection for them, and will place you directly to an agent if it detects the clicks, based on the logic it is an aged caller with no ability to navigate the IVR system (which is based on either DTMF or Voice XML).
    Not sure how you'd use that to manipulate the system, though give the carrier network would probably not recognise it.

    Not selecting an option typically gets you placed into a presence prompt loop, which will then disconnect you if it does not detect any activity.

    Mashing buttons simply routes you based on the first DTMF tone heard, and typically doesn't get you ahead of the queue. Designers don't have sympathy for face rollers.

    i call crap on this , i have sworn at the system punched numbers and makes fuck all difference

    Swearing is bad, it can put you on a list of abusive customers. You will be transferred to a special rep that handles these customers and they will be in no hurry to help you. Some banks do this.

    I had extensive issues with Telstra for a time and was assigned a Complaint Manager, they told me to just say Complaint when I called in and I would be put straight through to the Complaints Dept ..that also has a better trained and enabled class of support officer.

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