How to cheat call centresA website offers tips on beating queues

12 December 2005

A website is set to give out tips on getting round companies' automated call centre systems.

Paul English has exposed the secrets to breaking out of US call queues to speak to a human being being on his website .

US consumers can get the low-down on bypassing the computerised call systems of US giants such as Sony. Now, due to demand, he says he's going to bring the so-called 'cheat sheet' to the UK.

Most companies' systems can be beaten by pressing 0, 0#, #0, 0* or 0 repeatedly, according to Mr English's website.

How we cheated system

We tried the tactics to outwit the automated systems used by energy suppliers Npower and Powergen. Four in ten people told us they'd experienced trouble speaking to these companies when we investigated call centres last year.

In our survey of banks, and phone and utility companies, customers said it was difficult to speak to a real person when calling Npower.

But we were able to bypass the answering systems of both Npower and Powergen by pressing 0# repeatedly.

Paul English is urging UK consumers to send their tips for beating call centre queues to his website. He will try the tips himself and then post the effective ones on the site.

Which? Senior Researcher Ceri Stanaway said: 'Which? research shows that having to wade through a string of computerised messages is one of people's biggest frustrations with automated customer service systems. Many queries can't be resolved by pressing a series of numbers - sometimes you just need to speak to a person.'

The frustration felt by consumers left hanging on the phone was illustrated in June this year when an NTL customer was taken to court after managing to hack into the company's automated system while he waited to speak to staff in customer services.

He erased the firm's automated message and replaced it with his own, which told callers in offensive language, that the company wasn't interested in hearing its customers' complaints. NTL took action against Ashley Gibbin from Teeside but the 26-year-old escaped jail because magistrates deemed that the words used were 'offensive' but not 'grossly offensive'.