Guide to Tricking Voicemail Systems

March 4, 2011

The answer, as far as reaching a customer service rep by phone, for many companies, is “Maybe. If you want it bad enough.” While we use the Internet for many tasks precisely to avoid interacting with a human, there are times, usually when we are frustrated, flummoxed, and/or irate, when only a voice on the other end will do.

Usually keen to the fact that when the phone rings, it’s often a frustrated, flummoxed and/or irate customer, who has exhausted all other options in trying to get their question answered or issue resolved, an unfair amount of companies make the process of getting to a human difficult, if not near impossible.

While nothing works all the time, there are counter-tactics you can employ to jump the queue and talk with a person. These tips come from,,, and my own experimentations over the years.

  1. Habla espanol. Pressing the option for “Spanish” sometimes gets you connected more quickly, to a bilingual agent. Then…speak English! Or Spanish! Just speak! Once you have him, never let him go.
  2. Pretend you’re the last person in the world with a rotary phone. It’s amazing that some companies still list this as an option, but if you don’t press ANY options, there’s a decent chance you’ll get connected to an operator.
  3. Speak gibberish. Or mumble. Or speak in a whisper. Voicemail systems will never tell you that you need diction lessons. Instead, they will apologize and connect you with an operator. Where you can break out the King’s English.
  4. Pretend you want to give them money. If you press the option to “make a payment” chances are you’ll become an instant VIP and have your call answered quickly. Then employ the ol’ bait-and-switch and voice your issue instead.
  5. Be a robot yourself. Just keep saying “agent” or “representative” over again until the system either hangs up on you or puts you through.
  6. Plan for future angst. When you finally are talking with a person, ask them for a direct number in case you’re disconnected. Then use it for all future grievances.
  7. Call for directory assistance. Ok, don’t actually “call” for it. Go to sites such as or, where they list company numbers that connect (hopefully) to a live one.
  8. “O” solo mio. Only press “O” no matter what you’re instructed to press. Sometimes you’ll get an operator, sometimes you’ll get disconnected. We say it’s worth taking that chance.
  9. Call the 800 #. Or Don’t. One site suggests you call the toll-free number because if the call is on the company’s dime, they’ll answer faster. Another site says the non-toll free number has a shorter wait time simply because fewer people use it. We report, you decide.
  10. &%^$ the bastards! The folks at swear (no pun intended) that swearing sometimes gets you bumped up, because the voice-mail system can detect your anger and the company wants to make nice before you go down there and personally pay them a visit.

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