wikiHow to Talk to a Human when Calling a Business

Two Methods:Working with Generic Touch-Tone SystemsWorking with Generic Voice-Response Systems

Are you tired of the endless loop of automated messages you get whenever you try to call a government agency or business? It's often much easier and more efficient to convey what to you need to a real person. Luckily, just saying a few magic words or pressing certain buttons should take you straight to a real human being.

Method 1
Working with Generic Touch-Tone Systems

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    Dial "0". Most of the time, pressing "0" will take you to a person. If it doesn't, press it multiple times. For many systems, pressing it twenty times will do the trick. You can also try mixing it with other symbols in the following step.
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    Dial "*" or "#" four or more times. A lot of companies have a special combination (usually repeated keys) to let their sales reps or field technicians get a hold of someone quickly. If you have the time and a desperate to avoid the robo-call, keep trying with different combinations for a better chance of success.
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    Press nothing and wait. Most systems have support for old "rotary" style phones which cannot submit a silent tone from the newer touch-tone styles. This confusion will register with an operator, and usually will mean being transferred to a human call agent.
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    Choose the option for "new service," or "cancel my account". This will usually connect you to a live operator who can help and/or re-direct your call to the right person. Ask them for their name and ID number first, so that they know they can be held accountable for transferring you properly.
    • Try choosing the option for Spanish. Sometimes you'll be able to speak to a bilingual operator faster than you'd be able to get through to an English-speaking one.
    • Choose the option for checking your account. When asked for your account number, dial anything.[1]

Method 2
Working with Generic Voice-Response Systems

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    Say "I would like to speak to a person". Or repeat "operator" or "agent;" say "I would like to speak with a human being." Since these systems often miss the first 1/4 second of your statement, full sentences allow for a clearer understanding.
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    Mumble. Don't say anything distinguishable. If the system hears you making sounds and cannot distinguish words, it usually asks you to repeat yourself twice, then gives up and sends you to customer service.
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    Repeat "complaint". Do it as many times as you can. Many voice-controlled systems have checks for certain words, so you may be forwarded to a real human being after a mere three or four utterances of that word
  4. Image titled Call 911 Step 5
    Curse. Many programs are trained to recognize swear words and often take you to an operator after you drop an f-bomb or two. Just remember not to carry this method over when you're speaking to the actual operator!
    • Refrain from yelling at the system, as tempted as you might be. Most systems are designed to respond to a regular tone of voice and will only ask you to repeat yourself if you speak loudly.[2]

Additional Resources

Resource Description
The Gethuman 500 Database An extensive list of companies with information on how to get through to a human on their IVR systems.


  • When you get through to an actual person, ask them for a direct number (say that it's in case you get disconnected) so that you can dial it next time, if necessary.
  • Ask the person you reach to note specific details of your conversation to your account file. If you're transferred this should help the new operator get up to speed.
  • Find an amicable operator and be friendly to him or her. Say what you are looking for (and if you have been frustrated by the calling experience, explain your frustration in a gentle manner. Do not attack your new friend.), and often he or she will help you to what you're looking for.


  • If you do choose the option for a Spanish-speaking representative, be aware that you might not get help any faster. Many companies forbid their representatives from speaking to customers in any language other than the one they were hired for, and must transfer customers who are speaking another language to the appropriate representative.
  • If you curse during your conversation with a customer service representative (even just one casual f-bomb), your call may be terminated per company policy.
  • Many companies keep an on-going file for your account. If you are rude or use profanity to a representative your account may be noted and that will flag future representatives when you call in again.
  • Most automated call systems are designed to speed you along to whomever you're trying to reach. Know that by demanding a human operator you may be slowing yourself down.

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