When you're caught in automated telephone-support hell, there's a magic word you can utter to ensure that you're quickly routed to an actual human being: the "F-bomb". "I was having some trouble with my (older) laptop and wanted to order a new keyboard to fix it myself," a Reddit poster writes. "After exploring every option …
Re: Eleven!!@: Boris the Cockroach
"PS If you are reading this VM.. for gawd's sake write some better scripts to follow in your hell desk"
Err, no, Instead of rewriting scripts, perhaps Virgin Media could bring the support back to the country you wish to support, so that I have to deal with people who natively speak my language and understand all the subtexts and cultural references. And the mythical locals might be paid a salary sufficient to get somebody competent, rather than some poor foreign blighter working at 03:00 local in somebody else's langugage with frustrated and unhappy customers, being paid peanuts because that's the best job they can get.
Mind you, when I recently called to tell VM that I wanted faster broadband and a price cut, the customer retention team was UK based, and were most helpful.
It pays to be nice
The tactic described here may or may not work. But I'd like to offer a counterexample. Some years back, I was having trouble with my 2007-vintage 24" iMac. First the Pioneer-built optical drive went wonky. Then a year later the Samsung-built screen developed odd shadows (probably a backlighting issue). Apple fixed these problems under my AppleCare extended warranty. But when the replacement screen began to show the same problem, I called them up again.
Now, I worked in tech support for many years, so I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of a support call. So when I need to make that call myself, I go out of my way to be calm, patient, and cheerful. I describe the problem succinctly, and when the support person asks me to go through a diagnostic sequence, I follow directions--I don't snap "I already tried that, dammit!" even if it's true. And as I run through the sequence, I give a running description of exactly what I'm seeing on the screen, so the support person can stay oriented.
Here's my point. After running through some basic tests, the support guy I was talking to said, "You know, I don't usually do this, but... you've had several problems with this machine. And I see from your file that you've been unusually helpful and cooperative in previous calls. I think we owe you a new iMac." I ended up getting a brand new 27" 2010 iMac--a major step up from my old 24" 2007 model--for free.
The moral is that if you're particularly nasty or particularly nice on a support call, Apple is likely to note that in their record of your call... and being nice can pay off big-time. Just something to think about before you start cussing out the voice-menu system.
Re: It pays to be nice
I'm glad that worked for your Mac. I tried that with my Dell Latitude D430 with a 1.8" hard drive. I was on my third hard drive under warranty, the previous started making loud clacking noises and the system would hang, occasionally bringing about a BSOD. I tried being cheery with Dell up to the point where, even though the drive's own SMART was telling us it was dying, they refused to replace the drive as the increase in the number of bad blocks on the drive didn't trigger Dell's diagnostics (and as I later found from the Office of Michael Dell, Dell does not work pro-actively.) At that point I lashed out and got my replacement hard drive.
Up until last December. In September I decided I would go through the regular process of troubleshoot, diagnose, send out a tech to replace a part, repeat. After about a dozen tech visits only to encounter the same problems, tech support offered me a system replacement. Unfortunately, the system they sent me came with no expansion capabilities while I have a stack of PC cards which I use regularly (I know, outdated, but the system even lacked a PC Express slot.) I had to send it back and spoke with the tech who "owned" my case about a more viable replacement, which we found but I had moved into a period when I could not afford to spend more time and an occasionally crashing computer was better than no computer for a week.
In early December I phoned in again and asked if we could continue the process. I was handed off to the Office of Michael Dell where a very nice lady told me Dell would not be replacing my laptop, I would be required to send it in to the depot to check, and I could be without it for up to two weeks. My warranty was due to expire on January 3 or 4, and I was desperate to just get a good hard drive, so I complied. I received it back within a week to discover Dell's depot had it in-hand just long enough to reload Vista (and not all the drivers, mind you,) box it and get it out with the day's FedEx, along with a note stating that no problems had been found. Of course, the hard drive SMART still showed increasing failures.
At this point I realized I wasn't getting anywhere and would just have to wait for the drive to fail, so I went online and purchased an extension to my warranty. To which I later that day received a call from Michael Dell's office telling me my system was no longer qualified for a warranty, my order was cancelled, and I would be receiving a refund.
Fine. So I took my refunded money and went on eBay, found the same model hard drive but faster (a "C" version at 5400 versus the "B" version at 4200) and LO! A better hard drive which hasn't given any signs of failure in almost a year, much better than the previous provided by Dell.
My next laptop won't be from Dell. As well, after relating this experience to several customers, I've been able to move them away from Dell and in some cases have made laptop sales myself, pretty well making up for the aggravation I experienced.
Paris, does not qualify for a warranty.
Re: It pays to be nice
Bing nice works once you have actually got to a real person - the problem is getting stuck into the - seemingly - never-ending loops of machine responses. I used to be OK with pushing numbers on a key-pad, but then when everyone started using one-piece or cell-phones, (which meant you had to take the phone away from your ear to enter the numbers) they started getting you to use words. What a nightmare! It seems as though voice recognition is still not all it is cracked up to be....
Re: It pays to be nice
That's correct to an extent, we were certainly expected to note if a customer was being abusive. Noting particularly obliging behaviour less so, but I did see that once or twice.
I expect you were talking to 2nd line support at that point, us 1st line peons weren't allowed to make that kind of decision (even when we -really- knew it was warranted).
Re: It pays to be nice
This is why I build my own desktops. With desktops, buying the components individually no need to send back full systems and you can usually get better individual warrantees.
For laptops, I will usually deal with companies and not buy extended warrantee. Except in case of motherboard failure (havent had occur) usually you can buy most replacements cheaper then what you spend on hassle of replacing during the "extended warrantee" period and replace yourself, and get it done quicker.
Re: It pays to be nice
You show me where I can get a replacement motherboard or CPU for a decent Toshiba Portege 13" laptop (betwen 2 and 3 years old, purchase cost of ~£1000) for less than the £130 that the 3 year NBD onsite support warranty will cost, and then I'll believe you.
The problem you describe only really applies to consumer-class machines. Buy business-oriented machines and not only do you get better build quality, you also get support worth a damn. (You need to know what companies you're dealing with, however, but that goes as much for support as for initial product choice).
So, Belgium is out of the question then?
Same sort of approach works in the Apple Stores too...
Start to raise your voice and all of a sudden several "Geniuses" (sic) will descend from the ceiling to make everything better.
What was "I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do." suddenly becomes vastly more accommodating.
My wife remembers being told to refer to Verizon when she was ringing up to complain abut service on her Nextel subscription as a way of getting a faster response. You can guess this is a few years ago now (does anyone remember Nextel?), but maybe you could say you wished you had bought a Samsung and see if you get a better response.....
These voice recgonition things are shit
I recently had the displeasure of using Virgin Credit Card's one, that to my surprise could understand perfectly all the complicated stuff I said, aside from the word "yes" when it asked for confirmation that it had understood.. No options to back out of the system either, or even - blindingly obvious I would have thought - provide the option to type numbers instead, or "press 1 to confirm".
BT's genius implementation on 152 is great as well. "I'd like to report a fault on an ISDN line" is not within it's vocabulary, and it repeatedly insists that you must say something it understands. I always end up with it completely misunderstanding me, then apologising to whoever I do get through to, who usually punts me in the right direction.
I had a training course recently where some crazy fool said these things are the future of callcentres. Only if clueless implementation managers fall for the emperors new clothes big sell from Massive Telephone Services Company Limited. People have been doing voice recognition for years and it will just never ever work at anything like an acceptable rate, until we start reaching technology that gets near emulating however the brain does it.
How about actually training and looking after some people that can speak and understand English, and can comprehend and deal quickly with multiple types of user problem, so they can get the customer off the (freefone?) telephone lines ASAP, with them satisfied and hopefully therefore a returning customer who will go out to the world and extol the virtues of the great service they just received?
They'd additionally save the cost of all the voice recognition snake oil system that no doubt piss off a slice of their customer base so badly that they go elsewhere and usually require a new and better one be bought every 2 years or so because they failed to meet expectation.
Or am I missing something?
What's the magic word?
Actually, and I apologise to all call centre types for this, you can then swear again to get your call escalated at quite a number of companies.
"I'm sorry sir, you'll have to return the product."
"I just need a replacement cable for fucks sake."
"I don't have to take that sort of language, sir, please wait while I transfer you to my supervisor."
And supervisor has the new cable posted out that evening...
Re: What's the magic word?
although if it gets escalated too high and you swear you get sent to hell and you can't even collect the £200 on go
Re: What's the magic word?
Unfortunately, from bitter experience, there are some call-centres, especially in the US, where swearing just gets you hung up on.
I had a particularly bad experience from GE once concerning one of their dishwashers. It was in a rental apartment, so I didn't even own the damned thing. I had reported to my landlord that the dishwasher was faulty. You could start it running fine, but about half way through the cycle, when the whole thing started getting vigorous, the dishwasher would turn itself off. You could usually start it again by vigorously banging the door around the handle area. It was pretty obviously a broken microswitch on the door handle, but because it wasn't my dishwasher I reported it to the landlord. And because it was under warranty, the landlord reported to GE.
GE technician number 1. I had requested that the tech phone me when he was about 1/2 hour out so I could meet him at the apartment. He phoned when he arrived instead, the super let him in. By the time I got back home 15 minutes later, he had already left with "no fault found".
GE technician number 2. I got the landlord to escalate back again. This time I stayed home for half a day to be there when the technician arrived. I also ran the dishwasher and left it at the point where it started bleeping with the microswitch door fault. The technician arrived and said, "it is badly installed". I told him that it had nothing to do with the installation and recommended that he pull the unit from under the work surface and the fault would still be there. He pulled it out, and of course, since it had been disturbed the fault wasn't there straight away. Not listening to my demands for him to wait a few minutes until it failed, he walked out with "no fault found". As the lift door closed it failed.
Third time unlucky. I reported it again, and told them that under no circumstances would I allow the same tech in my house again since he was both rude and incompetent. They made a new appointment, and despite staying home for 1/2 day again, no-one turned up.
Fourth time? I called them back a further time, and this time the drone on the phone told me that the technician had reported "no fault found" and therefore there could not be a fault. My dishwasher worked perfectly. I expressed some degree of incredulity to that, saying that it was definitely broken. The phone drone made it absolutely clear that the technician was more qualified to decide whether there was a fault or not than I was and that I was therefore just plain wrong. The fact I'm a professional engineer really was irrelevant. Or the fact that I'm a consumer with a broken warranty device. I then got angry and swore at her, at which point I was simply hung up on.
Fifth time? I put the onus back on the landlord to sort it out. They gave up on GE and called a local repair guy. He came out, took one look at it and said, "the door microswitch is broken". He then opened up the front, saw the broken pin that stopped the microswitch from rotating out of position, and put in a screw to replace the feeble plastic pin. It cost the landlord about $250 for the call-out though.
The result for me. I vowed to never knowingly buy a GE product as long as I have a breath in my body. I even go as far as actively researching which engines airlines buy and if I have a choice, I'll fly on a Rolls Royce engine instead of a GE one. Hell, they even make some of the most egregious problems of BT call centres look good.
So my advice, don't rely on swearing to get you noticed. But also, don't buy from GE and expect your warranty to be worth anything other than hassle.
Re: What's the magic word?
Landlord should really have sent GE an invoice
Re: What's the magic word?
> I even go as far as actively researching which engines airlines buy and if I have a choice, I'll fly on a Rolls Royce engine instead of a GE one
You mean like this one: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/05/qantas-a380-engine-failure ?
Re: What's the magic word?
That's a great story. I feel your pain.
I had a similar experience with OneTel who were trying to rectify a broadband fault. Stuck in an endless loop of incompetence.
Doesn't work with HMRC
I was swearing for Britain on a recent call to the thieving b*stards at HMRC recently. Didn't work, but I could've sworn the recorded message was laughing at me with the "and I repeat, that number is 0845..."
One time, in band camp....
At a client's office I was on AT&T's support autohell, the damn thing kept telling me it couldn't understand "I need help" - rinse and repeat about six times when I finally mustered my best Indian accent and said "I am needing help"- immediately connected to an 'agent' named 'Mark" (why are most Indian call centers populated by 'Marks'?)
I don't understand why automated voice recognition is so terrible
I have a rather easy to understand voice, but even when I try to enunciate clearly I can't make single words like "representative" understood when I call my stupid credit card company. Yet I can tell Siri "give me a reminder to call about my Visa card tomorrow morning about 10" just speaking normally and it'll get it right first time. It isn't as though Siri has some special magic no one else has, everyone's voice recognition works pretty much the same more or less (the differences between them are more in how well they understand grammar and slang)
Perhaps these call in systems are using the same crappy 90s software without any updates, seeing as they can't even clearly understand a single word. I can't imagine people trying to trying to SPEAK their 16 digit credit card number, the one time I tried it had it so wrong it was laughable - which is sad, considering it did render everything I said as digits, so it wasn't like I said "8" and it thought I said "H". There were only 10 possibilities and it was still way off. Luckily every system I've ever had to deal with will accept DTMF tones for numbers, which preserves my sanity for a bit, until you get to the place where it insists you must tell it what you want next with no option for pushing buttons on your phone.
I've used the f-bomb trick for years on these systems, BTW. Not because I heard of this trick, but because I got so goddamned frustrated that after screaming the word I was trying to get it understand in the phone for the fifth time I lost it and went into a string of profanity and found the secret for myself. Some words work better than others, I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to find out which ones yourself :)
Isn't it true ANY word not in the system's vocabulary will work?
I may be wrong, but I think MOST (though certainly not all) systems will transfer you to a representative if what you are saying is unintelligible, i.e., the word you use is not part of the voice recognition system's "vocabulary".
If so, it's possible the f-bomb IS in some systems' vocabulary, along with - for all one knows - an entire dictionary of Verbalizations Associated With "frustration approaching the point of homicide, suicide, telecide, or recording the attempt and uploading it to YouTube as "Voice Mail HELLLLL!!!!!!! [F-bomb] YOU [insert company name here]!!!!!!!!!"
I base the above partly on a limited knowledge of a few voice mail systems, and partly on the spectacular success I've had reaching a human being simply by reciting Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky". Without pausing. In its entirety if necessary.
My only failures have been with systems apparently flow-charted to eliminate f-bomb and gibberish nonsense, in which all of a number of increasingly terse variants on, "I'm sorry, I'm afraid I didn't get that . . ." eventually lead to, "We seem to have a problem. Please try your call again later."
However, if my understanding of the underlying algorithms is entirely off the map, please feel free to respond with courteous corrections and/or vicious mockery, as usual.
in addition to # * 0
Multiples of the above is good too (5 or so in a row)
Failing that, try and not giving the system any input at all.
Alternatively just go for plain incompetence and keep mashing at everything for ages.
Less of a "breakout" and more of a route to anywhere, then get the human to pass you on.
Polite conversation can also have the desired effect
I was recently called by a nice Indian-sounding man who told me my computer was virus infected and he was calling to help me fix it.
While waiting for my Linux computer to start up he told me his organization was based in Liverpool. Not the country I live in, but 10 miles from my birthplace.
I politely mentioned how as a child I enjoyed making sandcastles on the beach at the pier head and asked what part of Liverpool he was located in,
Re: Polite conversation can also have the desired effect
We simply asked "Which computer? Do you have a MAC address?"
That question gets them so confused!
... that if you drop the C bomb, you get through to Steve Jobs in the afterlife.
Worth making sure it's an automated system you're talking to and not just an answering machine.
My local doctors had inadvertently left the answering machine on during office hours meaning that when I called to make an appointment I got a message saying if it's an emergency call this number, otherwise hang up.
I got pretty frustrated and vented, not realising that my invective was played loud and clear to the full waiting room and receptionist. (who was busily trying to switch the thing off).
I received a call from them pretty soon after i'd left my message from an apologetic, but obviously unimpressed receptionist and my welcome was decidedly cool when I went to my appointment!
Try that with Sony's Laptop support on 0870 240 2410 or 0870 2408 unless you put the serial number in you cannot speak to a human. If the SN is out of warranty then the line hangs up.
I was hoping it would work by saying "maybe I'll buy an Android" but I think the headline might draw a bit too much attention
"JUST BOUGHT AN APPLE PRODUCT? NEED SUPPORT NOW? DROP AN A-BOMB"
- Product Round-up Smartwatch face off: Pebble, MetaWatch and new hi-tech timepieces
- Geek's Guide to Britain BT Tower is just a relic? Wrong: It relays 18,000hrs of telly daily
- Geek's Guide to Britain The bunker at the end of the world - in Essex
- Review: Sony Xperia SP
- Dell's PC-on-a-stick landing in July: report