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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | Obtaining Technical Support | Calling For Technical Support ]

Dealing with the Dreaded Voice Mail System

You may be disappointed to find out that you have a bit of an ordeal before you even before you get to talk to someone about your problem: you have to get past the voice mail system. Originally a good idea, these tools were intended to allow callers to be rapidly routed to those who could help them, and to help manage the large volume of calls many companies were receiving. Over time, these "things" have grown into frustrating monstrosities of nested touch-tone menus and hour-long hold times.

Here are a few things I've learned over the year about dealing with these systems:

  • Stay on the Line: Virtually all of these systems serve callers in the order that the call is received. If you are on hold for 30 minutes and hang up out of frustration, when you call back you'll have to start all over (although calling back at a less busy time may still be a net gain.)
  • Press the Number As Soon As You Know What It Is: Most systems will allow you to press a number on your phone to make a selection at any time. You don't have to listen to the whole menu being recited.
  • Write Down the Key Sequence: If the system has several levels of nested help menus, write down the numbers you have to press in order to get to your final destination. Then you can navigate through the menus quickly if you need to call back later. (Some companies change these after a period of time, so don't expect them to be valid forever.)
  • Pretend You Have a Rotary Phone: If you are having no luck with the regular voice mail menus, or if you want to avoid all the nested menus, try simply not pressing anything when you call into technical support. In some cases this will send you to an operator, on the presumption that you don't have a touch-tone phone and therefore can't use the menus. Many companies are now doing away with this however; if you don't have a touch-tone phone then you are basically stuck. Some are using voice recognition ("press or say 1"...)
  • Use "0" To Try to Get a Person: Some voice mail systems will route you directly to a person if you use the "0" key within the voice mail system. This can be useful if the menu is unclear or you need assistance figuring out where you need to go. (At one time this even gave you a decent chance of bypassing the queues and getting immediate help, but most companies have now plugged this loophole.)

Next: Tips for Dealing With Technical Support People

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