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Customer Service Tricks: How to Escape Voicemail

When I wrote about Money magazine's picks for the top U.S. banks last week, TD Bank was one of the all-stars -- partly thanks to outstanding customer service. Customers appreciate that when they call the bank, a real human answers, as opposed to a long automated phone menu. It's the little things that keep us happy. (A Consumer Reports survey earlier this summer found that 71 percent of consumers were "tremendously annoyed" when they can't get a human on the phone.)

In another new study, STELLAService, which evaluates customer service among online retailers, picked the top Internet retailers that connect callers directly to live operators -- no elevator music; no "press 9 to hear this menu again."
Here are the top 10 from that list, followed by ways to circumvent other customer service lines with automated responses:

  • Grainger
  • LL
  • Nordstrom
  • Neiman Marcus
  • Urban Outfitters
Press "0" at the Prompt. says this works when trying to get through to big companies like Delta Airlines and Bank of America. GetHuman also has a free iPhone app, which lets you know shortcuts to getting a live operator on the phone for many large firms and retailers.

Press "#" at the Prompt. According to this trick also works in some cases when trying to desperately get through to a live operator. It works, for example, when calling Comcast.

Pretend You Have a Rotary Phone. Sometimes you're asked to hold if you have a rotary phone and that may get you to a live customer service rep faster than following the menu and pressing buttons (and waiting and waiting and ...)

Pretend You're a Foreign Caller. Some companies have special phone lines for international callers, which usually aren't as clogged up as their domestic lines. If you need to reach a live rep as soon as possible, try this trick. It's worked for me with Pottery Barn, which has a special number for international callers: After failing to get through the domestic line for more than 15 minutes once, I tried the international line and got through within a couple of minutes.

Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new bookPsych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at and on Twitter/farnoosh
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