IVR Cheat Sheet

December 23, 2005 in 3 out of 5 stars, A website

What is it?

IVR Cheat Sheet: Simple to follow instructions that will get you to a human operator at major companies (on their 1 800 numbers).

Who makes it?

Paul English

Why is it the killerest?

Because it tells you exactly what you need to do to get to a human being. No more getting your tail kicked by a robot, and no more wasting your life away trying to find the correct menu item. (Especially when you know you need to talk to a human.) Entrepreneurs don't have time to waste pressing buttons.

See also the hard to find 1800 numbers

What could be improved?

Nothing. More listings would be great - but this is killer as is. I think most people would happily PAY for this resource. But it's totally free.

How much does it cost?

100% Free


Reviewed by Michael K. Campbell

(via the excellent Lifehacker.com)

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i found your site via stumbleupon, i work in the IVR industry, have done for over 13 years...

it's ironic that people want to bypass these systems all the time. i admin there are some truly awful examples of IVR out there but often it's faster to get what you are after from the IVR and if you are calling even a mid-size organisation the chances are that the IVR will direct you to the right agent if you actually bother to listen and respond appropriately!

with speech recognition systems it's almost pointless to try and bypass them, a well designed solution will actually improve your calling experience... remember that any decent system will have consolidated all the best bits of the best agents and has been developed by people far smarter than most call centre agents!

have a nice day.

robert swift.

Posted by: robert | Dec 24, 2005 7:03:16 AM

Well Robert, here's the thing. First of all, IVRs are invented for 1 purpose. To save companies money. Now I can fully appreciate that as a motive, and I'm not against cost savings. However, my experience is that IVRs are worthless layers between me and the person I need to talk to. They wouldn't have such a bad rep if they didn't slow me down. I don't need to enter my account number 3 times into an IVR only to have the idiot at the other end refuse to help me until I give it to them again. Plus, I never (ever) call those places unless I need the kind of help that only a human can offer. For me, there's the IVR cheat sheet.

The idea of IVR's isn't bad, the execution is. People don't have an irrational hatred of them, they blow.

Posted by: Carson McComas | Dec 24, 2005 8:49:34 AM


Sorry. I don't buy it. And even supposing that a machine CAN render better service than a human - the number of people who prefer that would probably only fill a large life-boat.

The simple fact that a cheat sheet exists, and gets bandied about on the web should be an indication that these systems are not well recieved.

And frankly - I'm not convinced that big corporations employ these systems to be SUPER helpful to their customers. They do it to cut money, and I'd almost BET that they HOPE that some people will just get frustrated and not bother to contact them.

Furthermore, if these systems are implemented (note i'm not dissing the technology - it's amazing stuff) so well... why would there need to be something like:

To be honest, I wouldn't have a problem using these systems if they worked. Actually, no. That's a lie. I instantly hate talking to a machine. It tells me one thing: We got your money - screw you! I imagine most people feel the same way.

Posted by: Michael K. Campbell | Dec 24, 2005 10:21:26 AM

My favorite automated service story involved Verizon. I used IVR to schedule a service appointment and got an unreasonable all-day date with the comment that this was the best possible date from any source. I then called a live operator and got next day service with a narrow time window.

Of course, the biggest IVR lie is: "Please listen carefully as our options have recently changed".

BTW, the technology to use the IVR-captured account number to immediately pop up your account on the CSR's screen has been around since the early 1970's. The companies just don't want to take the trouble to put it in.

My previous employer actually tried popping up account info based on the ANI (calling phone number). It worked, but we turned it off because it gave customers the creeps.

Posted by: MikeG | Jan 20, 2006 9:49:11 AM

I too work in the IVR industry. As much as I could use industry marketing jive to expound upon the benefits of IVR systems, the fact is that they do piss people off, and I regularly "pound out" of the systems to get to an operator. While they do allow people to access info or do things through the phone, which can be very helpful to people, I think most people know before they make a call whether or not they'll need to speak to a human.

One of the IVR companies (Angel.com) posted a response to the Cheat Sheet when Paul English really started to hit the mainstream. Their "IVR Cheat Sheet for Businesses" (http://www.angel.com/ivrcheatsheet/index.jsp) is fine, (I especially like how they jump on the bandwagon and tell businesses to always give an easy way to get to a human) but like everything else, it doesn't do any good if the companies don't follow the rules.

I think where most companies miss the mark in trying to save money with these systems is not spending enough money upfront to get someone who knows what they're doing to set these things up properly. Then it's just a downhill slide from there.

But companies were trying to save money before the widespread use of IVRs by not hiring enough live agents, which left people on hold forever which pissed people off. The fact is, the IVR systems aren't going away, and for all intensive purposes will become more prevalent because they're getting cheaper which allows smaller businesses to get them. But I have found it interesting that a couple of companies are very publicly responding to this IVR hatred backlash . . . look at all the Citi (I believe) ads that are out now promoting how you can talk to a live person when you call them. I've also heard Geico ads with the same message.

Posted by: Dave | Feb 1, 2006 12:25:41 PM

Interactive Voice Response or IVR may be a great solution for many companies but until the technology is perfected it is most likely to result in frustrated customers or even potential customers. I agree with Dave that IVR systems are not going away and are in fact becoming a more popular CRM tool for businesses.

Meanwhile customers will continue to deal with the problems associated with it. Regardless of how far the technology becomes, it will never replace a real person in the eyes of the customer.

Posted by: IVR | Sep 30, 2010 4:32:03 PM