Consumers don’t want to talk to machines any more

The consumer campaign against infuriating automated call-centers is gaining momentum.

Last year, US computer expert Paul English created a ‘cheat sheet’ to get you straight past the most-used call-center prompts, straight to a human being.

That was then and the revolution is now!

Yesterday’s announcements by SonyEricsson have certainly put consumer power center-stage. These facilities to bypass call-center prompts are to be included as standard in their new smart phones.

The moment you dial a listed call-center number, the phone generates a string of prompts to take you straight through to a human operator.

Call-center operators are not amused. They see it as a tilt against their ‘service offerings’ and threaten “increased costs that will be passed straight on to consumers”.

Indian call-centers report that demand for staff is exploding as the automated parts of the technology infrastructure are proving incapable of satisfying consumer needs. Costs could rise exponentially. But right now, consumers see this as a massive victory.

The new phones have one other special feature. When an automated spam call from your local insurance agent is detected, the call is routed to a central number of your choice where the caller, automated or not, will be subjected to a barrage of abuse.

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

The consumer campaign against infuriating automated call-centers is gaining momentum. At the one end there are your calls into automated prompt sequences when all you need is a little help. At the other end are the unwanted spam telephone calls from estate agents and product pushers that disturb your most intimate moments.

In December 2005, US computer expert Paul English created a web site telling you how to get straight past the most-used call centre prompts, straight to a human being. provides a simple guide on how to get straight past the debilitating series of questions and straight to a human being who (may be able to) help. This has embarrassed call-center operators who have spent millions perfecting their systems only to see them thwarted by determined and innovative consumers.

In the UK, a similar service shows that Thomas Cook service staff can reached instantly by just pressing 1…2…5 – bypassing the entire pre-programmed question and answer sequence. Shortcuts for British firms include Vodafone, British Gas, and Lloyds TSB.

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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