Secret call centre codes that could save £100m


Nigel Clarke, a frustrated IT manager, spent seven years preparing for a one-man crusade against call centres. He was sick of hanging on the phone, listening to recorded messages telling him which button to press, so he started researching these menus, and discovering the secret codes to bypass them.

His secrets have been revealed, and could save us an estimated £100 million.

The secret

Clarke calls himself a "call centre menu enthusiast". He has sent the last seven years making more than 12,000 calls to the automated phone services of hundreds of companies, and cataloging the options.

He says the worst call centres have more than 80 options in their phone menus with up to 7 levels of menu. He says: "Some might say this is the modern equivalent of Dante's circles of hell." One example is HMRC, where it can take up to 6 minutes just to get through the menus before a joining a queue for someone to actually answer the phone As one of the UK's busiest call centres, they receive 79 million calls per year. That means each year, callers to the taxman spend 4.3 million working hours just navigating menus.

He is campaigning for better menu design to save us time and money. However, in the interim, he has published the results of his research on his website

How it works

You can enter the name of the business you are calling and it will show you the number and the phone menu options you need. You then dial the number and as each menu starts, you can 'press ahead' without having to wait for the automated message to rattle through each option.

So, for example, if you have home insurance with Lloyds TSB and you have a water leak to your property you could spend 4 minutes wading through 78 menu options, or you can check the site and dial 1-3-2-1-1-5-4.

If you want a brochure to see how you could spend your Nectar points on travel, you could call Sainsbury's and spend 3 minutes and 7 seconds on 29 menu options, or you could dial 3-1-4-1-1-1.

If you wanted to ask Argos about a TV you were buying from the website you could spend 2 minutes and 37 seconds going through 73 menu options, or you could dial 1-3-4-2-3.

Alternatively if you have an income tax enquiry for HMRC you could spend 4 minutes and 35 seconds on the 0845 number getting through 74 options on the menus. Or you could dial 1-hold-1-3-2-2.

Clarke estimates that the secret codes could save 1 billion minutes of call time a year. We would also get around the advertising that 68% of organisations use between the options. He has launched a Call Centre Menu Enthusiasts Group, and says: "I've been working in IT for over 30 years and nothing gets me riled up like having my time wasted through inefficient design. This is why I've devoted the best part of seven years to solving this issue."

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Secret call centre codes that could save £100m

Figures from charity Age UK show that 29% of those over 60 feel uncertain or negative about their current financial situation - with millions facing poverty and hardship.

Even though saving for retirement is not much fun, the message is therefore that having to rely on dwindling state benefits in retirement is even less so.

To avoid ending up in this situation, adviser Hargreaves Lansdown recommends saving a proportion of your salary equal to half your age at the time of starting a pension.

In other words, if you are 30 when you start a pension, you should put in 15% throughout your working life. If you start at 24, saving 12% of your salary a year should produce a similar return.


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