Tools for automatically navigating call centre hell

We all know the nightmare of most phone calls to a big company - only after you've worn the buttons out on your handset do you get placed on hold listening to a synth remix of George Michael. We probably all are aware of saynoto0870 by now which will get you around paying the 0870 cost but here are some more tools to help you navigate the phone menu system with less pain.

Fonolo is still in private beta but you can sign up for an invite. Fonolo works by storing navigation menus and going through them automatically for you. It listens through the tree in case there's a mistake and once it's through it dials your number to instantly connect you in. The one big advantage of Fonolo over the following options is that it will also record calls for you automatically and store your call history. That can be a huge help if you ever end up in a dispute with a call centre and need some proof of what was said.

Bringo is another option similar to Fonolo except that it seems to only have US companies listed. lists information on how to navigate to a human but doesn't do the dialing automatically for you. It does have several UK companies listed but it is not nearly comprehensive.

Last on the list is Direct Line (iTunes link) which is an iPhone only app which automatically navigates through the phone trees for listed companies. I haven't downloaded this app so I cannot vouch for how many UK phone trees are listed (the cost is $0.99).

The most promising tool definitely appears to be Fonolo. As long as they support UK companies and get out of private beta it looks to be a must-have for any consumers anti-call centre arsenal.

Thanks to pinkmoose for the pic


  • Ben
    You say that 'the one big advantage' of Fonolo is that it records every conversation that is made. Although recording your own coversations is perfectly legal without informing the other person, you are only able to use these recordings for personal use. You aren't allowed legally to disclose them to a third party. Being able to use them to refer back to may come in handy in a very small handful of cases, but all these companies would need to do is dispute it and immediately your arguement is flawed for the fact you legally can't show anyone else the recordings. Good if you don't mind breaking the law, otherwise pretty much useless other than for your own personal satisfaction were a dispute to arise.
  • Paul N.
    Thanks for the comments Ben! I'm aware that recording someone without notification cannot be used as evidence. Two notes on that. First, in my experience most fights come with the company itself denying they said something - in this case I understand you can use the recorded conversation with the other party. If they dispute you're out of luck but generally most companies are not *that* evil and senior staff would side with you. Second, if you are actually in a real dispute with a company that could lead to legal action it only makes sense to record conversations AND notify the other party they are being recorded.
  • Shai B.
    Paul, Thanks for the post! On call recording, it's important to note that the feature is entirely optional. We know there are some people uncomfortable with calls being recorded, and we don't want them to miss out on Fonolo's other features. Ben - the law regarding call recording varies based on jurisdiction. In the US, it is particularly tricky because the law differs state-by-state. I believe call recordings can be very useful in resolving disputes, even if they are not "admissable in court". Paul - I'm afraid we won't have any UK companies in our database for the initial launch. But the UK is definitely the first country we will add when we are ready to go international. (We get a LOT of inquiries from your fellow citizens.) Finally, some notes on the other options out there: The GetHuman database is the grand-daddy of this concept. But the flaw there is that they only tell the quickest path to*a* human. It might not be the *right* human. If you have a technical question and hit zero 3 times, you might get a billing agent, and you are no further along. Also, GetHuman relies on community effort to keep the instructions for each company up to date. At Fonolo, we have an automated system to do this. Bringo will indeed call, navigate and connect you, but, like GetHuman, they will get you an arbitrary agent. Only Fonolo actually shows you the full menu of the company and lets you navigate to the exact point you need. - Shai
  • Shai B.
    Sorry... forgot my signature. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Fonolo. Read more (and see the video of our iPhone app) at my blog:

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