The Seattle times has an article this Sunday on navigating corporate automated-phone-system mazes:

"A year ago, The Seattle Times compiled a list of shortcuts for thwarting the phone systems at 60 local and national companies and government agencies.

"Again this year, we've spent nearly 2 1/2 soul-sucking hours on hold so you don't have to, creating an updated list of tricks for reaching live help.

"The good news: Wait times were somewhat shorter this year. More companies are providing estimated wait times. And we found one company, Comcast, that will call you back if all their human helpers are busy."

The complete table of companies surveyed by the Seattle Times (many here in the pacific NW are listed) can be found in this list (PDF).

Microsoft was faster than Dell (3 minutes) or Apple (2.5 minutes) for the time it took to get a hold of a real person: Microsoft clocked in at one and a half minutes. That's 90 seconds - and they used our main 800 line. In comparison, eBay was over 12 minutes - but I have to say that I have found their email support to be quick and effective.

Trouble is, that time rates "worse" on the newspaper's scorecard as compared with 2005. It's 90 seconds or so off of the nest time (Nordstrom's) but appears to be much better than most firms listed on the chart.

How to do better? I first wrote about this in a blog post earlier this year.

First, check out Microsoft Product Assistance to select your individual product and see what assisted support options are available for your product (for product software purchased separately from your computer). If you need support for software that came bundled with your PC, call the support number for your OEM (Dell, HP, Toshiba, Sony...) as listed in your product documentation.

And click here for more info on phone support in the US . We state upfront that "wait times will vary" when you call during West coast business hours. And keep in mind that Microsoft customers receive two (2) support requests included at no charge - many people don't realize that. I called our 800 line for support and got thru to a live person in less than four minutes.

Here's a quick lilst of the direct support numbers depending upon where you fall:

  • Certified Partner (888) 677-9444
  • Developer (800) 936-5800
  • ITPro (800) 936-4900
  • Original Equipment Manufacturer (800) 936-2197
  • Partner (resellers or consultants) (888) 456-5570
  • Small or Home Business (800) 936-4900 
  • System Builder (888) 456-5570 
  • TDD/TTY (800) 892-5234

Hours for Phone (Pacific Time): Monday - Friday 6:00 A.M. - 6:00 P.M.

I'll ask our customer support folks this week and see what their response is to this report. 

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