Paul English's IVR Cheat Sheet is a great resource for getting to a live person when you're seemingly stuck in an automated operator call system. "IVR" means interactive voice response, those core of those automated systems that handle inbound and outbound call center telephone traffic, hopefully routing a caller to the right department.
Of course, it's easy to get stuck.
That's why I appreciate this gent's cheat sheet on navigating various corporate IVR systems. On his site, you can check out how to get to a live operator on many popular business phone banks. (You are alos given the option to rate their customer service.) These are some of the top performing numbers from his site:
Nordstrom (1-888-282-6060) is legendary for their customer service, in their fine stores, on the web, and on the phone.
Lands End (1-800-963-4816) has very friendly reps who usually answer the phone on the first ring! (I also hear that LL Bean and Patagonia are great.)
Southwest Airlines (1-800-435-9792) answers their phones. Do you think their head of customer support is measured just on saving money? Or do you think they realize that serving customers well will result in loyal customers. Did you know that Southwest Airlines has been more profitable than all other US airlines?
What I liked was that he noted that you can dial 0 to get the operator through Microsoft's main number (listed on his site as 800-936-5700).
For more info on how companies are using Microsoft Speech Server (MSS) to meet their data management and analysis needs, check out the home page. You can also order the MSS 180-Day Evaluation Kit which includes a evaluation version of MSS and a full working version of the Speech Application SDK.