How to find a human

Woman yelling into a cellphoneWe’ve probably all experienced the frustration of automated telephone systems.  Your needs are never included on the menu.  You feel like you have a quick question that could be solved in 30 seconds if you could just talk to a real person.  Or that sinking feeling when you realize you’ve heard this menu before. And let’s not forget the feeling of foolishness associated with giving canned voice commands to a computer.  Shouted expletives generally aren’t understood by these calm-voiced operators.

There is, however, a resource for getting to human operators.  In 2005, Paul English created the gethuman database, which has a listing of companies and services from insurance to hardware.  For each phone service, there is a list of instructions for what to do to get out of the automated menus.

In addition to this original database, there is, which is “more actively maintained” than the original site, but which has some obvious design differences.

Writing this post made me think about how interacting with companies like those listed in the gethuman site differs from the interactions that users have with libraries at Duke and elsewhere.  Duke Libraries has expanded its service points from face-to-face contact to include phone, email, IM chat and now text messaging (click here to see all the ways to contact reference staff).  But regardless of the method of communication, you’ll always reach an actual person who is trained and eager to help answer your questions.  We hope this service enhances your work and keeps your blood pressure low.