Do you ever think of how much the many services you use every day are costing you? When you add up the costs for a home phone, cable TV, cell phones, high speed internet, and anything else you might be signed up for, it can amount to a lot of money! And they are the worst kind of expenses too, monthly recurring payments.
When you first look at price tag of these services, it doesn’t seem like all that much because the total cost is split up into small monthly payments that appear manageable. However, if you add up the total cost for the year or even your lifetime you can see that these seemingly small costs are bleeding you dry. How is that people can afford to pay $100 a month after taxes and fees for an iPhone with a decent number of minutes and lots of data? That’s an astonishing $1200 a year or $12,000 over a ten year period! When you think about it, you might even be able to buy a car for $12,000 that would last you those same ten years. Isn’t that ridiculous? And that’s just for one service, most people have several!
Unfortunately, most of us are too tied to these services to eliminate them from our lives completely, so what else can you do?
Well, most services providers have what is known as a retentions department. This is the department you get transferred to if you call your service provider and tell them you want to cancel your service. They aren’t transferring you to the only people who have the special skills to cancel your service; they are transferring you to special sales people whose job it is to convince you not to cancel! The call usually starts with them asking you why you want to cancel your service and they listen intently for some small problem they can attempt to solve for you so you will change your mind. They will start small and see how little they can give away while still keeping you on and then the discounts get bigger and better as they gauge how serious you are.
The big secret here is that you don’t have to wait until you are unhappy with your service or you want to cancel before you call retentions! They are overcharging you now, so why wait?! You can even ask for the retentions department directly once you are connected to a normal customer service representative (CSR) and most times they will connect you without a problem. If they ask you why, simply state that you are considering cancelling your service or that you are unhappy with your service for some reason and that should be enough to do it.
You want to make sure you are actually dealing with someone in retentions before you start negotiating because people in this department usually do have more power to adjust prices and give free services than standard CSRs. That’s why you need to ask to speak to them directly!
How To Negotiate With Retentions
There is no foolproof way for negotiating with these people and it does involve a bit of trial and error. But here are a few tips you can use to get you started on the right foot:
- Act like a normal concerned customer.
- You don’t want to be too direct at first or appear too knowledgeable.
- The goal is to put them at ease so they won’t get their defences up.
- It can help to be genuinely nice and chatty so that you establish a good rapport.
- Be prepared to actually cancel or downgrade your service.
- This adds both realism and bargaining power to your argument.
- You can usually avoid cancellation in the end by telling them that you want to think it over some more and you will call back.
- Have a competitor’s offer in hand.
- If possible, have a real offer that is close to what you are hoping to get from them to use as leverage.
- Be casual about it at first and see if they offer to fully or partially match it.
- Try to build on their initial offer or trade poor features for things you really care about.
- Slowly become more forceful and insistent if they offer you something obviously inferiour.
- Play the loyalty card.
- If you have been a long time customer, you need to exploit that fact.
- Simply inform them that you have been a loyal customer for years without any preferential treatment and you feel like you deserve something for your loyalty.
- Companies often give the best offers to new customers and are content to let existing customers pay higher prices for outdated services.
- Tell them you have seen all of these great new customer offers and ask them why you are paying so much more than they are.
- Deal with the right person.
- Be ready to end the call if it is obvious that the person you are speaking to won’t budge.
- Not all CSRs are created equal and you can always call back and speak to someone else.
- This is often the difference between getting an awesome deal or being stuck with a miniscule discount and contract extension.
- Be careful not to call too often because CSRs that are on the ball will notice and consequently give you nothing.
- Do your research.
- Know what current and past products the company offers so you can speak the language and easily compare services.
- Know who their competitors are and the best products that they offer to barter with.
- Use online resources and forums to see what deals others have been able to get.
Dealing With Contracts
It is best to avoid contracts whenever possible so your bargaining power is always high and your threats to leave are taken seriously. With cell phones this can be particularly hard to do because phones are subsidized so heavily that they can be hard to afford without a lengthy contract. Looking at used last generation phones on Kijiji or Ebay can really help or waiting for a clearance deal or sale on the phone you want is another option. You may even be able to get a cheap prepaid phone without a contract and put it on a post-paid plan, if you know what you’re doing.
That said, if you are under contract it is best to wait until your contract is within 6 months of expiring or already expired before you call in for your deal. I have heard stories of people negotiating successfully even while under contract, but I’d say that is the exception not the norm. You also want to avoid signing on for a new contract or a contract extension just because they are going to “upgrade” your service or give you a discount. Inform them you would be happy to accept their offer, but without any changes to the contract. Tell them you have been a loyal customer this long and you will continue to be as long as the service is good and competitively priced. The only time a contract may be necessary is if they are subsidizing a new piece of hardware for you like an expensive cell phone or PVR.
Get It In Writing
I have a fair bit of experience negotiating with CSRs and it is quite common for them to apply your credit incorrectly, give you the wrong service, or completely mess up your bill. I have also had the pleasure of having them outright lie to me and say they didn’t offer me something even when I had a chat transcript proving that they did. I spoke to all kinds of supervisors and managers and in the end they wouldn’t budge even with the proof that I had. All I got for wasting at least 10 hours of my life was a poorly worded apology letter that didn’t place any sort of blame on themselves and called it a misunderstanding at best.
All that to say: always get it in writing! Once you’re finished your negotiations, politely ask them if they can send you something in writing that outlines the terms of your deal. Even going so far as recording the entire telephone conversation, which is perfectly legal, wouldn’t be too much. If you’ve worked hard to get a deal, you don’t want to see all your efforts wasted by a “misunderstanding”.
What Kind Of Discounts Can You Get?
Well, your mileage may vary here (YMMV) because every negotiation is different and company policy is changing and becoming stricter all the time. I used to work as a regular CSR for a cell phone company when I was in university and we were given all kinds of power to help customers, give discounts, and make bill adjustments. Even as I worked there for a short time, I witnessed the tightening of policy and the removal of power and I’m certain it has continued to lessen over time. To give you an idea of what you might get, here are a few things I have managed to negotiate:
- Cell Phone
- Several completely free months of service.
- Free services like voice mail and caller ID for extended periods.
- Free 6pm evenings for years at a time.
- Early hardware upgrades.
- High Speed Internet
- A few free months of service.
- An almost 30% reduction in my bill for 1 year.
- A free upgrade from 1.5Mbps to 7Mbps download speed.
- A free wireless router that normally has a rental fee.
- No experience here because I’ve never had cable or satellite in my own home.
- Find out how you can get free legal TV as well.
So what do you have to lose? Give your cell phone, internet, or cable television service provider a call today and see how much of a discount you can negotiate!
You can find out much more information on how to save money on your TV, phone, high speed internet, and long distance services in our Services section.