Do you ever think about 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’re the worst kind of expenses too – monthly recurring payments.
When you first look at the price tag of these services, it may not seem like that much since it’s split up across 12 months. But 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 can people 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 $1,200 a year or $12,000 over a 10 year period. 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?
Who you gonna call? Retentions!
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’re transferring you to special salespeople whose job it is to convince you not to cancel.
The call usually starts with them asking why you want to cancel your service.
They’ll then listen to your reasons and try to find some small problem they can attempt to solve for you so you’ll change your mind.
They’ll start small and see how little they can give away while still keeping you on. The more you reject their offers, the bigger the discounts and deals they offer you get as they gauge how serious you are.
The big secret...
...is that you don’t have to wait until you’re unhappy with your service and actually want to cancel before you call retentions.
They’re overcharging you now, so why wait?
You can even ask for the retentions department directly once you’re connected to a normal customer service representative (CSR). Most times they’ll connect you without a problem.
If they ask why, simply say that you’re considering cancelling or you’re unhappy with your service for some reason and that should be enough.
You want to make sure you’re 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’s no foolproof way to negotiate 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:
Do your research
Get the facts about their products and pricing, as well as the competition’s products and pricing. Knowing what they sell lets you speak the language and easily compare services.
You can also read through online resources and forums to see what deals others have been able to get.
It’s helpful to have a real offer from their competitor that’s close to what you’re hoping to get to use as leverage.
Be casual about it at first and see if they offer to fully or partially match it. Slowly become more forceful and insistent if they offer you something obviously inferior.
Try to build on their initial offer or trade poor features for things you really care about.
Write down what you’re hoping to get so you have a clear focus in mind.
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.
Play the loyalty card
If you’re a long-time customer, you can use that fact for your own benefit.
Simply inform them that you’ve 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’ve seen all of these great new customer offers and ask them why you’re paying so much more than they are.
Deal with the right person
Not all CSRs are created equal.
Don’t be afraid to call back and speak to someone else. This is often the difference between getting an awesome deal or being stuck with a small discount and contract extension.
If you get a generally helpful CSR but they still won’t budge on pricing, be ready to escalate the call. Ask to speak to their manager or supervisor.
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’ll call back.
Dealing with contracts
It’s 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 so heavily subsidized that they can be hard to afford without a lengthy contract.
You also want to avoid signing on for a new contract or a contract extension just because they’re going to "upgrade" your service or give you a discount.
Inform them you’d be happy to accept their offer, but without any changes to the contract. You’ve been a loyal customer this long and you’ll continue to be as long as the service is good and competitively priced.
The only time a contract may be necessary is if they’re subsidizing a new piece of hardware for you like an expensive cell phone or PVR.
How to avoid contracts with cell phones
It’s a good idea to look at used last-generation phones on Kijiji or Ebay, or you can wait for a clearance sale on the phone you want.
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.
If you’re already under contract
That said, if you’re already under contract it’s best to wait until your contract is within 6 months of expiring or already expired before you call in for your deal.
I’ve heard stories of people negotiating successfully even while under contract, but I’d say it’s the exception, not the norm.
Get it in writing
I have a fair bit of experience negotiating with CSRs, and it’s quite common for them to apply your credit incorrectly, give you the wrong service, or completely mess up your bill.
I’ve 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 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 though I only worked there for a short time, I witnessed the policies being tightened and powers being removed, so I’m certain that 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:
- Several completely free months of service.
- Free services like voicemail and caller ID for extended periods.
- Free 6pm evenings for years at a time.
- Early hardware upgrades.
- A few free months of service.
- An almost 30% reduction on 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!
What about you?
Do you have any experience with dealing with retentions?
Were your efforts rewarded? Would you do it again?
Let us know in the comments below!