You may be an established customer with the local phone or cable company. You may have been signed up with your cell phone provider for the last five years. You may have the same bank account you had since you were a teenager. No matter how long you’ve been a loyal customer of a business, you have a shot at getting your fees lowered and saving a ton of money on your regular expenses. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
Why You Need to Speak Up
Competition among utility companies and service providers is tough. Businesses in all industries are looking for ways to lure in new business and keep current customers happy – and loyal. Most companies are willing to negotiate with you but you have to do the work to get the prize. The work can be worth it: you might receive a significant discount on your monthly bill. Let’s face it, no matter how financially stable you are, saving money makes sense.
Photo by Andrew Wippler via Flickr
Tips for Doing the Negotiations
Not everyone will be successful at negotiating lower fees and rates, especially if they don’t do the necessary footwork beforehand. Any consumer has the ability to attempt negotiations but it matters what you do before, during, and after.
Here are the most important tips for handling a successful negotiation and a resulting lowered rate:
Be In Good Standing
In order for you to expect results during a negotiation, you first have to look in the mirror. If you haven’t been paying your bills on time or have otherwise been a less-than-upstanding customer, you can’t expect a company’s excitement to keep your business. Make sure your ducks are in a row – you’ve been paying your bill, on time, in full each and every month. A good customer is something businesses don’t want to lose so make sure you are a good customer before making the call. Paying bills online and setting up automatic payments will help you achieve this goal.
Provide Competitive Evidence
You can’t expect a company to match competitor pricing and rates if you don’t know what they are. Keep tabs on advertisements from competitors for new customers and research existing offers and rates online. Take notes you can refer to during your call. By making a strong case before the call, you may find you have the upper hand in the negotiation process.
Ask for a Manager/Supervisor
Many customer call center employees do not have the authority to negotiate rates and pricing. As soon as you make the call, ask to speak to a supervisor so you’ll waste less time by talking to someone who can actually help you rather than being referred to another person or phone number or being denied outright by someone with no decision-making authority.
As the old saying goes ‘you get more bees with sugar than vinegar’ so too is it true that a little politeness can go a long way to getting what you want. Remain professional and polite at all times, even if you are turned down flat.
Never Threaten What You Won’t Do
Many consumers will contact a company and start off on the wrong foot by issuing blind threats to leave a company. Disgruntled customers who issues threats but don’t follow through are only a nuisance to company representatives. If you plan to threaten to take your business elsewhere, you have to be ready to do just that. It is better to say ‘I am thinking of transferring my service to your competitor. Is there anything you can do to change my mind?’ than it is to say ‘If you don’t change my bill, I’m canceling my service.’ Making demands does little to open the door for negotiations.
Back Up Your Request With Reality
In addition to knowing what else is out there, it can help to be upfront with the company about how the higher fees are affecting you financially. Start out by saying how long you’ve been a customer and then mention that the increased fees you are paying is starting to hurt your budget. Many companies will have options to help you keep service with more affordable rates.
Many companies are prepared with a canned response to request for negotiated rates. It may be wise to hang tough in the bargaining. Don’t take every first offer being given. Stick with the negotiations until they are able to offer something worth your attention. This does not mean you should play hardball, but don’t fold after the first offer of a miniscule discount. Also make sure the offer is a permanent rate change and not a limited time or promotional deal. If you are well informed, you’ll be able to continue negotiations and get what you want if the company is willing to work with you.
Get It In Writing
Be sure to get the company representative to issue any changes to your service agreement in writing. Be sure to write notes for yourself about the conversation you had, the name of the representative you spoke with, and the time and date of the conversation. Check for a written confirmation in the mail and continue to contact the company every week or two until you get the confirmation of your account changes.
Reconsider Your Options
As mentioned, not all companies are willing to negotiate with anybody. It is there prerogative but it is also your prerogative to consider taking your business elsewhere. This is a particularly important point as many consumers continue with the same bank, cable company, and cell phone provider for years without any research in between. Take time annually to reevaluate what you are paying for, what you are getting, and whether or not someone else has a better offer. The more in tune you are with your monthly expenses, the better you will become at finding deals and saving money.