How to Lower Your Monthly Bills: The Power of Negotiation
© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin
Remember when getting mail was a fun experience you looked forward to? The daily pile of letters held the promise of glossy catalogs for browsing, interesting magazines for reading, greeting cards that amused, and personally hand-written letters that brought you closer to someone.
Nowadays, unfortunately, all those delights have moved to web pages and email. Receiving mail has become a dreaded experience because all that arrives are monthly bills, with amounts that continually go up.
You don’t have to suffer this anxiety any more. Through a simple technique involving your phone, you can lower some of your monthly bills. This example uses cable bills, but I’ve successfully used it with some credit card statements, membership fees, and bank charges. It hasn’t worked with electric, water or gas bills. And don’t get me started on health insurance, since I want to maintain my editorial composure.
- Start gathering offers of lower charges about a week to a month before you receive the bill you want to negotiate. In my case of cable, I kept offers from satellite services, other cable companies and fiber-optic providers. I even filed an offer from my current cable company for new subscribers.
- Plan to call your provider at the end of the month, or at the end of the week. Company agents often have quotas to fill at that time, and are more willing to extend deals to meet their goals. Just be aware that these are also busy times for many companies. So you may have to suffer a long hold time unless you....
- Call first thing in the morning, preferably right when the company’s phone lines open. This minimizes your wait, and catches company reps when they are still at their freshest and most amenable.
- Connect with the sales department rather than customer service. The former receives financial incentives for making or keeping their sales with you. The latter simply wants to get you off the line as quickly as possible, since their incentive is to clear as many customer calls as possible.
- Have a piece of paper and pen to write information down, starting with the date and time, and the names of anyone you talk to.
- Ask the sales agent you get connected to if he can negotiate cable bills. If he cannot, then ask to be connected to someone who can do that. Be pleasant and polite to everybody, as if you’re talking to your best friend. People like to accommodate nice customers, and avoid nasty ones.
- Praise the service you’re trying to negotiate, saying how much you like it, how good the customer service is and how much you want to stay with the company. But the high monthly payments are making it impossible for you to do that. If you have a real life reason for the difficulty, such as a job loss or sudden medical expenses, relate those reasons.
Talk about how the company or other service providers have lower fees, and mention the offers you’ve gathered in the mail. Say that you’d rather remain with your current provider than to jump ship to the unknown, simply because the other one is cheaper.
- Ask the agent if there’s anything he can do, because you really want to stay with them. If he continues to say no, thank the agent for his time and ask to talk to a manager.
- Repeat your story to the manager, again bringing in why you’re having difficulty and how much you want to stay with the company. If she says “no,” thank her for her efforts and ask how you go about canceling your subscription. Also ask how much time you have to do that before you’re charged for the next month. She may relent at this point and give you a discount.
Frankly, this is only about as far as I’ve had to go to get dollars knocked off my bill, typically for a year. And when the year is up, I go through the same process.
However, if none of this works, there is till one thing you can try.
Write to the president of the company and explain the situation, and how you want to stay with the company. (You can find contact information on your bill or the company website.) Relate how you’ve negotiated with the sales agents, who did a good job, but that you understand how their hands are tied. This is where you can use the notes you’ve taken, because it’s helpful to be specific with dates and times.
Be concise and confine your letter to one page. You’ll be writing someone who has to go through many letters in a day. State clearly that you would like a discount and how much you would like, but always ask for more than you expect to receive. Don’t forget to hand-sign your request. Add a hand-written PS, reiterating your request. Recipients typically read the PS part of a letter first.
Let me know via the comments how this process works for you, or if you have any additional suggestions.
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