Save hundreds of dollars a month just by making some phone calls.

by Mark Lancaster 14 days ago in how to

Negotiating doesn't have to suck. It can be FUN.

Save hundreds of dollars a month just by making some phone calls.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

People don't normally like to negotiate. My friend Manish does.

He loves it.

Years ago, while on a last minute business trip to Dallas, he called a hotel to get us a room. During the call he managed to get us a "friends and family" rate that was almost half the advertised rate on Hotels.com. It blew me away how easy it was for him.

Later, he told me how much he actually ENJOYED calling customer service reps to negotiate any rate, bill, or service he thought he could save money on. At one point, he even offered to make calls on my behalf to see what he could do. He loved it that much.

I didn't have the charisma and forwardness he possessed, so at the time I never made the attempt to save every dime I could. But, now a recent homeowner and married man, I'm utilizing every thing he taught me.

The younger me used to see negotiating bills as:

  1. A pain in the ass
  2. Not worth the time
  3. Frustrating and unsuccessful

But now, I now see the "fun" that can be had saving money and interacting with customer service reps. While I have negotiated rates for a few years, I got serious last month and spent about 3 hours on a Saturday.

I saved:

  • $125 / month on our mortgage
  • $100 / month on our cell phone bill
  • $40 / month on our AT&T U-verse bill
  • $75 / month on our electricity
  • and $32 / month on our car insurance

That's a whooping $4464 a year in savings. And you can do the exact same thing.

Pre-step 1: Don't make calls if you are angry or upset about your bill. Take a few breaths and relax before calling.

Pre-step 2: Make sure if you cancel or move your service, you're not on the hook for a giant cancellation fee. Timing is important.

1. Figure out the type of rep you're dealing with

This may take some practice, but quickly assessing the mood, demeanor, and personality of your customer service rep is key.

Are they happy? Energetic? Friendly? Or do they hate their job and just want to get off the phone as quickly as possible?

The friendly or upbeat reps respond very well to the same attitude reflected, but often sour if you start off the conversation in a blunt, terse or aggressive manner. Treat them like a good friend.

The negative or indifferent reps will usually start to cooperate if you are kind, patient, and ask simple questions like "how's it going over there today?". Their job is a chore and the less you treat it like that, the better off you'll be. Simple conversational questions disarm them and put them at ease.

Generally, your goal is to have the rep see you not as a "task" in their daily work, but rather a person with concerns.

2. Prepare with research and data

You'll never (rarely) get a lower bill or rate simply because you WANT one. Because of COVID I added "rarely", but in normal circumstances a company's reps are trained and incentivized to avoid giving discounts.

For things like car insurance, be sure that the coverage is exactly the same. You have to compare apples to apples. For other things like cell or internet service, you can be a bit more flexible on the details.

Being prepared with all competitor details offers you the greatest advantage to a lower bill. Detail what offers or deals you found and then give your current company a chance to counter. Coupling the deal information with two sentences of "I'd really like to stay with you guys, but I just can't ignore a better deal. Is there anything you can do for me?" is a big 1-2 punch.

The question at the end was Manish's golden ticket. It was amazing to hear the responses from reps when he ended with that sentence. The rep would begin to see their work as "helping someone" rather than "a chore".

3. Try a secondary tactic

Even if you have presented your case well, you'll likely be hit with a rebuttal and refusal. This does not mean it's time to give up, it means it's time to change tactics.

Depending on the type of person, I will either go with the empathetic plea or the rational argument.

The empathetic plea usually involves stating the personal reasons behind why you want to save money. "I understand, I'm just trying to save money right now. I just bought a house and looking to reign in expenses. Anything you could do helps a lot".

The rational argument is less of an emotional play: "Ok, I get it. But I've been a solid on-time paying customer for 3 years. I can move to another service and get the new customer deal today, or I can continue to be a subscriber of yours for another 3 years."

With either of these tactics, don't be afraid of long pauses. You don't have to fill in conversation gaps with anything. Use your words sparingly and strategically.

4. Give them a deadline

If the service rep still cannot find any way to help you save money, let them know that you will make the switch to the new company the following day. Tell them they or their manager can call you before then and you'll happily change your mind.

Sometimes you'll immediately get an offer to speak with a manager. If that happens, stick with a rational argument instead of empathetic plea. State your value to their company as a loyal customer and then ask for a lesser rate.

This has worked only a few times for me, hence why it's the last item on my list, but it can do the trick. And if it doesn't, follow through on your word and make the move. The current company you're with will make note of your transfer in your customer record (which can be useful in the future if you want to move back).

Now, get to work saving money!

Start with your lower bills first to get a hang of things. The first few times you try to negotiate you'll likely stumble through wording, not have enough confidence, and maybe fail. So fail on your smallest bills. Then, once you feel comfortable talking to people and negotiating over the phone, hit your biggest bills and see the monthly savings come flowing in!

Notice how I never once mentioned using chat or email. It is far far easier to negotiate over the phone. It's much more difficult for a rep to say "no" over the phone than it is online.

how to
Mark Lancaster
Mark Lancaster
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