Here’s a secret. The companies that regularly bill you all have protocols for giving consumers better deals, Kurland says, “But they rely on you not going to call and ask.” Below is a plan to achieve this.
Remember that timing is important. When calling a business to request a deal, time it so you have the best chance of reaching a live person quickly. Wait times are longest after hours and on weekends. But if you call during normal business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday), you can often get a call within minutes.
Step 1: Take a good look at the monthly bills
On a day when you can spare a few hours, get out monthly bills such as cable, cell phone, and internet. In a 2021 CR survey of 34,107 members, about 70% who tried to negotiate lower prices on cable TV, Internet, and/or home phone services got a discount (or other benefit) on their bundled packages. “All of these sectors have easy-to-find competitive deals that you can use as leverage,” says Steven McKean, co-founder and CEO of Billshark, an invoice trading company. Check your bills for any services you no longer want or need. “For example, the $10 a month you were happy to pay to insure your smartphone when it was new might not make sense now that it’s 6 years old,” Kurland says. Or maybe you’re a new empty nest but you’re still paying for the super-fast internet the kids used for games. Circle your total costs, as well as any fees or charges that you don’t understand.
Step 2: Check offers on supplier websites
You want to see the discounts they offer, especially to new customers. Major mobile carriers, for example, can offer subscriptions to services like streaming music or premium TV channels (and getting them could save you $10-$15 a month if you can cancel them elsewhere. ). “If you don’t arm yourself with that information first, you’re engaging in a blind negotiation,” Kurland says. “You won’t know when they’re giving you a little discount just to hang up on you, or if they’re giving you a really good deal.” Online, also take a look at simple changes that could lower your bill. For example, your mobile carrier may offer rebates of $5 to $10 per month just by signing up for paperless billing.
Step 3: Choose the best day and time to contact companies
To get the biggest discount as quickly as possible, you want to talk to someone (yes, on the phone). Most people call after leaving work or on weekends, which is when wait times are the longest. If you schedule your call during regular business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, you can often reach a live person within minutes, Kurland says.
Step 4: Speak to a retention specialist
With your search for deals in hand, dial the provider’s customer service number, which should be listed on their invoices or on their website. But that’s not your last stop: Customer support’s job is to hang up on you, and they’ll likely offer you little or nothing, says Kurland. Instead, say something like “My name is John Doe and I’m thinking of canceling my service” to access retention service. “The loyalty department’s job is to rescue customers and negotiate discounts with them to make them happy, so that’s the service you want,” Kurland says. If they fail to transfer you immediately, specifically request the retention service and keep asking until you are connected.
Step 5: Ask open-ended questions
When reaching a retention rep, your most powerful tools are the questions that begin with who, whose, what, when, what, why, or how, according to Harvard Law School’s Negotiation Program. These are essential because the answers require elaboration. McKean suggests starting with, “We appreciate your services, but inflation has been high and I’m looking to cut costs. What can you do to help me? “They may end up telling you about a new offer that you haven’t even seen,” McKean says. Write down the name, title, and phone number of anyone you speak with, and what they say, so you have a record.
Step 6: Push back
Don’t jump at the first offer. The goal of a loyalty representative is to retain you as a customer with little impact on business results. It’s up to you to say, “What can you do to get me an even better deal?” Kurland said. And that’s where your research on the supplier’s website can come in handy: if you saw, say, a better deal on the site but the rep doesn’t offer it, point it out. And be polite but not buddy. A 2019 Harvard Business Review experiment involving more than 1,500 people found that warm, friendly negotiators ended up paying 15% more for the same item than tough, firm people. “Keep it calm, clear and consistent about what you want,” Ben Kurland tells BillFixers.
Step 7: Check offer numbers
In some cases, your bill can go up during negotiation, often thanks to bundled offers. “If you have internet service with a company, a rep might tell you it’s the same price per month to add TV to your internet service,” Kurland says. “If you accept the offer, you’ll find there may be $30 or $40 in additional taxes and fees.”
Step 8: Get the details in writing
Once you’ve secured a discount you’re happy with, ask for confirmation via a follow-up email or text, if possible, before hanging up. “You’re talking to a human being, so they may not be treating your new deal properly,” Steven McKean explains to Shark. Check your bill next month to make sure your deal went through. If this is not the case, you have the proof to present and have it corrected.
Keep your documents together for any future negotiations. “The discount they give you can only last 12-24 months, so mark your calendar and call them a month or so before it expires,” Kurland says. At that point, ask a retention specialist if you can keep your current offer or get a different one before the provider raises your rate.
Step 9: Repeat
Follow these same steps to lower other bills, such as your health club, home alarm company, and pest control service, Kurland says. You can also try similar tactics with your home and auto insurance companies. “In the case of home and auto insurance, find out what discounts you’re not taking advantage of,” says Kurland. For auto insurance, this can include taking breaks to get both your home and auto insurance from one insurer, taking a safe driving course, and driving less than before. And consider increasing your deductibles. According to Douglas Heller, director of insurance at the Consumer Federation of America, increasing your deductible from $500 to $1,000 can reduce your overall policy cost by 11%.
More possibilities: If you have credit card balances, call, ask for the retention service and ask for a lower interest rate. The company is more likely to do this if you’ve been with them for several years and usually pay your bills on time. When it comes to energy, in many places you can’t shop for gas or electricity, but the American Coalition of Competitive Energy Providers has a list of states that allow you to choose providers, as well as links to sites that will help you compare rates.