Several months ago, my cable/internet bill went up suddenly. After over a year of paying about $120 per month for cable, internet, and our home phone, I discovered that our cable bill was suddenly $30 more expensive. It only took a little digging for me to realize that our introductory bundle price had expired.
Even though we should’ve expected the price hike, we still couldn’t afford it. I knew I would have to call our cable provider.
To be honest, I hate getting in touch with our cable company. While all the customer service representatives are friendly, I still find it nerve-wracking to deal with what seems to be a pretty slippery industry. Add to that the fact that our provider is the only game in town, and it often seems like a productive negotiation is out of my reach.
However, I discovered that it’s possible for just about anyone to negotiate a lower cable bill — even me. Here’s what you need to know to ensure that negotiating with your cable provider goes the way you want it to:
1. Keep your expectations reasonable
When asking for an improvement on your bill, you need to have an idea what a reasonable discount is. For instance, there was no way I could reduce my $150 bill to a $75 one, no matter how much I may have wanted it that way.
A good way to know what’s reasonable is to research the rates for competing companies, and to know the promo amounts they are running for new customers. Not only will you have an idea of what to pay for your services, but you’ll also have an excellent bargaining chip: “Company X only charges $99 per month for this bundle. I’d prefer to stay with you, but I really need my cable bill to fit within my budget. What can you do for me?” To get a handle on new customer promotions for companies such as Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-Verse, try here and here.
2. Put down your dukes
A common mistake in negotiation is to start off too aggressively. Many newbie negotiators think that they need to be inflexible and insistent in order to get their way. In addition, it’s very easy to feel outraged about whatever it is you’re planning to negotiate. (I certainly had some choice words for our cable company when I saw the change in my bill.)
The problem with this is that the customer service representative on the other end is also a person — a person who will not react well to being barked at. A better strategy is to be friendly and calm and ask your service representative to help you in fixing your issue. They’re much more likely to go the extra mile for a nice, friendly customer than they are for a snarling, angry one.
3. Don’t take no for an answer
It’s likely that the person answering the phone won’t have the authority to make any big changes to your bill. Even if they assure you that there’s nothing anyone can do, ask to speak to their supervisor. The higher up the chain you go, the more authority you’ll find, which means that eventually you should reach someone who does have the power to negotiate.
4. Threaten to leave
Even if you live in an area where there’s only one available cable company, like I do, you can still use the leverage of leaving as a negotiation tactic. For instance, when I spoke with our company, I told them that I wanted to drop cable altogether. We only really need the internet and phone, so cable is just an extra expense.
Our provider instead agreed to reduce our rate by $20 (which is what we’d save by only dropping cable) but still let us keep all three services.
The Bottom Line
Remember, by making you happy with a price drop, your cable company is ensuring that you remain a loyal customer. So let them make you happier with your bill — it’s in their best interests.
Have you ever had to negotiate with your cable company?