It has been nearly 7 years since I have paid full price for cable, internet, and phone service. Getting your bundle package reduced to the introductory price (or lower) is easy to do yet very few express interests in doing so.
Yes, I am that guy who is hated by all friends and family members who pay full price for their services. When asked why I bother haggling to save $70 per month I remind them of exactly how much $70 a month is. “If I were to give you $840 to make a 15 minute phone call and a 15 minute follow up call would you?” I ask. Their response is “heck yeah”. I have yet to meet someone who would turn down $28 per minute for a phone conversation.
Unfortunately, 95% or greater of the US population does not feel comfortable haggling with their service provider so they pay the price and don’t speak up. This is exactly what cable companies count on in order to turn huge profits. Month after month the majority pays up and shuts up. Most of these people criticize me for being a tight wad but these are almost always the same folks who are always broke and can’t pay their bills on time.
Okay, enough ranting – onto the good stuff. So how do you get your cable, phone, and internet bill lowered? The short answer is cancel your service. WAIT. Before you pick up the phone you will need to know and understand the rules of the game. If played correctly you will win each and every time.
How to cancel your service to get a better rate
Level 1 – Do your competitive homework
So your $90 a month introductory special is about to expire and you will soon have to pay $160 for your bundle package. Perhaps, like most people, you forgot that your intro rate has expired and you are holding an outrageous bill in your hand. What do you do?
Start by scoping out cable competitors such as Direct TV, ATT Uverse, Embarq, Dish network, and Verizon FiOS. These services may or may not be available in your area. You have likely received promotional offers in the mail in recent months for these services. You can use these as a bargaining tool. Shop around and write down the best deal possible. Right now in my area AT&T Uverse has arrived and is currently Time Warner’s #1 enemy. The “U bomb” alone is very persuasive and should be used with caution. Save this heavy artillery for future use. Write down all the information that you can including but not limited to channel lineup including number of channels, internet speed upstream and downstream, phone service features, available additional promos such as 6 months free Showtime, free DVR, etc. The idea here is to become an informed customer, or at least appear to be one. Cable companies take informed customers seriously and quickly call all others bluff. If you skip the research step you may soon find yourself crawling back to your service provider on your hands and knees asking them not to turn off your service.
Level 2 – Be in good standing with the cable company
Do you pay your bill on time each and every month? Do you have your bill automatically deducted from your checking account each month? Have you been polite when speaking with the cable company? These are all factors that will determine whether or not this will work for you. If you are rude and constantly behind on payments they may cut the line and let you swim away.
Grab your ammo and call the friendly customer service number. When you call, listen closely. “All calls will be recorded to ensure quality customer service”. I received information from a reputable source that this means “we are going to record everything you say, have someone play it back and analyze it, then decide whether you are full of it or you are serious” Everything that you say is summarized and placed into your files for future reference.
Start by explaining that you are calling to cancel all of your services. When making this statement be polite yet firm. Remember, this will be played back and analyzed by someone. Don’t use terminology such as “I was thinking about” “I need a better rate or I will cancel” etc. They will ask you why you are canceling and the only acceptable answer is “I just can’t afford it and XXXX is offering me a more reasonable deal.” The representative will try to offer you $20 off per month and may even throw in 3 free months of HBO. Once again, tell them “I just can’t afford it”. These customer service reps simply read from the script and are by no means expert negotiators. There is no need to waste your time negotiating with these folks. Make it clear that you want to cancel your service and go to a competitor because you can’t afford it. Keep it short and sweet because you could easily say the wrong thing and they will call your bluff and pull the plug. You will be left wondering what happened.
Wait for the call from the retentions department. This usually takes a couple days to a couple weeks. Sometimes you may not receive a call until the day before your cancellation date. It is in the cable company’s best interest to call you back ASAP before you sign a contract with someone else. If you do not receive a call back then you said something wrong in your initial conversation with the sales rep. If this happens to you don’t get discouraged, simply use the information that you gathered while doing your homework and get a better intro rate from another provider. You really can’t lose at this game.
Level 4 Speak with the retention specialist
When the call comes in don’t get overjoyed that you made it to level 4, the game is not over yet. The retention specialist is actually a trained negotiator who like you, is playing the game. The less that he has to give away to keep you as a customer, the more points he scores. In his game he wants to keep you as a customer while not giving away too much. He will ask you once again why you are leaving. Be sure to stay consistent with your story. He or she will start the negotiation process by telling you all the bad things about the company that you are about to switch to. Some of the information will be true while other information will be a blatant lie used to try to scare you away. Since you have done your homework you should be quick to correct the retention specialist when he starts to BS you. For some, roasting the competitor alone is enough. This cost the company absolutely nothing and they retain a customer. But you are smarter than that. Tell them no thanks you want to cancel your service. Let them know that you already have your service scheduled to be turned on in a couple days and you would like to cancel your service ASAP.
The negotiator will come back with a reply offering you something like $40 off per month if you stick with them. While this may seem tempting, you are not quite there yet. Accepting this offer will leave money on the table. Ask the retention specialist why you would pay $120 per month for all three services when you can get all three of the same exact services for $90 from their competitor. They will likely come back with more fluff such as they have 24 hour customer service and 99% reliability etc. Keep on telling him “No thanks” until he gives in and offers to extend your promotional period another 12 or 24 months. Just when the offer seems ripe you should hold out. Ask the negotiator if he could throw in 12 free months of Showtime, HBO, etc. You may or may not get this addition promotion but it doesn’t hurt to milk the cow as much as you possibly can. At this point you should hesitantly say “well your offer is similar to your competitors and it would be easier to stay with you than to go through the hassle of switching.” Accept the offer.
Remember; don’t try to feed the negotiator a line about the price a competitor is offering. The do this for a living and know all of the competitors current offers better than you do. In addition, they talk to people all day long that tell them about the deals that are being offered. If you come up with some fictitious offer such as all three services for $49.00 per month for 24 months he will call your bluff. Game over.
Level 5 Repeat
I like to put the promotional expiration date in my MS outlook as a reminder. Remind yourself a week or so before the promotion ends to repeat the process. The cable company will eventually catch on and tell you to get lost. It took about 4 years for this to happen to me. From there I switched to Uverse, got the $90 promo for 12 months, free premium channels for a year, and a $400 Visa gift card. A year later I was gladly taken back by Time Warner for the $90 intro rate of course.
This technique not only applies to Time Warner but also any other service provider.
Key points to remember:
- The most important step is to do your homework. Never skip this step or you will lose
- Always be polite yet stern with the customer service representative. Make it clear that you are a nice person but mean business
- Keep your recorded statements short and sweet. The only reason why you are calling is because you can not afford your current bill
- Don’t call in with a shaky voice or use terminology such as “I’ve been thinking about” Make them believe that you have already made your decision
- Waste little time with the front line customer service rep. Save your defense for the customer retention specialist who has the authority to do something
- Let the retention specialist know that you are an informed consumer and they are getting dumped for their competitor
- Never take the first offer. The specialist is not going to show hand until he has to. Wait for this moment and dig deeper
- Repeat the process and save over $800 per year.
Have you had much luck getting your rate lowered using a different technique? Drop a comment below and let us know.