Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, now more than ever is the time to get our financial ducks in a row. As always making sure you have a handle on recurring expenses, and building and maintaining emergency funds are the backbone of a successful monthly budget. And due to the pandemic, many of us aren’t actually making use of some of our monthly expenses, like car insurance. Since many of us are sheltering-in-place and are no longer commuting to work, you may actually be able to negotiate some of your recurring expenses that you’re using differently than pre-COVID.
My not-so-secret strategy? I’ve been able to save $600 per year by negotiating my recurring bills.
I’m an amateur personal finance geek.
Your tools have helped me become a smarter investor.
Personal Capital Dashboard User, February 2021
I’ve learned that most people dread speaking to customer service reps because they’re usually bringing up a problem which results in the answer, “sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” When you’re speaking to a customer service rep you need to remember that you, reader, are not most people.
Learning how to effectively negotiate your bills is a skill that can put hundreds of dollars back into your wallet.
I make calls to the companies that provide my car/renter’s insurance and cell phone two times a year. You can also negotiate other things like cable, internet, home insurance, or loan interest rates.
After many years of trial and error, I’ve come up with the perfect negotiation script. Here’s the exact script that I use that can help you crush your savings goals:
1. Set the tone of the call by being pleasant the entire time
It’s easy to start a conversation with frustration, especially when you have good reason. However it’s important to realize that being polite and treating service reps like humans (because they are) will have better results.
Start the call with: “Hello NAME, how are you? I’m great, thanks for asking. I have an issue with _____ and I would love for you to help me.”
Most customer service representatives enjoy being able to do their job and solve your problem. When they hear you’re asking for their help, you’ve given them the opportunity to succeed.
2. State your problem clearly
Let’s say that you think your car insurance bill is too high. You’ve been a loyal customer for five years and notice that you could be saving money by switching insurers. Overall you’ve enjoyed the service by your current insurer but could be saving money with their competitor.
Take a deep breath before answering and then say something like, “I received a quote from another insurance company that would bring my monthly premium to $70 a month from $100 a month. I’d love to find out how we can make this happen with your company.” This statement clearly outlines your problem and what you need in order for it to be solved.
3. Remind them of your brand loyalty
Brand loyalty and great customer relationships is the key to a business’s success. It provides a steady stream of income, not to mention when a customer has a great experience, they are likely to refer new customers to the business.
Companies will show extra excitement when they know you’ve been a customer for a long time. My dad, who is one of the best negotiators I’ve ever met, has his own script to highlight his customer loyalty. His script goes something like, “How long have I been a customer with your company?” The service representative responds with, “Twelve years.” “Twelve years! That’s a long time. How do we make it thirteen?”
Alternatively you could say this instead, “As a [member for five years, mileage plan member, etc.], I’d really love to continue being a loyal and valued customer.”
If you’ve only been a customer with them for less than a year there’s still room to say, “I’d love for your company to earn my loyalty and long-term business today.”
4. Let them know there’s a way to have them give you what you’re asking for
There’s one last step to take before giving them a chance to respond. You can let them know that they have a chance to make you a life-long customer. Seal the deal with, “I want to have a great customer service experience today with your company. What can you do to make this happen for me?”
Be ready to give them a moment to figure out the next steps. Depending on your ask, they might need to check with a supervisor to waive a fee. Or they might need to do some research to see how they can best solve your issue. Express your gratitude for the extra steps they are taking to help you and be patient.
5. It might not work the first time but don’t give up
Be prepared to hear, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do” and have a plan to press on. If this is your first time negotiating a bill, it’s normal to feel discouraged. Let’s be real, most customer service representatives know you’re already uncomfortable. Oftentimes customers will give up the first time their request is denied.
At this time it’s best to be prepared for this process to take time (maybe you can multitask between hold times.) Repeat step two and three. Emphasize your desire to continue your brand loyalty and ask what more they can do for you. Don’t beg but try to be a bit more forceful. Remind them gently that you would like to have a great customer service experience and that they have it in their power to make it happen.
6. Thank them for their time regardless of the outcome
Sadly you don’t always win on the first try. Sometimes the person you’re speaking with refuses to budge and when that happens, continue keeping your cool. Thank them for their help and hang up.
Evaluate whether or not the outcome is acceptable. If it’s not, give yourself another day or two before trying again. Research alternative ways of contacting the company or try calling again. You might end up with someone that is much more helpful and willing to accommodate.
If you end up with some extra cash in your wallet, make sure to acknowledge what a great experience you’ve had. You may even feel inclined to speak to their supervisor about what a wonderful job they’ve done or fill out a post session survey.
This script can be used in many different scenarios. With all the travel bans happening globally or the potential need to use more of your credit card balance due to cash constraints, this script could help you get your money back for any cancelled hotel, car rental, flight bookings, and possibly credit card interest. Remember there is nothing wrong with politely asking for anything, especially if it’s what you paid for.
*Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this blog post. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage (www.HerFirst100k.com) to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. Additional information about PCAC is contained in Form ADV Part 2A available here.