For the last fifteen years, I’ve worked as a customer service manager at several cable companies. During that time my teams sold and supported hundreds of thousands of cable TV customers. I’ve trained dozens of employees on how to upsell and retain angry customers. Based on my experience, I’ve compiled this list of the most successful tips and tricks that customers used to get discounts and upgrades that weren’t listed or advertised. You should expect to save $350-$500 per year AND get some free features and upgrades depending on which tactics you can deploy.
I’m passing them onto you.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Before you call it’s important to gather a little bit of information. Here’s a checklist of information you’ll want:
• Are you under contract today, and if so, how much time is left?
• What equipment are you paying for (cable modem, wireless routers, etc)
• Cable companies love to add random and confusing fees, so have a copy of your bill handy so you can ask about those fees.
• How much bandwidth are you using today?
• Does your plan have any data caps? And if so, how much are you using each month?
• Have you paid any deposits?
• Keep track of outages, no matter how small. Make sure you call in the trouble, and make sure you make note of it. You can use this later when you speak to a supervisor.
• Who are the competitors in your area, and any promotional materials they may have?
• Secret shop online and use the post office address in your zip code to check service availability. This way you don’t have to speak to anyone, and you’ll get the most up to date offers.
• Does your provider have a sales department or retention department?
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
• If you are never late on payments, be sure to mention that.
• Of course, if you’re a chronic late payer, call in often to complain or have recently received discounts. Your chance for new or additional discounts maybe slim to none.
• Keep notes on every call you make to them and include date/time of the call, topics and resolution (if any), and the names of anyone you spoke to. If it was an issue that took multiple calls to resolve be sure to mention all the times, dates, and the name of the agents you spoke with.
• Not all agents note the account properly or if at all. If the representative you are speaking with doesn’t see any account notes of previous issues.
• Don’t lie because 10/10 times the call is recorded. They will take note of the time and date you provided of previous calls and review any call recordings.
• Use the awkward pause. If at any time during the call you’re not sure what to say…. then just pause and count to 7. The rep will almost always ask “Are you there?” and your response is “Yes, just thinking”, then pause again. It’s uncomfortable and will prompt them to start offering you more discounts and packages without you having to ask.
• If you are honest, get ready to reap the rewards of big discounts. Ask for them!
THEY VIEW YOU AS A NUMBER, AND THAT NUMBER IS AN LTV
• Communication providers give every customer a rating, and it’s called the “customer lifetime value” (LTV). This is similar to when creditors use your credit score to understand your creditworthiness. If are you dealing with a large national provider (like Comcast, Spectrum, Altice or Cox) odds are this is a number that is displayed within the customer service software they are using.
• Each provider has its own way of calculating any given customers LTV, but it’s usually a number between 0 and 5. The higher the number, the more valuable you are and the more discounts you can get.
• LTV’s are calculated through an algorithm that looks at a number of things: how much you spend per month, total amount of services such as phone/tv/internet/mobile, number of late payments if any, account age, number of trouble tickets, even the amount of times you have called in and so on.
• Smaller providers (Non-Nationwide) don’t have a physical LTV displayed on the screen. They may have never even heard of the acronym LTV. Either way, once they have you on the phone, while you are explaining your situation. The things they will be looking at are total monthly dollars spent, the total amount of services such as phone/tv/internet/mobile, number of late payments if any, account age, number of trouble tickets, and so on. This will give them an idea of who you are as a customer and if needed. What discounts or in some cases perks they can offer.
• If you ask what your LTV is, they won’t give it to you. The problem with the LTV is there’s are a lot of biases, and profiling used to calculate the number. The fact that you know they have this number and the dirty secret on how it’s calculated will be enough to make them want to give you the best discounts and upgrades and get you off the phone.
• If a provider is asking for a social security number (SSN) this is to see if a deposit is required to receive any equipment such as cable boxes and internet modems. Most of the time this has nothing to do with the LTV.
Okay, if you’ve read this far then you’re ready to engage your greedy cable company and find your savings. There’s a simple path you can take, and for the more adventurous we’ve listed some more aggressive tactics.
SIMPLE WAYS TO SAVE
• Drop to a lower tier package: Every 3 or 4 months, take a few minutes and evaluate your usage. You might not need the fastest internet available or all those premium channels. In particular, packages with large channel counts can add a lot to your bill. If you find you’re paying for features you don’t want or need anymore, drop them. Otherwise, they’re a waste of money.
• Call near the end of the month: The reason is most cable companies have sales quotas and you’ll have more leverage if they are trying to make their number.
• Seasonality: The best times of the year to call are near the beginning of the summer (which is when most customers change service providers) or back to school when cable companies offer the most competitive packages.
• Cut the cord: The simplest way to save is to only purchase internet, then stream your video from there. There are some great sites for content, and then there are devices such as Roku that are stupid easy to install and use. This works if the service provider doesn’t have data caps. If they have data caps, I recommend buying the lower tier video package with high-speed internet.
• Don’t pay for things you don’t need: There are channels you don’t watch and there’s a lot of content you can get for free or nearly free. Also, a great way to save $5-10 per month is to get your own wireless router. You’ll get better performance and save $.
• Call and ask for a discount: This is especially true for new providers who are looking to earn your business, and yes it really is that simple. Nearly every provider is willing to talk pricing, especially if you’re nearing the end of a service agreement and could potentially jump ship. Just call and ask what the rep can do for you. You might be surprised. This tactic really depends on the service rep you get when you call. At the beginning of the call the cable representative may not offer any discounts so be prepared to call back until you get a rep willing to work with you.
• Consider bundling: Bundling services is a great way to save money, and it’s often more convenient as well. If you happen to have services with different providers, this can be a great opportunity to negotiate. Almost all sales reps will offer bigger discounts if you call in and offer to put all your services with them. many sales reps will offer discounted packages in an effort to get you to go all-in with their company.
• Free things you can ask for: There are a number of things that the cable company can give to savvy customers that really don’t cost them anything. Here are a few things you can ask for: raise your data cap or get it removed entirely, upgrade to a channel lineup, and you can almost always get free premium channels (HBO, Showtime, etc.) for 6 months for free.
FOR THE MORE ADVANCED NEGOTIATOR
• Ask what your LTV is: They won’t be able to tell you what it is because of how they calculate it. By asking this question at any time during the call, it will let the provider know that you are armed with information and make them more inclined to give you what you want faster.
• Bill review: One great tactic is to call customer service and have them go over your bill, line item by line item often times the rep will not want to do this. Ask questions about what the fees are, what they are used for, if that’s specific to your area or state, are they taxed. It will require a lot of questions but what you are shooting for is the rep will break down and magically find a better cheaper package just to get you off the phone.
• Threaten to Leave: If asking nicely and negotiating don’t work, pull out the big guns. Call the cable company and threaten to leave, complain about pricing, or get a cheaper package, most providers will offer you packages that are much cheaper than what you’ll find online. These are plans that aren’t necessarily advertised but are available to representatives in order to retain customers, and they can be really good. It’s not uncommon to get your bill reduced by $20-$30 per month moving to these “secret” packages.
• Working with the retention department: The retention department is only there to try and keep you as a customer, or better put they are the last line of defense, but the most important think about this department is they can offer you the best deals. Not every company has a retention department, but they all have a policy about how to save customers. So be prepared, have your data ready (see above) and then say “I’m going to need to cancel”. They’ll ask you why and you can say a number of things: you’ve got a better option, too many outages, the service costs too much and you don’t watch all the channels. The retention team is trained to handle nearly all objections and they will try to talk you out of leaving. They’ll try all of the tricks other than lowering your bill or they’ll try to lower some components, so you pay less, but downgrade your service.
• Offer to sign a 1-year contract: While we normally consider a contract or service agreement to be a negative thing, the reality is many providers will offer discounted rates to customers willing to sign a one- or two-year agreement. That’s because they are guaranteed to make a certain amount of money from you under a contract, thanks to Early Termination Fees (ETFs). National providers like Comcast, Cox, and Suddenlink offer both on-contract and off-contract pricing—and yes, the on-contract pricing is less expensive. If you expect to stick with one company for a while, it might be worth signing a contract to save some money. Typically, the difference between on- and off-contract pricing is around $10 per month, so it can really add up.
• Call through the organization: If you’re looking to save money it’s worth making a few calls. Call customer service, sales, and maybe the technician of your last install. It also doesn’t hurt to escalate through those groups, you can simply ask to speak to the Manager of the department. Different groups within the company might have different promotions or bonuses going on.
• Send an executive a personal email: This is one tactic that works every time, but you have to be prepared to make your case. By searching www.linkedin.com and the company website you can usually find the name of a VP or higher. Send that person an email, let them know you are a long-time customer, you pay your bill on time, and you’re not happy because the best packages are only offered to new customers. That email will make it across a lot of desks, and we’re 100% sure you’ll get a response.
A SIMPLE STEP BY STEP NEGOTIATION
The negotiation has three phases: the initial offer, the second offer, and the free stuff. The key is getting a deal you’re happy with and it requires planning and patience. you’re patient and play your cards right, the call should take 10-15 minutes and at a minimum, you’ll be able to drop your bill by $30-40 per month…which is $300-500 per year!
Step 1 – The Initial Offer:
• The representative will present you with an initial offer, and it will always be better than what you see online through your account but it’s not going to be their best.
o At this point, you can take the offer and be done OR if you want more then
o This is where you tell them about a competitor’s offering. “I have this promotion from [Company ABC] for $$$, can you beat it?”
o Don’t forget the value of the awkward pause. If you don’t know what to say, the simply pause for 7 seconds. I can almost guarantee you that the rep will break down and offer you some additional help.
Step 2 – The Second Offer:
• The representative will give you a second offer which will be better than the first offer, but it might not be their best offer.
• You can take this offer if it works for you, or you can say “Is that the best you can do?”
Step 3 – The Free Stuff:
• It’s a simple statement “Is that the best you can do?” then it’s important to pause for 7 seconds…don’t talk first, let that sink in. It’s likely they’ll offer you something but if they don’t then you can ask for some things.
• Here’s some free stuff you can ask for: additional DVRs, upgraded cable modems, added channels, additional bandwidth speeds, removing data caps or adding more data.
Good luck, we want to hear about your results or some things that you found out that we didn’t list here. Be sure to check out a few of our other posts that you may like: