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How To Negotiate (Almost) Any Bill Successfully

Hayden Field  |  July 17, 2020

A look at exactly what to say and ask for, and some of the finer points for negotiating your bills in order to pay less. (Hint: be nice!)

Cutting monthly costs translates directly to more money in your pocket, and in the age of COVID-19, that’s especially helpful. Since many of us are working from home — and likely putting in a lot of hours on the couch — there’s never been a better time to call your cable, Internet, electric or gas company (or any other provider that bills you monthly) and ask for a lower rate. 

And if you’re new to negotiating? Never fear. With the help of negotiation and commercial consultant Devon Smiley, we’ve laid out exactly how to structure the conversation, as well as the language you should use. You can thank us later 🙂 

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Research competitor rates beforehand. 

Before you get on the phone with your provider, spend a few minutes on Google looking up competitor rates and offerings. Another great strategy: Look into the rates and deals that your own provider is offering to new customers to draw them in. Use that number as your negotiation goal, says Smiley, and start with the usual customer service phone number. 

Thank the representative in advance. 

You’re asking someone to go out of their way to help you when it’s technically easier for them to stick to the status quo and get off the phone with you as quickly as possible. Ask yourself: If you were in their shoes, how would you want to be treated? Remember that this person is not synonymous with the company — they’re just a person who works for it. Say something like, “Thank you so much for helping me out; I’m so glad to be talking to you. Let me fill you in on the situation.” Then go into story time — keep it short enough not to drag on, but include enough details that it helps the two of you make a human connection. Without the representative on your side, it’ll be difficult to make any progress. 

Ask for a walk-through of your bill. 

Shy about negotiating? Dip your toe into the water by asking for a detailed explanation of the different line items on your monthly bill. Smiley says she’s seen this work for existing clients “with a long track record,” and she suggests saying something like, “I’m not certain I understand all of the line items on my bills this month. Can you please walk me through so I can know how it added up to so much?” Sometimes, this can even lead to cancellation of some charges without you asking, labeled as “customer loyalty action,” says Smiley. 

Ask about flexibility. 

After the walk-through, Smiley suggests saying something like, “I’m wondering if there’s flexibility to bring that amount down — is that something you can help me with?” Since that kind of language seems to invite discussion rather than lay out a demand, it can help both parties relax and make progress towards the goal. Another important note: “In the current climate, it may help to specifically mention ‘difficulties related to COVID-19,’” says Smiley. “Anecdotally, some companies have policies to help, but only if the client specifically mentions COVID.” 

Mention your research on rates. 

To show you’ve done your research, say something like, “I saw that the company is currently extending offers of [X price] per month — I’d like to be paying the same.” It’ll be difficult for the company to argue with extending a price to you that is clearly currently being offered to others, even if it’s ostensibly a deal for new customers. 

If you strike out, ask nicely to speak to someone else. 

If during the call you’re kind but firm, and you find that things aren’t progressing, there’s a chance the person you’re speaking with doesn’t have the authority to make the changes you’re requesting. Thank the representative, then kindly (the key word there is kindly) ask to speak with a supervisor who might have the authority to help you. If you do this right, you won’t alienate the person who’s been helping you, and you’ll also be able to continue your conversation with someone who can help you get closer to your goal rate. 


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