by Mira Reverente
The other week, I received my home insurance bill which was somewhat higher than it used to be in recent years. Something about the amount made me do a double take, so I brought out the past two years’ bills to compare.
My hunch was right. I called my home insurance provider. Probably following a script, the phone agent right away explained that home insurance rates have gone up in California due to an unusually high number of recent claims. But I persisted and here’s how our conversation went:
Me: “Is there any other way I can get this amount down?”
Agent: “You have the loyalty discount and this and that….hmm…can I put you on hold while I check on something?”
Agent: (after a few minutes) “Well, it looks like your auto insurance is also with us so you can also avail of the multi-policy discount….” (Typing) “So your new annual total is x or a savings of $350 a year.”
Me: “Wow. Thank you so much!”
I love discounts and lower rates as much as the next person, but timing is also everything. Had that bill come at a hectic time, I might not have made that phone call. In the past, I have also had some negotiating success with my cell phone provider and my internet-cable provider. Mortgage and credit card interest rates are also negotiable, though the process is longer, with more paperwork, for the former.
Here’s some sample one-liners I’ve used over the years:
“Is there any other way to reduce my rate/plan/package/bundle?”
“Is there anyone else who can help me?”
“It’s not in my budget. How about I only get ____, instead of ____?”
“Can you offer any discounts if I pre-pay for a quarter or six months?”
“I’ve been a loyal customer for __ years. Is there anything else you can do to help me?”
And some general negotiating tips:
- Be polite. No one likes to help a rude person, or you might be given the run-around.
- Be persistent. So the wait time is long, especially on Monday mornings. Use a bluetooth piece or earbuds as you tackle other chores while you’re on hold.
- Be firm. Don’t be talked into adding more features, equipment or going for that upgrade. Remember your primary purpose–to negotiate a lower monthly bill, not upgrade to the 175-channel package or the international calling plan which includes China when you don’t even know anyone there.
- Take good notes. Phone agents are humans too and make mistakes. Write down the confirmation number, the name of the agent, the new rate and the date/time you called. I usually write all this info down on the front page of the most recent bill. If you are 100 percent paperless, keep a little notebook just for this purpose.
Remember, these companies do want your business and want you to stay happy. It costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain a current one. Whether it’s a customer myth or not, it’s worth remembering.
Mira Reverente is associate editor of CVH and a longtime journalist whose work has appeared in many local publications. Her first book on money came out last fall. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, for more money savviness tips or check out her new blog.