The top 10 call centre haggling tips. Martin Lewis recommends the following, which I endorse. If you don’t ask you don’t get. these tips apply to almost all forms of haggling.
This is more art than science – but as discounting is factored into firms’ pricing models, it’s worth trying to tap into it.
1 Timing is crucial
Haggling works best when you’re near or beyond the end of your contract. If not, you’re trapped and have little wiggle room. Don’t call at the busiest times – usually any time Monday, lunchtimes, month ends and starts, and just after people get home from work – they’ll have less time to spend with you.
2 Benchmark the cheapest deals
It’s important to have a factual arsenal. Research the deals, discounts and codes it and its competitors are offering to act as a basis for negotiation. Here’s some sector-by-sector help.
• Broadband & home phone: ask for your MAC (Migration Authorisation Code), which is needed to switch. It’ll spook your existing firm into thinking you’re leaving. Benchmark price: new customer deals can be £10/month for broadband and line rent combined; see mse.me/broadband for deals.
• Mobile phones: the market’s deflationary, so excluding handset costs you should pay less each contract end. Benchmark price: there are £15/month Sim-only deals giving unlimited calls, unlimited texts and a high data limit; if you’re paying more, ask yourself why? Use billmonitor.co.uk or mobilephonechecker.co.uk to check.
• Digital TV: Do a channel audit of what you really watch and ditch the rest. Benchmark price: Freeview is free, others vary hugely, but 50pc off Sky codes can sometimes be found. Current deals at mse.me/digitalTV.
• Breakdown cover: It’s not just the AA and RAC, think wider. Benchmark price: Basic cover for new customers can be less than £20 a year if you go through cashback sites such as topcashback.com and quidco.com.
• Car and home insurance: always do a full market comparison, then take that price back to your insurer to match and beat it. Without doing so you’re often overpaying, even after haggling.
• Credit card debt: ask your existing cards if they’ll let you shift debt cheaply from other cards to them: Barclaycard and MBNA commonly agree. Then shift all debt to where it’s cheapest, so you’re using your existing credit efficiently. For any remaining costly debt, apply for a new card with a balance transfer deal. Full instructions at mse.me/shuffle.
3 It’s all about getting to the retention department
Most front-line call centre staff are there to process standard administration requests, not to negotiate. So ask them for the deal you want, but if they can’t deliver don’t think the story’s over.
The real powerhouse technique is to get put through to ”disconnections’’, a department which is usually internally called ”customer retentions’’, as it’s their job to keep hold of you. This team generally has much stronger deal-making ability than customer service.
Therefore a simple “Sorry, but in that case I think I may need to leave,” can pay dividends. I’m not asking you to lie; but if your deal isn’t good enough, do genuinely consider going elsewhere. Once at disconnections, repeat your request and the haggling can start for real.
4 Don’t panic about actually being disconnected
Many tell me they’re just too nervous to try this in case they’re disconnected. My easy ”get out of jail free card’’ on this is the phrase: “Hold on, I’ll call you back on that. I’d like to check it with my husband/wife/dog/Aunt Fanny first.” This gives you thinking time.
5 If it doesn’t work once, you can try again
I’ve been informed by former call-centre operatives that they had daily discount quotas in customer retentions. This is only anecdotal, so I can’t guarantee it’s true, but it does mean you may find a rejection one day turns into an acceptance the next.
6 Use charm, chutzpah, cheek and a smile
Aggression or anger will just put their back up. You’re asking for a discount, and they’re just as within their rights not to give it, as you are to leave.
You can hear if someone’s smiling, even on the phone. Haggling’s all about charm and chutzpah. You’re dealing with a human being, with discretion, so utilise that to win them to your side.
In the very early days of dating Mrs MoneySavingExpert, I had boasted of my haggling techniques. She then came to John Lewis to help me buy a lamp I needed for my home. I tried a basic store haggle, and asked the male shop assistant to throw in some spare bulbs (which weren’t cheap) for free, but was met with a flat refusal.
Yet when Mrs MSE nipped off to grab herself something, I explained to him I was on a date, had boasted I was a good haggler, and really needed to impress her. Turned out he was a single man sympathetic to my plight, so I got the free bulbs. It must have worked, as I’m now married (to Mrs MSE, not the shop assistant).
7 Problems mean discounts
If you’ve had issues with a company – slow broadband, breakdown call-out response wasn’t fast enough, poor mobile network coverage – politely tell them when you haggle. They should want to try and make it up to you. Then again, are you sure you want to stay?
8 Use the phrases that pay
If you’re nervous, remember all you’re doing is asking for a better price because you think it’s too expensive. Some standard phrases may help…
“I’ve worked out my monthly budget and my absolute maximum price is £x per month.”
“I need to think about it, that price is just too expensive.”
“My partner will go bonkers if I pay that much.”
“That’s still a lot of money, is it the best you can do?”
Remember, don’t say yes to the first offer they give you, unless it’s what you wanted.
9 If they’ve got a deal on for new customers, call up and ask for it as a retention customer
Make sure they understand you are frustrated that a new customer is getting a better deal when you have given them your loyal service. This is a very powerful haggling point.
10 Don’t fill in the silence
A classic sales technique is to stay silent and leave the other person to feel they need to fill the silence and agree. If that’s done to you, simply tell them you’re waiting for their better offer, or at least throw a question back.
11 Added extras are equivalent to a discount
If they can’t drop the price see if they can throw in any extras – like this extra 11th tip – such as free calls, a handset upgrade, extra six months warranty, Sky Sports for free, or Sky Movies for free if you’re getting Sky Sports. Non-price haggles like these can still provide decent, effective savings.
• Tweet Martin at Twitter.com/@MartinSLewis
Well done Mr Lewis – Mr Negotiator, the negotiating speaker.