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Negotiating is an important skill to develop because it can save you thousands if not millions over the course of a lifetime. There is nothing rude about negotiating in its basic form as long as you remember to be kind about it.

Gather Intel

Before you call on the particular bill you wish to negotiate you should do a price check with competitors and similar offerings. When I called on my garbage bill I was specific on the size of the can, the frequency of pickups, and whether or not the service included a recycling can as well (no recycling can was non-negotiable for me). This information will be vital to your negotiation.

You’ll Attract More Flies with Honey

The first rule of successful negotiation is to remember that it’s another person on the phone when you call on a bill. If you’ve ever worked in a customer service type of job it’s always a relief when you get a customer that’s overly kind. Be clear, kind, and courteous. Use the other person’s name and treat them with respect. The people that work in call centers deal with other people’s crap all day, cut them a break and remember to thank them for their time and assistance.

Present Your Case

Before you tell the agent about the other providers, start off simply by asking if there are any current promotions or discounts they can offer you. Often you may be able to stop here as they will offer something great but be careful if this requires you to agree to anything new like additional channels for a television service. It’s common for them to bundle up something like extra channels for a promo period and then when that period ends you can end up paying more than you were originally. 

If that doesn’t get you anywhere then you move onto phase two of the negotiation process which is to tell them about providers in your area with competitive pricing. Sometimes, this is enough for them to adjust your rate going forward to keep you as a customer. When I presented my findings for other local garbage services the agent agreed to just match their price going forward. I was able to cut my bill in half and we both felt we had won.

When Presenting Data Doesn’t Work

If presenting competitor’s prices isn’t far enough you have to be prepared to leave your current provider for one of the others. If you’re not willing to actually switch providers then don’t try bluffing this step, people can often smell bullshit. Most of the time the agent will try to work with you and keep you as a customer, but don’t be surprised if you’re transferred to a customer retention agent. Again, be prepared to actually leave the service if their offer doesn’t meet your minimum expectations. 

Negotiation takes time, patience, and practice. I encourage you to continuously work on your negotiation skills. In many cultures a certain amount of haggling/negotiation is expected when you are buying something. A successful negotiation leaves both parties feeling like they made out well. Negotiation is not strong arming your opponent into submission, you wouldn’t want to feel that way after a purchase.

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