If you’re like me, when you open your bills these days— whether they come in the ancient form of paper mail or in your email— more often than not, the number is not what you expected. Sometimes the number is different because your bills are higher for completely legitimate reasons, but sometimes a mistake is made. Regardless, it stinks when you watch money disappear, due to a higher bill.
Good news! If you play your cards right, you might not have to live with those pesky increased bills, especially if they were increased by mistake.
Now, one of my husband’s favorite lines is, “I just pays what things cost.” In other words, he will just pay whatever the bill says to avoid the hassle. Not me. My husband is good at many things, but negotiating a good rate or a deal is not one of his strong suits, nor does he wish to willingly put himself in these kinds of situations. I, on the other hand, am definitely the negotiator in our relationship.
Do you think that I get results by simply sending a company an email asking for a correction or discount? Nope. That would be too easy. The key to getting your money back requires some good old-fashioned communication skills that, honestly, we should all use more than we do these days: letters and phone calls. So many of us try to get away with text messaging and emails for these kinds of things, but we really should be talking on the phone or writing people handwritten letters if we want to see real results. [Related: 3 Jars, 1 Goal]
Every January I get an email from my cable provider with a higher bill than the month before. In January, all of the companies raise prices at least $5 or more. In order to keep my bill down, I call the cable company. As usual, they tell me that they will only lower my bill if I reduce my cable package.
There are two key things that I have learned when you’re trying to get the most out of your money: you need to be persistent and “you catch more bees with honey”. Be nice to these people, they are fighting these same prices when they get home and they will sympathize. Many times the person you are talking to cannot help you and there is someone who can; ask for that person! Just say, “Okay, I understand you can’t help me. Thank you for your time. Please transfer me to another agent who can help me.”
Boom. Lower bill! These companies don’t want you to cancel your service, especially if you don’t have a contract.
Scenario 2: Write a letter.
That’s right! Get out your pen and paper and go to town. (Okay, a typed letter will work, too.) I have been a loyal customer to my cell phone provider for many years, and I pay more money with this provider because of their great coverage and good customer service.
Last fall, almost a year ago, we upgraded my husband’s phone, and I was given some misinformation. As a result, I was paying $20 more on my cell phone bill every month than I should have been. That adds up quickly! I tried calling the company’s customer service a couple of times. Both times the agents were very helpful and tried their best to make right the situation, but didn’t have the ability to change things within the system.
So, I sat down at my computer and wrote a letter. I explained my situation and how the customer service department really tried to help. I licked the envelope, placed the stamp and mailed the letter to corporate headquarters. Deep down, I really didn’t expect this to give me results, but I figured it was worth the try.
Then, a few weeks later, I got a call from the corporate office customer service! A very nice man reviewed my case, corrected my bill and discussed some current deals that were happening that would save me even more money.
Bottom line: am I just being a penny-pinching cheapskate? Maybe. Am I pushing my luck trying to get a good deal? Maybe. But here are the facts: when I slow down and treat the people that are serving me with patience, tact and a personal message, I tend to get some results.
And you know what? These communication skills apply beyond these customer service scenarios, too. Dare I say this would probably help with some of the relationships that matter to me more than my relationship with the customer service representative on the other end of the phone.
Maybe next time we have question or inquiry, instead of texting, we can stop and call, write or *gulp* talk to someone face-to-face to resolve an issue. More often than not, the extra effort will pay off. Literally.