Negotiating and Winning with Your Internet and TV Provider (Updated)

Posted on February 24, 2014


Steve Mensing, Editor

♦ Just about every year folks in Rowan County notice an upsurge in the price on their internet and TV bills.  Savvy consumers know several basic strategies for negotiating those prices down and getting perks to remain with their provider.  Know that successful broadband companies operate from the position: “A customer retained is far better than no customer at all.”  That’s why all the large broadband companies like Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-Verse, and Dish employ folks called “retention specialists” or “customer care”.  These are the socially graceful people who attempt to coax customers back into the fold who desire to close their accounts and move on.

I’ve dealt with scores “retention specialists” and “customer care” folks over the years both in Philadelphia with Comcast and Verizon and here in Rowan with Time Warner Cable.  I’ve coached others about how to get around customer service reps adamant about drawing a line in the sand. I’ve shown consumers how to get as quickly as possible to retention specialists and or if required: Vice-presidents charged with customer care.  I’ve always found these folks friendly, considerate, and amenable to changing our bills.  During the last bill “rise” with our provider we got on the phone, when we noted a substantial rise in our bill, and quickly corrected it to our liking.

Let’s preview several strategies for getting our internet and TV bills down:

Plan A–our regular course of action for these minor inconveniences in life.  We called our internet and cable TV provider during regular business hours (the very best time to call and get a retention specialist) and immediately got a customer service rep on the phone.  This one right away turned a cold ear to our disinterest in a price rise and desired to draw a line in the sand.  We shed her pretty quickly before a somewhat brusque supervisor took her place.  They listened some before we informed them we could do better elsewhere and now wanted to discontinue service.  They asked us to hold, then switched us to another line where the ever-pleasant voice of a “customer retention specialist” answered. Jackpot.

“How may I help you?” she asked.

“We want to discontinue service.  We can’t afford this jump in our bill.  We know we can do better at DirecTV and require faster internet service.”

“Before you consider leaving us, we’d like to be able to match our competitor within reason,” she said.

We spread out a copy of a recent DirecTV flyer and its channel offerings on my desk.  We also knew what internet speed offerings elsewhere were available and prices. (Always know a competitor’s offering and their most current bargain prices.  Trust the customer retention specialist will also know their competition’s rates and packages)

For the next 10 or so minutes she offered us our existing TV package (well over 200+ channels–every non premium channel in their fleet and HBO and Showtime) and fed our desires for higher-speed internet.  A little back and forth negotiating took place–all cordial.  Their Extreme internet 30 Mbps down and 5 mbps up. (It actually runs around 40 Mbps down and closer to 6 Mbps up in my neighborhood)  The internet and TV package, with these new upgrades in speed, cost us the same as our previous bill before their attempted price rise. Bingo.

Quick rules of negotiating your bill down:

• Always have a competitor’s bargain rates available when you call.  Know their package’s channels, internet speeds, and rates. (The bargain rates can be found on the internet or in flyers dropped through your mail slot.

• Be firm, polite, and let them know you are ready to head elsewhere for greener pastures.

• Never deal long with the customer service rep.  Be polite and tell them you desire to speak to someone higher up in the pecking order.

• If you are a timid soul or unassertive, get someone who will represent you in this money saving conversation.

• If you have sincerely exhausted the regular line of customer service–supervisor–and customer retention specialist, then go to the “final court of appeals”: The Vice-President charged with customer care.  These folks ALWAYS get action.  These folks can be reached at the main regional office.

• If you can’t get what you want, after hitting all those doorbells, time to bee-line to a competitor’s door busting bargains.  All of the major broadband providers like TWC, AT&T U-Verse, DirecTV, and Dish have great bargains when you first signup.  After a year they try to jack you up.  This is when you renegotiate.

• Never purchase VOIP phone services from a major broadband provider unless they toss it to you FREE during a bargaining session.  Get with either FREE Google Voice VOIP or get with MagicJack Plus for mere peanuts a year.  Other bargains exist.

Review: Know three basic strategies are available to customers unhappy with their internet and TV bill.

(1) Tell them you are leaving, have a competitor’s offer at hand and negotiate from a position of power.

(2) Fold your tent with your provider and move to better “pastures”.  Become a free agent–picking and choosing your best deals yearly.

(3) If you’ve already left a provider for over 31 days, you may be able to hook back up with as a new customer and get fantastic starting deals.  You best check your provider’s policies on when you can return as a new customer and nail down one of their special deals.

The major broadband companies want to retain their customers.  They will negotiate when you tell them you are parting company with them.  I am not a special case–folks all over Salisbury and Rowan county are doing this.  I negotiated better prices and packages for years now with internet and TV providers such as Comcast and Verizon up in Philadelphia and with Time Warner Cable down here.  Many other folks do it across the U.S.A..  Clark Howard, the CNN consumer guy, also praises the “tell them you’re leaving” technique.  Successful telecom companies follow the old business maxim: “Any customer is worth more than none at all.”  They will deal when pushed.  If they don’t, their customers will head elsewhere.

There are plenty of internet and TV providers in Salisbury and Rowan.  The customer has the pick of the litter.  Assert yourselves consumers and negotiate on your terms–help yourselves to the best services and packages.  Nothing like using good old consumer power. Don’t take price rises and bad deals from any telecom be it private or municipal.

If you want to cut out cable TV and satellite TV altogether and save some major bucks, go to IPTV devices and indoor TV antennas.  With a ROKU or Apple TV IPTV devices you have an inexhaustible selection of TV channels and movie providers from which to choose.  Here’s the skinny on “cutting the cord” with IPTV and indoor digital TV antennas:

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