As consumers, we’re all pretty used to prices slowly creeping up year on year, think insurance, broadband charges, or your TV package – and it's massively frustrating that we only seem to get the best deals when we're new customers!
Promotional offers and introductory discounts are the norm, but you don't necessarily need to switch providers every year or two or suck up ever-higher costs if you’re a little savvy about it.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is often scope to negotiate. If you have the confidence to haggle, you'll typically be able to extend a lower-cost contract, reduce your line rental, or even snag a free router while you're there.
Broadband and TV bundles are one of the best services to negotiate on because if you're a dual-product subscriber, a provider will be less likely to let you leave if there's anything they can do to prevent it.
The first thing to do is ring – writing a letter or sending an email isn’t going to cut it! Emails are easily ignored, and if there isn’t a real person on the end of the phone being insistent about getting a better offer, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful.
Now, this isn’t always the case, but lots of big brands have a particular department that has a few secret shopper deals up their sleeves, so it might take a bit of persistence.
Based on our knowledge of broadband and TV providers, we appreciate that most brands pour all their efforts into attracting new customers. Still, they also rely on ongoing subscribers to maintain their contracts.
The longer you have been with a company, and the more noise you can make about finding cheaper offers elsewhere or switching to a competitor, the more chance you stand of haggling your contact down.
However, it's also worth shopping around and seeing what promotional deals are available elsewhere. Sometimes these are impossible to beat, so you might be better off making a change rather than negotiating if you know whatever your current provider can offer won't be close to the discounts available from their competitors.
We had a look through message boards, forums, and discussion posts to try and work out what is realistically achievable and found some amazing case studies where customers had approached their suppliers to negotiate and achieved fantastic outcomes.
In fact, around 83% of those who take the time to haggle are successful, although the exact discounts or freebies they have secured vary between cases.
Here are some of the examples we discovered:
The trick is always to know what you're haggling about and what you hope to achieve – it's important to manage expectations because if you're already on the lowest tariff or deal, there might simply be no other product to offer you.
However, you can use your status as a long-term customer, threaten to leave and join a competitor, or complain about the contrast between your rates and new customer deals as a way to get a little leverage.
For many of us, the concept of ringing a random call centre and launching into a negotiation with the person on the phone sounds intimidating – but haggling doesn’t have to be acrimonious or anything but friendly!
It may also take some practice to refine your negotiating technique and get comfortable with asking for what you want; we all know if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Let’s run through some advice and guidance to help you get started. If you're nervous, it could help to write down key points or things you'd like to say so you don't forget anything.
Don’t ring without knowing precisely what the terms of your contract are or checking when and by how much your charges are expected to rise.
Ofcom introduced new consumer protections back in 2014, limiting the capacity of service providers to suddenly bump your charges up mid-way through a contract. Hence, you have a good argument if your provider is trying to do so.
You may also have solid ground to leave without paying any early exit charges if you’re experiencing a price rise mid-contract, even if you haven’t yet reached the minimum term date.
This situation is also a brilliant negotiating opportunity because if a provider has to waive their T&Cs to account for your customer protections, they’ll be keen to keep you on board.
Providers must give at least 30 days written notice, so if you've been informed of a price rise without advance warning (and this isn't stipulated in your contract), you also have a case to argue against paying anything more than you currently are.
You have greater power to haggle if you are approaching the end of your contract or your provider has done something (such as putting prices up) that has made you consider moving to a competitor.
With the caveats discussed above, it can be difficult to get any wiggle room if you are part-way through a fixed-term contract because you may be legally obliged to stick with your provider or pay a hefty exit charge.
Negotiating too soon can be a bad move because a provider will normally be more prepared to consider a discount or extend a deal if they know you have every right to leave their service and aren’t locked into a contract.
However, please don't leave it too late! If you ring a broadband or TV provider the day before your contract expires, they probably won't have enough time to do anything about it, or it'll be too little notice to prevent you from rolling over to a higher-priced deal.
There is little so frustrating as being told by a provider that they can’t help to reduce your costs when you can see a new customer offer being advertised at a fraction of your contracted rate!
But do your research before you ring. If you know what the best deals, discounts or rates are from your existing provider or what you'd be able to get from a main competitor, you can use these benchmarks as a negotiating basis.
Junior customer service representatives often won't have the authority to step outside the lines, so if you're not getting anywhere, ask to speak to customer retention or a more senior manager – complaints teams often have a lot of leeway, too!
Retention is a cornerstone of subscription services, and these teams have a lot more flexibility than a standard customer service call desk.
Whether the department is called retention or customer satisfaction, their job is to stop you from leaving and, perhaps most importantly, avoid leaving a negative review online, so they're your best option.
Regardless of whether you're peeved at a price rise or think your continual increases are taking the proverbial, it’s essential to be polite, friendly, and receptive to a discussion.
Customer service representatives are subject to abusive language far more often than they should be and have every right to put the phone down or refuse to speak with you if they perceive your tone as aggressive, angry, or unpleasant.
Trust us – a little friendliness goes a very long way in the world of negotiations!
You want a customer service adviser who relates to your situation, wants to help and ultimately will go the extra mile to ensure you get amazing service and are satisfied with their assistance.
Remember that a call centre employee doesn't set the rules, account policies or pricing, so respect their position, and we guarantee they'll be more willing to help.
If you're not making any progress, try being more assertive and telling your provider the maximum you're prepared to pay per month, quoting comparable deals from competitors, or refusing to commit because you suspect they could do a little better.
You do not have to accept the first offer you’re given, which is normally a token gesture (see our examples above for a great illustration of this!).
Finally, don’t think that the only discount worth having is monetary. Perhaps you are on a great deal and there isn’t a lot a company can do to reduce your costs – but they might be able to chuck in some extras that will make a difference.
A faster broadband speed at no extra cost, a few additional minutes or features thrown in on your TV contract, or a freebie router or Wi-Fi extension box are all definitely worth having!