Bluffing a customer service representative by threatening to cancel your contract or subscription is a risky way to save money. If you engage in this tactic, make sure you abide by these three rules:
- Make sure you are prepared to actually cancel the service.
- Be polite and respectful and focus on the “price” of the product or service as the reason you are calling to “cancel”.
- Make sure you fully understand the cost of any early termination fees.
Companies know it is less costly to keep their current customer than it is to advertise and attract new ones; this is why there are so many perks enticing customers to continue doing business with one particular company. From frequent flyer rewards programs to free pizza punch cards, the reward opportunities for consumers our endless.
A weird thing happened over the last few weeks that really brought this idea into perspective and highlighted the lengths companies will go to keep their current customers. I called three separate companies to cancel either a contract or subscription and all three offered a heavily discounted retention offer to keep me as a customer.
SiriusXM Radio: The first discount I received was when I called to cancel my SiriusXM satellite radio subscription for our family car. Our bank account had recently been charged $170 for the service and my family and I decided satellite radio just wasn’t worth the cost.
I explained to the customer service representative that I wanted to cancel my service. She said she could “help me with that” but she wanted to know why we were canceling. I told her we just didn’t think the subscription price was worth it to us.
The customer service rep spoke decent English, but you could tell English was not her natural language. What happened next was very interesting. She immediately starting speaking in perfect English offering me a promotional rate at a substantially reduced price off the original $170 I was charged. My guess is she was reading from a script that was part of the customer management software her company used.
While it was a fair price, it still wasn’t enough for us to continue with our subscription and I politely declined the offer. When I declined, she started reading from yet another script in which she said (in perfect English) that she would waive the standard “royalty fees” and other charges which brought down the cost even more.
I had all intentions of canceling the service, but her second offer was enough to persuade me to stay on as a customer. With one simple phone call I save over $90.
Insect Extermination and Pest Control Service: Like many households, my family has maintained a relationship with a local extermination company that charges us an annual fee to control ants, ticks and spiders around our home (we don’t have termite problems here in Maine). Things had been going well with the service, but after a missed treatment, billing issues and still finding a few insects here and there, we decided to call and cancel.
With this pest control company, you couldn’t just cancel the service with a customer service representative, the service rep would forward your information on to a regional manager and they call you back to “see what the problem is”. I explained to the manager what our issues where and of course he apologized for the inconvenience, etc. He then started offering discounts to keep us on as customers (after all we’d been a source of $500 a year in revenue for this company and with tick treatments we were over $1000 per year).
Because we were prepared to cancel our service, he offered us a discount on annual service contract. However, in the end we still felt more comfortable canceling our extermination service and either do it ourselves or take our business elsewhere.
Magazine Subscriptions: The latest experience I had was when I tried to cancel my subscription to Money Magazine, Fast Company and Entrepreneur Magazine. I had recently been charged $30+ on my bank account as part of an automatic renewal process for each of these magazines.
I immediately called to cancel each one of these subscriptions and without ever speaking to an actual person I was able to navigate to the “cancel subscriptions feature”. When I confirmed my intent to cancel on the phone, I was then offered the opportunity to continue my subscription at the reduced rate of $12 per month. I declined the offer and proceeded to cancel my subscription. I was then prompted with another option to receive the next four months free with the option to cancel my service at the end of 4 months or continue as a subscriber for the same $12 a year rate.
This offer may have been great for someone, but the truth is I really don’t read those magazines anymore.
My experiences just go to show that companies are offering more and more incentives to keep their current customers. If you know how to “play the game” you may realize substantial savings. Just remember, you need to be prepared to actually cancel the service. Just remember, if you depend on the particular service you are calling to “cancel” you may want to think twice about trying to bluff the sales rep unless there is a viable alternative available to you.