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19 Aug 2009 / Julie

saving money, one phone call at a time

yesterday while doing what waiting rooms are meant for, i read “Cut your spending by $500 a month” in the September 2009 MONEY that was laying around.  the article had a lot of a lot of good ideas on how to cut your spending in small ways (which are much easier to handle than major changes) including the old standby of using the library.

somewhere in there it mentioned (or got me thinking about) asking service providers to lower their rates/fees. the bf and i had been discussing how a family member had gotten her cable provider to continue the lower promotional rate instead of raising her bill to the normal, higher, rates just by asking. very cognizant of how much we’re spending these days, i figured i’d give it a shot.

i write about customer service a lot. usually when the service is somewhere in the excellent or horrific range.  in this case the experience was just okay but the outcome was awesome. here’s what happened:

with yet another $99 triple play + netbook cable flier in my hand i call up our service provider for phone, internet and tv. immediately i’m reminded why i hate calling these people; their automated phone system; that computerized female is highly annoying and not nearly as intelligent as she should be. she asks if i’m calling about my #. yes. she asks what service i’m calling about but doesn’t give me an “all” option (something i deal with with MPOW’s vendor a lot… no ALL option). i continue to say “customer service” but Ms. Automated and I start a fight. she wont connect me yet because she hasn’t decided who’s the best person to deal with my issue.

I say something i thought applied (i can’t remember what now) and am connected. i’m on hold for only the briefest of minutes but am connected to Mr. OverseasOperator who asks me to “know my phone number” and informs me that he is in the DSL customer service department and can’t help me but he’ll transfer me to someone who can. I didn’t remember saying DSL, but the tv was on loud in the background and the automated system may have picked up something from there.  Before i’m transferred i hang up and try again. previous experiences with being transferred from overseas back over here have told me the connection quality deteriorates with each connection. fun stuff for a phone company.

i look up the # on GetHuman, a site i have bookmarked on my cell for easy access, and call the number listed. Ms. Automated greets me again and we do battle for a few minutes. I keep saying “operator” as instructed by GetHuman and eventually do get a human. An operator who transferred me to “the right department.” Very quickly i got someone else. He identified himself but I’m going to call him Matt. Matt listened to me explain why i was calling and then said that they’re quality is “better and faster than the cable company’s and i was really comparing apples to oranges”, but that i might want to talk to someone in cancellations to “see what they can do.” He transferred me over and a girl who i’ll call Angie who answered right away and listened to me explain why i was calling (oranges or apples, i want the cheapest fruit). She asked permission to view my account and took a look. she asked if we watched HBO (the one premium we pay for) and i said we did on a fairly regular basis (it’s all Bill’s fault). after a few minutes and some apologies about a slow computer, she said she could give us a $10 discount each month until the end of our contract (and subsequently the promotional period). I didn’t think to haggle further (i’m learning) but i was happy with the outcome. today i feel i should have pushed for a netbook (which was the promotion directly after the one we signed up under) but i let it go.

i still had to battle the automated phone system (which, for a phone company is fairly full of fail) but the overall outcome was very positive. Angie was glad to help and didn’t fight me at all. I said i wanted cheaper service, she made it happen. Rock on, Angie.

The moral of the story is to ask for the cancellations department immediately and not to take no for an answer.

next, i’m thinking of calling the electric company but i’m fairly sure i’ll get laughed at. :-)

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