Martin Lewis' haggling tips

Published Monday, 02 June 2014
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Holly Willoughby is scared of it, and most people think it should only be done abroad, but Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis says we should all do it whenever we can. Are you a haggler?

Haggling isn't just for overseas bazaars, it's an, albeit hush-hush, part of UK culture. Whether in banks, high street stores, bureaux de change, or even insurers, don't believe the price that's set is always the price you must pay.

Even if you don't haggle anywhere else, there's one must-do UK haggle. When talking to digital TV, broadband, mobile phone and roadside recovery call centres, not negotiating is just raising a white flag to overcharging.

These are the top five service companies to haggle with, according to the latest poll I carried out:

  • AA (407 responses) - 90% success rate
  • TalkTalk (198 responses) - 82% success rate
  • Sky (915 responses) - 82% success rate
  • RAC (100 responses) - 78% success rate
  • Admiral (163 responses) - 78% success rate

The top 10 call centre haggling tips

This is more art than science - but as discounting is factored into firms' pricing models, it's worth trying to tap into it. Here's what you need to know:

1. Timing is crucial

Haggling works best when you're near or beyond the end of your contract. Also, don't call at the busiest times - usually anytime Mondays, lunchtimes, month ends and starts, and just after people get home from work - as they'll have less time to spend with you.

2. Benchmark the cheapest deals

Research the deals, discounts, and codes its competitors are offering to act as a basis for negotiation.

3. It's all about getting to the retentions department

Most front-line call centre staff are there to process standard administration requests, not to negotiate. So ask them for the deal you want - but if they can't deliver, don't think the story's over.

The real powerhouse technique is to get put through to 'disconnections', a department which is usually internally called 'customer retentions', as it's their job to keep you. This team generally has much stronger deal-making ability than the customer service staff.

Therefore a simple; "sorry, but in that case I think I may need to leave," can pay dividends. I'm not asking you to lie; but if your deal isn't good enough, do genuinely consider going elsewhere.

4. Don't panic about actually being disconnected

Many tell me they're just too nervous to try in case they actually get disconnected. My easy 'get out of jail free card' on this is the phrase: "Hold on, I'll call you back on that, I'd like to check it with my husband / wife / dog / cat first." This gives you thinking time.

5. If it doesn't work once, you can try again

I've been informed by former call centre operatives that they had daily discount quotas in customer retentions. This is only anecdotal, so I can't guarantee it's true, but it does mean you may find a rejection one day turns into an acceptance the next.

6. Use charm, chutzpah, cheek and a smile

Haggling's all about charm and chutzpah. You're dealing with a human being, with discretion, on the other end of the line, so utilise that to win them to your side. You can hear a smile on the phone - so smile.

Aggression or anger will just put their back up - remember they don't have to give you a discount, in the same way as you don't have to stick with their business.

7. Use the phrases that pay

If you're nervous, remember all you're really doing is asking for a better price because you think it's too expensive. Some standard phrases may help...

"I've worked out my monthly budget and my absolute maximum price is £x per month."
"I need to think about it, that price is just too expensive."
"That's still a lot of money, is it the best you can do?"
"My partner would be fuming with me if I paid that."

Remember, don't say yes to the first offer they give you unless it's what you wanted.

8. If they've got a deal on for new customers, call up and see if they'll give it you

Make sure they understand you are frustrated that a new customer is getting a better deal when you have given them your loyal service. This is a very powerful haggling point.

9. Don't fill in the silence

A classic sales technique is to stay silent and leave the other person feeling like they need to fill the silence and agree. If that's done to you, simply tell them you're waiting for their better offer, or at least throw a question back.

10. Problems mean discounts

If you've had issues with a company, politely tell them when you haggle. They should want to try and make it up to you. Then again, are you sure you want to stay?

11. Added extras are equivalent to a discount

If they can't drop the price, see if they can throw in any extras - like this 11th tip - such as free calls, a handset upgrade, extra six months warranty, Sky Sports for free, or Sky Movies for free if you're getting Sky Sports. Non-price haggles like these can still be a decent effective saving.

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