Sean McAuliffe’s business, International Key Supply, suffered financially when the pandemic began. So he set about reducing operating costs for the New York-based distribution company. He canceled some services, and for more important ones, contacted the providers to request deferred or reduced bills.
First he sent an email just to get unhelpful replies.
Then he called – and every company he’d emailed agreed to suspend or cut their bill temporarily. McAuliffe estimates these talks saved his company thousands of dollars, which helped prevent layoffs.
This technique can also work on an individual level. When you’re ready to chat on the phone, you can save money and often time.
How a phone call can help
Is the idea of speaking to a real stranger on the phone about as engaging as waiting at the DMV or drawing blood? Join the club. In 2019, the gadget trade-in website BankMyCell launched an online website survey of more than 1,200 millennials in the US When asked if they sometimes feel they have to have the courage to make a phone call, 81% of those surveyed said yes.
However, if you can push yourself to pick up the phone, calling customer service is often the best way to request a favor that will save you money. You can ask to have one Bill lowered or postponed; an increased credit limit; a lowered interest rate; there is no fee; A service or booking is canceled with no penalty or pretty much anything else.
All it costs to ask is the time and potential inconvenience of the phone call. And the worst that can happen is that the stranger on the other line says no. (But read on, and you’ll likely get them to negotiate.)
Phone calls are also a great way to troubleshoot errors such as unjustified late payment charges or duplicate charges on an invoice. Ira Rheingold, Executive Director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, recommends regularly reviewing your invoices for errors.
“Don’t expect the company you are dealing with to be always accurate,” he says. “If things don’t look right, they probably aren’t right and you should investigate.”
Even if you’re not strictly trying to save money, jumping on the phone can help you understand a nuanced money topic faster (and possibly more accurately) than scrolling down an online search hole.
Call your insurance agent if you don’t understand how your policy works, or if something is covered, for example. Call your credit card issuer to find out why you have been declined for a new card. Or call your health care provider’s billing office to determine the head-scratcher fees. (Just in case you don’t know what “INJ MED IVPUSH EAADD SEQ SUBST” means at first glance.)
Here’s how to prepare for the call
Before you pick up the phone, be clear about the outcome you want to get, says Stephanie Richman, certified financial planner and regional director for Northern California / East Bay at EP Wealth Advisors. Know this goal Clear communication contributes to an efficient and effective conversation.
Also, consider the motivations and interests of the company you’re calling, she says. This will help you anticipate their questions, answer them, and ultimately encourage the other person to help you. In practice, this could mean asking to postpone that month’s water bill and explain how you can make payments by your next due date.
Before you call, collect relevant documents, e.g. B. a copy of the invoice you asked for or your insurance card. And pull up your story with this company. Let the customer service representative know if you’ve been a loyal customer for a long time or if you’ve had years without a delay. The company will likely be motivated to keep a customer like you close by.
Finally, “be ready to be patient,” says Rheingold. This call can take a while and, yes, get boring or frustrating. Take some distraction-free time when you are feeling fine, not when you are irritable or hungry.
Here’s how to make the most of the call
OK, you can articulate exactly what you want and be armed with information (and maybe snacks). Time to choose. Be kind to whoever picks you up if you make your request clear. When McAuliffe the business owner made his calls, he said he was just being honest with the service providers about what he needed.
“It was more about working together than trying to arm them heavily,” he says.
If the person on the other end rejects your request or sticks to a script, Rheingold recommends speaking to their manager. That person is likely in a better position to help.
“There’s nothing wrong with working your way up the food chain,” he says.
Keep your manners in mind as you climb the said chain. “You can ask for a manager in a nice way,” says Richman. “Assertiveness doesn’t mean being aggressive.”
This article was written by NerdWallet and originally published by The Associated Press.