Here in Canada we are ruled by only a few wireless service carriers and pay some of the highest cell phone costs in the world. Namely these companies fall into the “Big Three” otherwise known as: Rogers (also bought out Fido Mobile), Bell (also bought out Virgin Mobile), and Telus (also carrier of Koodo Mobile)… Can you say OLIGOPOLY?? With Bell and Telus looking to split up MTS and SaskTel “exploring private market options” the Canadian phone cartel certainly won’t be disbanding any time soon.
These guys have been “fighting” head-to-head with each other, to keep the prices of contracts and user fees up. I was paying $40-50 a month for my measly serviced cell phone bill way back in 2004 (I was constantly over my monthly minutes allotment, thus getting dinged 25 cents per minute) until I one day I called in to complain. I think I fluked into it by calling when my contract was up (unbeknownst to me at the time, because this was back when I was un-edumacated in personal finance).
I called back then and said I didn’t like how much I was paying. The CSR (customer service rep) then told me that they could immediately reduce my bill and increase the value of what I was getting (e.g. minutes, texts, free long distance).
Wait… What?! Dollars Off My Monthly Payment Just By Asking?
Why had I NOT done this earlier?? I could have saved so much hard earned cash! With a few minutes of fairly easy negotiation I reduced my monthly bill by nearly 50% AND got some great perks tossed in. For example, I never go over my monthly allotment of minutes any more.
Since this point over a decade ago we’ve kind of become experts on phone plan negotiation here at Young and Thrifty – Kyle was even appeared on a couple of regional CBC shows talking about the matter! Sure, saving $30+ or so a month on your cell phone package might not sound like the stuff of legends, but cutting repeat monthly costs like your phone bill can make a huge difference over the course of a two-year contract.
Quick and Easy Ways to Instantly Reduce Your Cell Phone Bill In Canada
First of all, you need to decide whether or not you want to be on a contract. There are a couple of different theories in regards to this decision. One school of thought says that if you purchase your own phone outright, and then shop around for a monthly deal, you maintain the best position to constantly be negotiating because you can threaten to leave at any time.
While I see how that could work, the vast majority of people I know don’t want to navigate a call centre every month! Instead, what most people really want to know is how to get the best subsidized phone and monthly payment with their standard one- or two-year cell phone contract.
We’ve used these tips and tricks several times over the years to not only negotiate our own cell phone plan down to rates much lower than advertised, but those of our friends and family as well. If you have enough time and patience it works almost 100% of the time!
1) Be patient and polite. Take a deep breath before starting this process. The cell phone company is banking on the hopes that you will either get frustrated and give up, or get so impatient that you become rude – giving their employee the perfect opportunity to discontinue the call. Just know that in all likelihood you will be placed on hold a few times during this process. I actually like to take a good or magazine with me to my kitchen table so that I’m never tempt to rush the process and don’t get frustrated. Politeness and compliments cost nothing and can gain you quite a lot – why not use them in abundance?
2) Begin by knowing your current contract. Take out a copy of your last bill and see what you are currently paying for. Does that fit your current use profile? Maybe you need more or less data? Perhaps you now use Skype for long distance calls and don’t need that feature anymore.
It’s also key to know how much time you have left in your contract. If you have more than six months you can often still catch a bit of your break, but six months or less is perfect.
3) Learn what else is out there. The plans in Canada are all pretty similar, but it’s good to know what kind of special offers other carriers are offering in order to leverage your current cell company into a better deal. I usually just quickly check the RedFlag.ca forum. It’s updated constantly and you can see exactly what everyone else is getting.
Note: DON’T tell anyone from your cell phone company that you went to a website like RedFlag, or even read this article. Just pretend you’re kind of clueless, but genuinely don’t have much spare cash and are looking to save some money every month. Don’t mention a friend or relative, just stick to the script.
4) Make sure you have a pen and paper handy. Recording who you are talking with and what is being offered will be essential as we go along negotiating your new and improved cell phone plan.
5) Call your phone company and navigate the phone tree until you can talk to a representative about your current cell phone contract. Some companies also list their customer retention/loyalty line online – this is where you ultimately want to end up anyway, so if you can call there directly you can save yourself some time. Remember: Polite and patient!
6) Jot the customer representative’s name down. Know that this isn’t likely the person you’re going to get a deal from. This first line of defense is what is known as a “gatekeeper”. Their job is to offer you minimal perks and to talk to you until you get tired and hang up. Don’t do that! Simply state that as you’re coming to the end of your cell phone contract you’re realizing that <cell phone provider here> competitors are offering much better deals for the package you want, and while as a loyal long-time customer you really want to stay with your provider, gosh, times are just really tough right now and you simply can’t afford to stay with them. The key things you want to get across are that you know your contract is up soon, that you really like the company (you want them to want to hang on to you), that you are going to LEAVE.
The rep will throw a minor fix at you. They are not authorized to give you the good stuff. Ignore this offer. Simply say, “Hmm… we’re moving in the right direction, but it’s still not as good as what ____ is offering. Perhaps I could speak with a loyalty representative for long-time customers? If not, let’s proceed to cancelling my contract. This is the magic phrase you might have to repeat a few times. Everything else is window dressing. “Cancel my contract” is your “open sesame” to get past the gatekeeper.
7) When the rep says they will put you on the line with her manager or the customer retention/loyalty representative, ask for a warm transfer. This simply means that rather than having you repeat everything again, the original rep should explain your situation to the next person.
8) Enjoy your book while your cell phone company inevitably experiences “unseasonably high call volumes”.
9) Ok, so now you’re on with someone who can make stuff happen. You may have to go one step higher, but usually these people can get you to a good place. Start by writing down their name and simply repeating your line: “Gosh, I’ve had a pretty good relationship with ____ over the years, but I just really need to save a few bucks and _____ offered me this great package.” Now simply name the exact package of data, long distance, day-time minutes, etc. that you want (so you don’t pay for what you don’t need), and state the figure that you read on RedFlag or another website.
10) I like to say something like, “If we can’t come up with a plan sort of close to that I guess I’ll have to switch over and cancel my contract.” They’ll respond with some generic line about keeping your business. Then I say, “Well… what can we do to improve things a bit, I don’t really want to change if I don’t have to.” This puts the ball in their court. You usually get at least a couple of “Well… that’s an improvement, I like where we’re headed, but could we look at this…” type of lines before they won’t budge.
11) At this point you have to play things by feel a bit. You might be able to go one level higher and get a better deal. You might hit someone that really doesn’t want to deal with you – often I’ll simply hang up and repeat the process again so that I get a more friendly loyalty representative. Remember, it’s all just reading time for anyway.
12) Keep in mind that you can always switch carriers, or at the very least ask the rep to note these discussions in your file and that you’ll think about it and call back.
13) A closing line I like to use when we’re getting close to the best plan I read about when I did twenty minutes of online research is, “You know what, I appreciate your time and effort working with me today as a long-time customer, if I can get <my final request that I really want> at <new lower price>, I’ll give you my credit card information and we can get this thing wrapped up today. A lot of these folks get bonuses and commissions based on keeping you in a locking you into a longer deal.
14) At several points in this convo you’ll be put on hold in the hopes you’ll hang up. Yay! Your book is just getting good!
15) Rinse and Repeat!
With Manitoba and Saskatchewan’s independent carriers on the ropes, along with two-year contract maximums, Canada’s major phone companies are raising their prices to unprecedented levels. It’s up to you to protect yourself by taking one hour of your time (most of which will be spent reading) and negotiating your cell phone agreement.
Hope that helps, folks. My next post will be an example of how I negotiated a better cell phone contract for my sister with Rogers Wireless.
Let us know how your call and cell phone negotiation with Rogers Mobility, Bell Mobility, Telus Mobility, or one of Canada other carriers went so that we can all benefit from your experience!