Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Television Service Game

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

After years of dealing with cable and satellite companies, I am beginning to figure out how things work.

This past week I opened my satellite bill only to discover that it had a rather substantial charge added that I felt shouldn't be there.  My automatic response was to pick up the phone and call my provider.  As anyone who has ever dealt with these people know, it takes some patience and perseverance  to get an actual human on the line, but ten minutes later I was hooked up with a very pleasant lady who didn't have the authority to resolve anything.  She connected me to a lady in billing who began to make things happen.

There have been times when I entered into these situations in a hostile mode.  Seldom was anything accomplished through that approach other than the release of some personal steam.  This time I put on my calm-but-extremely-persistent suit of battle armor.

The charge in question dealt with a fee for transferring my service when I move.  The fellow who set that up did not mention a fee, so I wanted an explanation.    The billing lady did some research and was finally able to explain the charge.

Then I upped the ante and asked about the fee for just dropping the service altogether.  I told her that I was a single man who did not watch that much television, that I had a limited income (all incomes are limited to some extent), and that the price of the service was too expensive.  I had ten months left on my contract and the fee to disconnect would be two hundred dollars.

I mulled it over and then calmly told her to cancel the service.  That's when the discounts started.  By the time we ended our conversation I had a "good customer" discount (something that had never been mentioned in any of my previous communications with the provider), two other discounts, the charge in question had been cancelled, and she threw in all of the movie channels for three months.  It was a very productive telephone call that will save me a good deal of money over the next year.

Here's what happened - I think.  I stayed calm and polite.  I suspect that a majority of their callers use the angry approach.  When I told her that I was canceling the service, it wasn't a bluff - and the billing lady had enough experience at her job to know that I meant it.  Her objective was to maintain the contract - to do what she had to in order to keep the customer connected to her company.

We ended the call in a mutual satisfaction mode - I would have television service at my new home - at a reduced cost with more channels - and the provider has a continuing income stream from my pocket theirs.

Take-away advice:  1.)  Stay nice.  If it is obvious that the provider's phone person is looking for a fight, end the call and do it again later with a different representative.  2. ) Be committed to canceling the service, and stay firm in your resolve.  No wavering until the company starts reaching into its goody bag.  3.)  Know that there is a good customer discount.  I strongly suspect that every television provider has one.   4.)  Know that the service is too expensive, regardless of the discounts and extra channels - and maintain that perspective.

Television service providers and their representatives are very much like used car dealers.   Their ultimate goal is to sell you something, and they're going to keep talking and wheedling until they do.

1 comment:

Don said...

I had a similar experience last year, this one with Comcast (who, of course, has a monopoly on cable in our area).
Long story short, a polite decision to cancel produced a reduced rate (good customer discount) and free HBO, Showtime, etc for three months.

The next time, though, I'm going to cancel on matter what they offer and go to satellite. I really want to see what Comcast might do to try to get me back.

At the very least, I'd then be eligible for all their new customer front-loaded deals.