Random Musings

January 2016

All you have to do is ask

Have you ever been in a situation – either as a consumer or a client – where you ended up walking away with a better deal than you’d ever thought you’d get?

If the answer is yes, you might be surprised to know that this occurrence is something which you have a fair bit of influence on. If you answered no, then listen up because getting a “good deal” is not something reserved for the hard nosed negotiators that make a living cutting deals.

The example I’ll use happened the other day when I went to retrieve my mail and there waiting for me lay a stack of envelopes, many of them bills (which caused a familiar yet distinct feeling of unease which I am pretty certain is not too uncommon). Among the stack of payments to be made, the one which stood out was from my cable and internet provider. It stood out because the amount I was required to pay this particular period was higher than what I remember having to pay in the past. After checking my recent bill history, I noticed a trend: every month, my bill grew approximately 5 per cent over the previous month.  I called the company on Tuesday afternoon at approximately 3 p.m. (the importance of the time of the call will reveal itself later).

After a brief conversation with the agent who answered my call that consisted of confirming my account details, I politely requested to speak to a representative from the company that deals specifically with customer loyalty.

After being put on hold for about a minute, I was transfered to the retention department where I spoke to an agent whose primary role was to ensure that existing customers are happy with their services and keep their business with them. I kindly explained to the retention rep that having been a loyal customer for well over 3 years, I was somewhat frustrated that my bill continued to grow month-over-month despite me not making any changes changes to my services over that period.

I also revealed that over the past several months, I had been approached by two of their notable competitors who were offering me bundled discounts along with an introductory promo that included a year of free service if I chose to switch my business over. I then asked her if they offered similar promotions, to which she replied that they did in fact offer introductory promos to new clients, which included free service components.

From there, I politely asked if she would be able to offer me – a loyal, in-good-standing client – a similar promotion. She explained that while customer acquisition promotions were reserved for only new clients, the company was offering a promotion specific to clients of 3 or more years that would cut my service costs by 25% over the next 12 months.  It was a no brainer; I accepted the offer and thanked the retention rep for her help.

So what happened? All I did was ask and I received a good deal. However, some important factors need to be highlighted as to why I was successful.

1. Time of day. I mentioned the time of day would reveal itself as important, and this is why: I contacted the company at midday in the middle of the week, at a time when they are not typically bombarded with calls from customers. If I were to have called on an evening or weekend, I’m skeptical that the retention rep would have been so eager to please – or easy to access for that matter.

2. Loyalty. If you have been loyal to a company or service provider for some time, don’t take this for granted – it’s certainly not something you want them doing either.  In today’s marketplace, there are so many options available to you (the consumer) that sometimes you need to make your service providers aware that you need to be taken care of for giving them your business.

3. Dealing with Decision Makers. I highly doubt the agent who initially fielded my call had the authority to offer or authorize any discounts, which is exactly why I didn’t even bother asking. Instead, I kindly requested to speak with someone in the company who specifically handles these types of requests.  Whenever you are looking for a deal or special pricing, it’s absolutely vital that you deal directly with the people who have the authority to do so.

Have you ever complained to a representative of a company, only to have them pass you off to someone else, and then maybe someone else after that? By the time you finally speak to someone who CAN help you, you’re likely to be so frustrated that your request comes across as a demand instead. Moreover, in being passed along, when you finally get to speak to the right person, they have already been brought up to speed by someone else at the company, which often leads to miscommunication and almost always ends in disappointment.

4. Kindness. An important lesson I learned a long time ago is that the manner in which you say things often has more of an immediate and lasting impact on the listener than what you actually say. Expressing your message or question in a polite and courteous way entices listeners to be more receptive. It’s easy to get frustrated, but conveying your message harshly invites people to tune out.

At Shrude Design, it’s not uncommon for us to receive requests for discounts or special pricing on orders  Having been on the other end of the phone for these conversations, we always take into account the factors just outlined: Time, Loyalty, Decision Makers, Kindness.

Time: When is the client asking for discounts? For us, it’s not so much time of day or week, but more at what point in the order process are they asking? If it’s at the preliminary stages, then we have a good reason to think that they are just fishing for deals rather than really wanting to work with us.

Loyalty: How loyal have they been? If a customer keeps their word and brings us repeat and referral business, we will always do our best to accommodate their requests. Good clients should be regarded as friends, and treating your friends well is a good idea.

Decision Makers: During these conversations, we often ask ourselves, are we dealing specifically with the person who can give the deal the green light? There is little point in conceding to special offer requests if they will only be conditionally received and subjected to further approval.

Kindness: We’ve dealt with clients – both big and small – who are very demanding. They operate in cut-throat industries and they usually require things to be done yesterday. Regardless of the size of the account, we always strive to be courteous and kind.  We understand that they are paying us to provide products and service and they want exactly what they agreed to. When we receive requests to offer a better deal, we are naturally more receptive in trying to accommodate clients that actually ask what we can do to help, rather than the ones who simply demand that we succumb to their wishes.

So, the next time you are looking to score a deal, remember to ask (nicely of course)…but also keep in mind that when you ask and who you ask are key factors in helping get what you want.