Negotiating on the phone has some disadvantages and advantages. Obviously, unless you have a video phone, you cannot see the other party’s facial expressions or body language. You are dealing solely with a voice.
When negotiating over the phone, try not to let your voice give your position away. If you come to an agreement, it is a good idea to send an email or letter to the other side confirming what was said.
Even though you will probably be negotiating with a customer service representative, any call can turn into a negotiation.
Here are some rules that will be useful for phone negotiations:
1. Only negotiate with someone with authority.
The person answering the phone will generally not have the authority to give you what you want. Ask to speak to that person’s supervisor at the earliest time without insulting the representative. You do not want to waste your time speaking to someone who cannot help you.
2. Set the tone.
You only have your voice in a phone negotiation so it is important to literally set the tone. Modulate your voice and try to sound professional.
3. Say what you want.
A telephone customer service rep handles all sorts of calls. It will be helpful if you say what you want if you know. Tell them you want a new item, a total refund, or an apology. Be clear as to what you want and tell the rep why you want it.
4. Never take no for an answer.
Even when you are told that something cannot be done, be persistent. If you are not yet speaking to the Supervisor, ask for the Supervisor. If you believe that you are getting nowhere, ask for the address of the President or Customer Service Manager to contact so you can continue the discussion with someone else.
5. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Asking for something on the phone can be harder than asking face to face. However, if you are speaking to a hotel or airline, for example, do not be afraid to ask for a free flight or upgrade. Many of the chains are customer-service oriented and some, like Nordstrom’s, empower their employees to make their own decisions about customer service.
6. Keep track of all the paperwork.
The person on the other end of the line can be lost forever unless you get contact information at the beginning of the call. That is a good safeguard in case you get cut off. It is also a good idea to get the rep’s telephone number, especially if you have been transferred a few times. You need to keep track of all calls, with the customer service rep’s name,ID number, email address, and postal address so you can send a letter to confirm what was said.
7. Be careful what you say and how you say it.
Prepare what you are going to say. You may even want to write it down in advance and read it so you cover all your points. Be courteous when you call and do not let your emotions get the better of you. It is not in your interest to get upset with the rep.
Remember, the customer service rep is there to help you. If you alienate the rep, he or she is less likely to want to help you. The customer service rep is probably not the one who is at fault so it is not fair to get mad at him or her.
If you follow these rules, you will be able to negotiate like a pro when negotiating on the phone.