9 Confessions Of A Retentions Representative

Retentions representatives are the cellphone company’s last line of defense between you and freedom. One brave retentions representative has come forward to teach us how to craft a direct, earnest request that will lead retention reps to do your bidding. Rivaled in effectiveness only by executive customer support, retentions reps are empowered to strike down nuisance fees and bargain liberally, all to keep you as a customer. If you were ever tempted to threaten your cellphone company with cancellation, this one is a must read.

I have been reading your site almost daily for a few months, and have seen where “insiders” give useful info to help get problems solved – and I have also noted where your site has advised readers having problems with their cell phone provider to contact the retention department…having been in the retention department for a small regional cell phone company for the past year, I wanted to share with your readers some tips to help them get what they are looking for. (I tend to get long winded, so feel free to edit out unneccesary content)

Basically, there are two reasons that people call retention, they either A) actually want to cancel, or B) want something, and feel that we will give it to them.

If you’re in group A, a few things to make the transition go easier…

1 – Please be aware that the annoying questions that I’m asking about why you’re canceling, and what carrier you’re going to are obviously not for my good health. You are not required to answer the questions, but if I want to keep my job, I am required to ask them. If you don’t want to be asked the questions, it would be best to port your number to your new carrier, in which case you don’t even need to speak to the carrier you’re porting from, just bring your account number, and password on the account if there one, to the new carrier, and we’ll be done. Anybody else – this is your opportunity to air any greivences you have, and have them heard by the higher ups…however, if you are leaving, don’t expect any courtesy credits for past inconveniences, etc.

2 – If you’re wanting the ETF waived, please be advised that we are well trained and versed on the contract, so if you’re arguing breach of contract, please have the copy of the contract with you, and be specific as to what you’re fighting. As a rep, I’m required to basically argue the contract with you until you ask for a supervisor. So, if you don’t like the answer, you can either ask to speak with the supervisor, or ask the rep if they can ask the supervisor on your behalf. Depending on your situation, either method has the possibility to get the fee either waived or prorated – note, though, if you want to talk to a supervisor, your best course of action is to call between normal business hours, b/c the appropriate supervisor may not be available otherwise.

(Ed. If you are trying to avoid the ETF, read our scripts for using materially adverse changes to escape your contract.)

3 – Even if you’re not trying to fight the contract, you may want to take a look at it before you cancel – I know our company has a statement very visibly in the contract stating all cancellations occur at the end of your bill cycle. My advice would be to check on these things before you call to cancel, or port your number out so there are not unexpected bumps in the road.

Now, if you are calling because you want something, a few things to keep in mind.

4 – Your actual situation has little effect on the decision made. We look at multiple things, but I would say that the equation is a little like this: 40% account history/ARPU (average revenue per unit), 40% the actual request and 20% would be your situation and/or demeanor/attitude. Now, I know from reading this site, that most consumers feel like their attitude/deamenor, and the way they treat the rep should not have an effect on the outcome. In a perfect world, my friends, it wouldn’t, but as much as reps may seem like robots, they’re not. They, like you, do not react well when somebody is swearing and screaming at them or telling them what they will do. Be straight to the point – a long drawn out story about how the phone got busted is not really helpful, although saying “I broke my phone, and don’t have insurance, and buying a new phone is more costly than the cancellation fee” will probably get you far since it is honest, and makes sense not only in terms of the business, but for you as well.

5 – Call retention only when you really need to. We’re happy to help you, however, we do keep good notes of when you call, and what we did for you. Calling retention consistently when you want something or when something goes wrong will get you branded a frequent flier, and our management may note the account that no more retention efforts can be made on your account. That being said, there are other options out there.

For legitamit billing issues, try the general customer care staff, or your local retail store first. Escalate if need be, but honestly, there are of course times that people make mistakes, and these need to be fixed. Please try with the responsible party first, then, if there’s no resolution, even after escalation, then retention is the place to go. But don’t jump there first.

For upgrade fees/rebates, try asking your salesperson when you go to purchase the phone. Yes, we know the upgrade fees suck, however, if one company does it, and is making money off of its customers with it, then other carriers have to follow in order try to stay competative, so please don’t ask why would we charge you the fee – it’s nothing personal, we’re just trying to stay in the game. Ask your sales rep about waiving the upgrade fee. This, like other things will come down to account history, and ARPU. If the sales rep declines, tell them that you’d like to cancel, so you can bring your service to another carrier, since most carriers waive the inital activation fees to attract new customers. At this point, they can put you in contact with retention – expect a little bit of a fight from the rep, though, since these fees are industry standard, though ultimately, it should not take much to get done. This may not work every time, and is most effective when the account is in good standing.

If your carrier has a payment services department, or a branch of billing allows you to make payment arrangements or get extensions on your bills, they may be able to get you onto a plan that’s no longer offered to new customers. Just tell them that you’re having a hard time paying your bill, and you were wondering if they had any older plans that might fit them better, or be less costly. They may, or they may not. This also works if you’re paying for text/pictures or data access, but don’t need the unlimited packages that most carriers are switching to, but still don’t want to pay per use.

6 – Do your homework. We understand that there are people who call who are really not interested in canceling, but want to get something out of the carrier. Just do us a favor, and be direct. There’s nothing worse than somebody calling in saying “what can you do to keep me as a customer?” The reason that’s so highly offensive, is mostly because it is a time waster. You’re wasting your time, and mine…because if you say that, I’m left guessing at what you really want. Do you want a phone for cheaper? Do you want your bill lower? Do you want a different phone, but don’t qualify for an upgrade yet? If I don’t know what you want, I’m left offering you things you don’t really want. Please do us a favor. Indulge us. Be direct. If you want the phone for cheaper than what it’s offered at, you could say something like “I really like the razr (or whatever), but can’t see myself paying the ______ for it” Please don’t say that it is free with Carrier X, especially if it isn’t. If it is, we will usually try to get on their site, and explain how free once can cost you over the course of the contract – this isn’t what you wanted to acheive, you want the phone for free, regardless of whether or not you’d pay more monthly with Carrier X. If you want the bill lowered, and find a better deal, and want us to match, let us know, if you want the bill lowered, but have done your homework and the plan you’re on is at or lower than other carriers, don’t make up a deal that’s too good to be true. It’s better to just say that it’s too much monthly or something to that extent.

7 – If you don’t want to sign a contract, your options on equipment are much more limited. You have a couple options from this point, though: You can go on a prepaid service, no contract, and often with carriers that do postpay services as well, the monthly rates are close to the same, you could see if we can give you the two year pricing on a one year contract, if you’re okay with a shorter contract term, you could also see if they’d be willing to credit you a portion of the phone, (but don’t expect it free without a commitment to stay with the company) or, you could ask the rep if they can find how much the company pays for the phone, and offer to pay that amount. Contracts are basically how ensure that we make up the discount given on the price of the phone and a given line (especially a shared line) doesn’t become profitable until we’ve made that subsidy back – which can sometimes be over a year into a two year contract. If you’re offering to pay what we pay, even if you stay only 3 months, it is essentially pure profit, and a pretty good business deal. You can also ask about refurbished phones, but we usually have to buy those, too, and for more than you think, so a lot of times, those won’t be done if you’re out of contract since we can’t be sure we’re not losing big sending it to you.

8 – Be reasonable – and be willing to negotiate. We are a for profit business (duh). To that end, we will try to find a course of action that fits both the customer and the company, but if you’re not profitable, asking for something that’s over the top, or have a history of escalating/calling retention to get what you want, then expect that your options may not match what you want to acheive – but we might be able to work something out with you. Also – with this one, admit fault when you’re at fault – what I mean is, if you or your kid sent and received 3,000 text messages, but you didn’t have a plan to cover it, it will go a lot further to say, we did this, we did not realize it was not covered, I can’t keep the service if I have to pay for that – rather than trying to say it was a problem with the phone, or that the texts were not sent or received – those types of answers will only be met with resistance and the rep trying to explain to you how it happened – same goes for roaming charges, minute overages, or anything else that typically is unable to be credited as it is presumed to be in the control of the customer.

9 – Be aware of the return period. If you don’t like the phone within the first 14 days, return it and find one you like, if you don’t, please don’t call us 8 months down the road saying this phone is a piece of junk it doesn’t do anything, etc…you chose the phone. If it’s broken, lost or stolen, or if you are at least a year through the contract, we may be able to help you with a replacement, but we don’t often upgrade early in the contract because you don’t like the features of the phone you chose. Also, please be aware if the phone is lost/stolen/damaged, that we are under no obligation to replace equipment, so if you’re hard on phones, as much as it might be a ripoff, insurance might make things easier on you.

I’m sorry if this is too long winded, but hopefully, some of the information might assist your readers.

Are you an insider with helpful information? Consider joining Whistleblowers Anonymous, our super-special exclusive club for people like you. We offer chips, dip, and personal redemption. Confidential membership applications can be submitted directly to our tipline for immediate review.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.