The Negotiator – Learning the Basics

How to Win the Negotiation

Here’s a great exercise – a Lesson on Winning

Will I win the negotiation? I wrote an entire chapter on this in my most recent book, From Vendor to Adviser. I don’t know if I’ll win this one, but I’m still hopeful.

Most of us negotiate everyday, but most of the people I work with have little experience in winning. I hear people getting angry, upset, frustrated, etc. None of these are winning tactics.

This morning I am in my weekly Monday Morning Kickoff Meeting. I start the week, every week, just like this. I look at metrics, my business plan, top accounts, upcoming events, and my Quarterly goals.  I’m planning for my week.

Part of my Monday ritual is to check over my banking transactions, reconciling and looking for anything out of the ordinary. I took my Mastery Group to the Chinese Restaurant last weekend during a business planning and strategy weekend and they double charged me…but the manager also informed me of the mistake right after dinner asking me to make sure he didn’t double charge.  So I know that will get cleared up as soon as my office manager puts a call into them.

That’s When Things Fell Apart

But then there’s this service charge on my bank account that should not be there. By having a business account linked to a Merchant account at my bank, that charge should not be there.  So I called the bank, and that’s where my morning started going downhill.  I quickly reminded myself, this is a negotiation – don’t get upset, work the process.

My 19 year old son is right beside me working on his business. But I can tell he’s listening in by the smirk on his face. He’s wondering if his dad will win this one…

The bank people were very nice. I quickly got them to agree that they told me I would not have this service charge. But it turns out the person who sold me this package was wrong. What’s the solution? The bank will credit my account, make a note on the account, and then send me over to Bank of America Merchant Services to cancel that service.

It is amazing how friendly the Bank of America rep is compared to Bank of America Merchant Services Gal. She’s a terrorist of some kind I think. It’s not her fault and she can’t do a thing for me – but she has the attitude like “I’m in control here.”  There’s a $500 fee to cancel the merchant services agreement, or $100/yr fee to keep it and not use it.  Well $100 won’t break the bank, but the principle here is important. I really want to cancel at this point – and I want the fee waved. So what do I do.

Practice This – Negotiation and Moving Up.

I’ve done this many times – when I do it without making a mistake, I usually win. But in this case, it looks like it might be a hard one.  The jury is still out – but here’s where we are.

1. The first woman on the line, whose name I forget, just kept repeating the policy. My first mistake was not writing down her name. You always want to know who said what along the way.  About 10 minutes into this volley, I remembered to ask her if she had the authority to wave the fee. She did not. As soon as I asked that question it was easy.  I apologized for wasting her time and asked for her supervisor. There’s no reason to continue talking to her.

2. Bonnie was next on the line. She is the Account Specialist over there at Bank of America Merchant Services. I was told by the first woman that if anyone could wave the fee, it would be Bonnie. I tried to review the case with her, but she quickly said she could not wave the fee but could discount it by 50%. That might be okay for some, but I don’t consider it a win. After all, my contract ends in two years so why not just pay the $99 annual fee for two years and be done with it. This time, rather than debating the issue, I simply asked her for her supervisor.

3. After about 10 minutes, Jessie, the supervisor was on the line.  She also offered the $250, but didn’t seem to understand my problem. Since Merchant Services is not actually Bank of America, they don’t have to cooperate. It’s really BOA’s fault, but only Merchant Services can release me from the contract. At this point I clarified with her – “Do you have the authority to wave this fee.” She simply said no. At this point I simply apologized for wasting her time and asked for her supervisor…Dale.

4. I am now waiting for Dale to call back…it’s a 24 to 48 hour process….Talk about real time customer service.  I’m sure Dale is busy since no one in the lower ranks is able to do anything.

At this point I put another call into the bank to explain this whole mess – to see if they can apply some pressure from there side.  They promised to work on it and get back to me by close of business.

There are a couple of things to learn from this mess.

– First, I am still wondering if the “Policy” is written down somewhere. How is it that the bank made this mistake and seemed to not charge me for months, and then suddenly the change…still need to get to the bottom of that one.

– Arguing with customer service reps who are not empowered is a waste of time…but think how much it is costing this organization to escalate these issues up the ladder. Companies really should empower people to make a decision.  Maybe not the first level – she should have offered the 50% deal.  But I am 4 levels up now…Even US Airways was easier to deal with when I had a seat issue a few years back.

– Use these opportunities to build your endurance, make a good case, not get angry, and be willing to keep going higher. It’s great practice.

I’ll let you know what happens…in the mean time, I am not processing credit cards through Bank of America Merchant Services.  I have two other providers who are both easier to deal with.  If you have an opportunity to choose Bank of American Merchant Services, think again. There’s someone out there who is more customer friendly than they are.


© 2014, David Stelzl

P.S. I wonder if these people monitor social media.

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2 thoughts on “The Negotiator – Learning the Basics

  1. I think this gave me heartburn. I’ve been in so many conversations like this with banks, utilities, etc…I feel like they intentionally leave you on the line to wait for 10 minutes for a supervisor in the hopes that you will hang up. I can picture the “supervisor” at his/her desk with red lights flashing on the phone and a 10-minute mark timer going off on each one. “This person waited the obligatory 10 minutes! Now I will pick up the phone and talk in circles for 20 minutes until they ask to speak with MY supervisor!” ha!
    By the way, I hope they “waive” your fee. If they’re just “waving”, then you might be getting screwed 😉

    1. Thanks for reading Liz…I should have mentioned it’s important to have a headset and some other things you can be working on while going through this ridiculous process. Still waiting for Dale to call…I guess I’ll need to lob another call into them.

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