I was right in the middle of writing my Favorite Things of 2011 post, but this seems more important at the moment. Mostly because I’ve been promising it for ages, and I just had to deal with Comcast today.
So here’s the thing: your Comcast bill should never really go up, ever, from the time you move into a new place onward. As a note, when you change addresses, you’re essentially a new customer, even if you have Comcast already, meaning that you’re eligible for all sorts of nice promotions (like the ones you probably regularly get promotional mail about, or the ones on the front page of Comcast.com). Anyhow, want to lower your current bill? Try this:
1) Don’t call. Don’t e-mail. DO use the Customer Service Live Chat, where you chat online with a support analyst. Always and exclusively. Go to Account & Bill -> General Billing Questions -> Chat With Live Agent. The conversation will be more in your court where you can control the tone and flow, you can take your time with answers and have a plan of attack, and if it’s not going how you want it to you can simply try again with a new analyst. It might take a couple of chats, but you stand a very good chance of getting what you want (sometimes better). And the online reps have access to different promotions than the phone reps do. (As a note, you may be transferred to a sales analyst at some point in the chat, which is totally fine – they are often even more helpful and can dig up different deals too.)
2) Be unflaggingly polite. These are people you’re talking to, and it’s much nicer to get things off on a positive foot (rather than the antagonistic phone calls you may be used to). As soon as the analyst enters the room and you get their name, say “Hello _____, how are you?” When they ask if you can give them a few minutes to look up your account info, say “Sure, thanks for the help.” Etc. Feel free to be honest when you’re frustrated, but conversely be sure to thank them whenever it’s appropriate.
3) Start by telling them that you’re having trouble affording your current bill, and that you’d like to know if there are any local promotions that you may be eligible for to help you lower it. That part is key, since they can differ drastically depending on where you are, and for whatever reason that seems to get the reps to poke around in corners that they otherwise may not. While they’re looking into it, feel free to add that you (if you’re like me) regularly receive mail from them advertising lower rates, but are frustrated that as a current customer you’re not offered the same courtesy (since the advertised prices are almost always for new customers only). If the conversation calls for it I’ll throw in a “I’d really like to resolve this so that I can remain a customer.” Do your best to state your case and tell them where you stand before/while they’re looking for new promotions for you, because if they say they can’t find any they often won’t go back on their word.
As far as rough prices (at least for me in the Bay Area for the last ~five years), you absolutely shouldn’t be paying more than $29.99/month for Performance Internet (you can sometimes get the faster Blast! boost added on for nothing), and $39.99/month for Digital Preferred cable. And you can often go cheaper than that depending on what’s available ($19.99/internet $29.99/cable should be the goal). You can usually get a free 6-12 months of HBO too, or at worst $9.99/month extra for it (which I personally find to be worth it). While you can often get the HD-DVR box fee waived for a while after installation, it’s tough to avoid the $15.95/month after a point. So that included, you should be at a base price of about $85/month before taxes for the full setup of Performance Internet, Digital Preferred Cable + HBO, and HD-DVR rental (and NO contract/commitment). Ideally you’ll be well below that (especially if you’re a new customer, willing to accept lesser packages, or a particularly savvy negotiator), but if you’re paying much more than that (like many people I’ve spoken to) you’re doing something wrong and really need to tend to it.
4) Be diligent. You’ll likely receive a few different promotions at once either for a year or six months, so be sure to check in on them every five months or so (or even four to get ahead of the billing cycle) since some will likely be expiring soon. If you suddenly notice that your latest bill is notably higher because a promotion expired, don’t fret – just follow the above steps and they should bring it back down and prorate the billing cycle that you’re in. But if you get two months behind before noticing, it’ll be trickier since they’ll make you pay the overdue first month before negotiating a new rate for the second one (which is what I had to suck up and do today). And if you miss out on dovetailing promotions into each other it can be harder to fight it back down quite as low.
I recommend paying your bill online manually every month instead of using AutoPay so that you’ll always notice if anything goes up, and can then contact them as needed to keep the bill where you want it. They want you as a customer, and as long as your rep isn’t incompetent and/or lazy they should be able to dig you up some better rates. At the very least it doesn’t hurt to ask, and I can almost guarantee that if you do the bare bones of what I’ve said here you’ll at least lower your bill a bit.
Good luck, and please let me know how it goes.
Update 07/15/12: Hey, this blog post is now the #1 result for “how to lower your Comcast bill” on Google. Pretty keen! Comcast has seemingly been getting a bit stingier over the last six months it seems, but all that means is that you may have to be a little more persistent. If you have a frustrating couple chats with unhelpful reps, take the night off and try again in a day or two (new promos also may pop up in the meantime).
Another tip that I wanted to share: A few months ago a coworker told me about Comcast’s new HD-DVR boxes – a much sleeker and smaller form factor (and black instead of garish silver, it turns out), and a significantly larger hard drive for storing shows. My old box had been having a hiccup or two at the time, so I brought it in to my local store. The Comcast stores are generally kind of a nightmare of lines since there’s so few of them, but it was worth the wait: When I got to the front of the line I put my old box on the counter and started to tell the rep that it was acting up when he interrupted me with “New box?” and walked to the back to get me one when I nodded. Moments later I was walking out with what has been a vasty superior box; smaller, quieter and vastly more space, all for about a half hour of my time. Give it a shot! I didn’t need to do so, but I would think that simply telling them that that you’ve heard they have newer boxes and that you’d like to trade out would be enough. Good luck!