first direct Lab
Skip menus

It pays to be polite

09 Dec 2014

UK businesses give back £7.9 billion a year to those who ask

Times are tough. People are haggling for deals left, right and centre. However it turns out the easiest way to save money is to simply ask - politely. 

New research from first direct reveals more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of people get angry and threaten to leave when dealing with service providers, rising to three-quarters (74 per cent) of men. 

However it really does pay to be nice, with customers who mind their Ps and Qs when negotiating with companies securing an optimum saving of £258 a year – compared to a national average of £156.   

In total, UK businesses gave back £7.9 billion* in 2014 to the nation’s deal-hunters, which goes to show there's money to be saved if you know how to ask for it properly. 

Being a ‘good’ customer – that is someone who is ‘good’ in terms of being polite, but also ‘good’ for the business by being a regular customer - accounts for close to three in five (60 per cent) deals given. 

In contrast, being pushy and demanding is less likely to be successful and accounts for just six per cent of deals given. 

Calmly suggesting you’ll take your custom elsewhere can also be an effective tool and accounts for nearly three in 10 (28 per cent) deals struck. 

But saving money is not just about how you ask, it’s also about being wise to what the best deals are. 

The biggest savings are to be had in negotiating an ongoing reduction in fees or tariffs - one in six (16 per cent) people saved £250 by doing this last year.  

One-off deals are easier to achieve, with two in five (42 per cent) striking one last year, however they are less lucrative with an average saving of £104. 

And knowing where to look and when to ask can make all the difference: the most frequent deal-givers are internet and TV companies with 30 per cent of customers getting some kind of deal or reduction.  

It’s also worth haggling with mobile phone companies – one in five (19 per cent) manage to secure a reduced bill or handset upgrade while 16 per cent successfully negotiate a discount from their energy supplier. 

You can save your breath when it comes to the tax-man, however, with just six per cent of people negotiating any reduction on their bill in the past five years. 

first direct CEO, Tracy Garrad, said: “first direct launched 25 years ago with the ambition to give our customers amazing service and nothing has changed.  It goes without saying that a business must listen to its customers but equally customers should know they’ll get the best from their provider if they are upfront, polite and direct. That’s not to say polite customers are guaranteed to make savings,  however our research has shown that explaining exactly what you want in a respectful manner is far more likely to land you a successful deal where there is one to be made.” 

Companies most likely to strike a deal 

TV and internet providers

30 %

Mobile phone service providers

19 %

Energy companies

16 %

Banks and financial services

14 %


11 %



The UK’s best negotiators 


Average amount saved through deals in past year (£)





































Top tips to negotiate your way to a better deal

  1. Specify exactly what you want
  2. Treat people with respect and dignity
  3. Don’t be afraid to keep quiet – silence is a persuasive tool
  4. Keep it light-hearted
  5. Remain business-like and don’t become over-friendly


 - Ends -


Notes to Editors


*Average amount saved per deal

  • Last year, 42% of consumers got themselves at least one ‘one-off’ deal, reduction or upgrade and 16% negotiated one or more reductions in ongoing fees or tariffs.
  • The average amount saved on one-off deals was £89.62
  • The average annual amount saved per year, from ongoing reductions, was £210.47
  • Taking these two figures together, the average amount saved by deal-getters was £104.66 per deal.

Total amounts saved last year in UK

The average UK adult, getting 1.5 deals per year, and saving an average of £104 per deal, saves a total of £155.74 per year by getting deals from existing suppliers.

Hence, £155.74, multiplied by the UK adult population in 2014 (50.86 million), suggests that:

  • The total amount UK businesses are now ‘giving back’ to customers each year stands at £7.92 billion in 2014.


Original research - A total of 2,012 15-20 minute interviews were carried out online with a nationally representative set of UK adults aged 18-64. 

The research was carried out by The Future Foundation on behalf of first direct drawing on the following sources of data:

  • Government Actuary’s Dept. data on UK population profile, 2014
  • 2012/13 Family Expenditure Survey data
  • nVision UK

For more information, please contact:

Amanda Brown at on 01132766700 

Share this (opens in a new window)

You may also be interested in …

According to data collected in an independent consumer survey required by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), first direct customers would recommend the bank for its personal current accounts.

Share this (opens in a new window)

First Direct and Smile triumph in the uSwitch Current Account Awards, taking first and second place in all but two categories[2] First Direct wins Overall Best Current Account Provider, Overall Satisfaction, Best telephone Service and Best Account Switching Service. As current accounts fall under the spotlight of the new financial regulator...

Share this (opens in a new window)