1) Do your research before you call. If you are looking to change repayment plans, know which ones you qualify for and which one is best for you. Don’t expect them to be your financial advisor. Some will be able to help more than others, but in the end they are not paid to manage your money.
2) If you need something specific, make sure you are talking with someone with the authority to do so. If you want your interest rate lowered, make sure that person is allowed to lower your interest rate.
3) Be polite! Yelling and being rude will not help your cause any. You will get more help if they want to help you.
4) Be persistent. Keep asking questions if the answers they give don’t make sense. You can be polite but still make it clear that you have specific things they need to accomplish.
5) Don’t be afraid to call back. Two different customer service reps can give two different answers to the same question. If you get an answer that doesn’t sound right, call back the next day and see if you have better luck the next time.
6) Collect your thoughts before you call. Make a list of the specific questions you have or things that need to be accomplished. Nothing is worse than spending half an hour on hold only to realize that you have to call again because you forgot something.
7) Keep in mind who you are talking to. The person on the other end when you first call has likely not been on the job very long and its possible you may actually know more then them about what you want or need. If you need something major done (i.e. interest rate reduction, accelerated repayment plan change, accounting error), make sure you talk with someone with the authority to make the change you seek.
8) Slow them down if they are talking too fast. The phone operators do this all day long and some of it becomes habit. If you didn’t understand something, ask them to repeat.
9) Remind them how important this call is to you. I frequently apologize for asking so many questions and arguing at times, but I remind them that this is a lot of money to me so I really want to get this done right. They deal with this all day, so its pretty easy to become numb or indifferent to how important the conversation is to the person on the other end.
10) Be polite! This one is really important, so its here twice. You may hate Sallie Mae and think they are the devil, but the person you are talking to on the phone is just trying to make an honest living and dealing with angry people all day long. If someone helps you, thank him or her. It will encourage them to continue to be helpful.