Phone calls with lenders can be especially stressful. For many borrowers, student loans are by far their biggest debt. Student loan companies, including federal student loans servicers like Navient and MyFedLoan have a well deserved reputation for lousy service. This combination of financial pain and terrible customer service can be a lousy combination.
Though email will always be the preferred method of communication with student loan companies, in many circumstances it is not available.
The following 10 tips are a collection of the easiest and most effective strategies to have positive outcomes from lender calls. Many of these tips are based upon reader insights and have led to productive calls for borrowers.
10 Ways to Get Actual Help on a Student Loan Phone Call
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. Knowing the name of the program you want, or having specific steps in mind will go much further than just calling looking for lower payments or help in general.
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. Sometimes this means talk to a manager or somebody in the collections department. Don’t just ask to speak to a manager, ask for someone with the ability to fix your particular problem.
3) Be polite! Yelling and being rude will not help your cause any. You will get more help if they want to help you. The fact is that most customer servicer representatives are under paid and poorly trained. The person on the other end of the phone has no say in company policies. Kindness and making a connection is always the best way to a good result.
4) Be persistent. Being polite doesn’t mean you have to accept the answers you are told. 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. Unreliable answers can cause major issues, so it is important to double check everything you are told.
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 and have some empathy. 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), be patient and understanding. Being yelled at all day over the phone is a stressful job. Help them help you.
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. They may tell you that putting money in an IRA can lower your AGI which means your next IDR application could have lower PAYE or IBR payments. If all the acronyms are confusing, ask for clarification. Servicers try to respond to calls as quickly as possible, so they have an incentive to rush the call, but if you ask questions and ask them to slow down they will do it.
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 and 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. When the borrower and the customer service representative are working as a team good things will happen.
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.
Final Thoughts on Lender Calls
The reality of the situation is that lender/servicer phone calls are not very useful for borrower education. In fact, there have been lawsuits over borrowers being given bad advice.
If your interest rate is too high, know exactly how you want your rate lowered. If you are interested in student loan forgiveness, educate yourself on forgiveness rule and know which steps need to be taken.
The best calls take place when the borrower knows what they want to happen and what is required to get there. The purpose of the call is to walk the phone support through the necessary steps. This dynamic isn’t ideal, but it is the reality of the situation.