Conversations with student loan servicers are high stakes. Signing up for the wrong repayment plan could cost you thousands in the long run. Thinking you are eligible for a program when you are not could cost you tens of thousands. Getting quality information about your student loans is critical.
Unfortunately for borrowers, these conversations are not nearly as critical to the people on the other side of the phone. Loan servicers receive little oversight and have almost no incentive to invest the money necessary to provide high-quality service. As a result, the customer service representative on the other end of the phone may be poorly trained and offer you the wrong information.
Federal loan servicers like MyFedLoan, Nelnet, and Navient have a lousy reputation as many borrowers believe they have been given inccorect information by their loan servicer. These issues have gotten so severe that it has lead to a number of lawsuits brought by borrowers as well as the government.
Despite the issues with federal student loan servicers, borrowers still depend upon them for getting accurate information for their financial planning. The good news is that some excellent customer service representatives are knowledgable and care about doing a good job. The trick is getting to talk to one.
Try these six tips to make sure you are getting accurate information.
Tip #1: Do your research ahead of time.
There is no substitute for doing your homework. Student loans can be tricky. Each time you think you have something figured out, it seems like there is another exception that applies.
The key to the research isn’t to answer all of your questions; it is to get as much information as possible. The more knowledgable you are before starting your call with your loan servicer, the better off you will be when the conversation begins.
Tip #2: Ask questions when you already know the answer.
If you can, ask a couple of test questions to your loan servicer. By asking these questions, you can evaluate their knowledge. If you get an answer you know to be wrong, it is time to end the call immediately. Nothing is worse than dealing with someone who will make up answers to get through the phone call.
The more thorough someone is with their answers, the better off you will be. If they give you good responses to questions that you already know the answers to, you can be more confident that the information you get will be good when you truly don’t know the answer.
Tip #3: I don’t know is an acceptable answer.
If you ask a question, and the loan servicer doesn’t immediately know the answer, don’t be alarmed with a response of “I don’t know.” In fact, this is a great answer. It means that they are willing to admit the limitations in their knowledge and not willing to simply make up an answer. An “I don’t know” is an honest response and not something that should be of great concern to you.
Tip #4: Call back until you get someone helpful.
Most loan servicers use large call centers. While waiting on hold for a second or third time can be extremely frustrating, it is better than living with bad advice. Going this route takes patience, but it is a necessity if you realize that you are not getting useful information.
Tip #5: Don’t be a jerk on the phone.
Dealing with student loans sucks. Dealing with your loan servicer is miserable. The desire to lash out towards a representative of the company is understandable, but don’t do it. Getting angry or short-tempered on the phone will not help your situation. If you want real help, your best bet is convincing the person on the other end of the phone to want to help you.
If you do start to get angry, remind yourself about how difficult the average customer service representative has things. They get lousy training, for a low wage, and have to help angry people all day long. If you try to be a bright spot in their day, they might end up giving you the help you need.
Tip #6: Make the most of the good representatives.
If you find someone really helpful, take advantage of the situation. If you can get direct contact to that individual, via phone or email, go for it. Waiting a little longer to speak to someone good is well worth your time.
Even if you can’t get direct contact to that person, get the most out of the one call. Ask any question that comes to mind. Take great notes on what you learn. Ask questions until you are convinced that you understand everything.
The Next Steps
Getting good advice from your student loan servicer isn’t an easy task, but it is critical, and it can be done.
Borrowers who follow the tips listed here should be able to navigate most student loan seriving companies. Unfortunately, playing nice will not always work. If you have done your best to work with your servicer and come up short, it might be time to look into changing student loan servicers or filing a complaint against your current servicer.