Sunday, September 9, 2012

How To Talk Your Way Out of A Late Fee

Eeek! I committed one of my very own Budget Breakers! (Insert embarrassed "oops" face here). With the stress of being sick, and moving to a new department at work (I get to work on itty bitty baby clothes! Yay!), I completely forgot about my electric bill until I did my budget yesterday and realized it hadn't posted yet. I thought, "Oh no! I got a dreaded late fee!"

 Can you hear the scary music and my thriller scream?

Fear not, I found a way to use my skills of persuasion to get the late fee removed and stop me from committing a Budget Breaker. I worked in a call center while I was at college, asking friends and family of Purdue to donate money to help improve the school. I learned a thing or two about "selling" and communicating ideas to encourage the other person to help you. I also learned what call center people hate to hear.

So without further ado...

How To Talk Your Way Out of A Late Fee

Here's what I did and here's how you can do it too:

Step 1: Schedule autopay.
After I saw the problem, the first thing I did was schedule autopay directly from my bank account on the service providers website. If you schedule autopay you will never have to pay another late fee (unless for some reason your bank account balance is negative). Nip that problem in the bud before it happens and you wont have to waste your time with steps 2 through 7 ever again.

Plus this gives you something to talk about in step 5.

If it is an option, you can also set up the autopay on the phone when you talk with the service provider.

Step 2: Call the service provider.
When you finally get through the automated system and find a button to press to get a live person, very carefully follow the next few steps.

Step 3: Be nice.
I know you are probably angry at this point from all the automated systems and the waiting. But remember there is another person on the other end of the line and they are just doing their job to put food on the table for their family. They have reasons of their own to be nicer to people who are nice to them. You'll understand this more when you get to step 7.

Tips from being a telemarketer:
 - Remember to smile while you talk. This sounds crazy and feels crazier but trust me. It makes you sound friendlier, which makes people more likely to like you and help you out.
 - No matter how upset you are about the late fee, remember that it was probably your fault.
 - Even if it wasn't your fault, it certainly wasn't the fault of the little guy on the other line answering phones who probably gets paid somewhere in the range of minimum wage for a job that is hard work. Being nice can be the difference between them rushing to get you off the phone, or taking the time to look into things and answer your questions to ultimately meet your goal of fee removal.

Step 4:  "Say my name, say my name..."
Beyonce knew what she was talking about when Destiny's Child wrote that song. It's a scientific fact that...

people like to hear their own names. 

So make sure to ask the company representative their name right away. Write it down. Throughout the conversation, whenever it is natural to say his or her name, make sure to do it- but only for positive things. If possible, do this a few times, especially to show gratitude when they help you with something.

"Great, that makes so much more sense after you explained it to me. Thank you,  (insert name you wrote down)!"
Step 5: Ask questions to build rapport.
Since you just set up your autopay, now you can ask questions about how it works. For instance:
 - "What day does the auto draft occur?"
 - "Can I set up the autodraft to be on a certain day?"
 - "If the autodraft is due on the 15th, does the payment post on the 15th or does it post before or after that date?"

Questions like this show engagement and will assure the representative that you are sincerely sorry for your blunder and want to make sure you get it right from now on.

**It is important not to skip step 5. Building rapport with the representative will softens them up for the big important question.**

Step 6: Save the late fee for the last question, unless they bring it up earlier.
After you've had all your other questions answered and have been really nice and thankful throughout the conversation, they will try to close with a final question. "Is there anything else I can help you with today?"

That's when you say, "Yes, (insert name you wrote down) I was wondering, could you waive the late fee for me just this once?" Or throw in casually "now that I think of it, (insert name you wrote down) would you by any chance be able to remove this late fee just this once? Now that I have autopay, I know it won't happen again."

Unless you are a repeat offender (tsk, tsk!), they will likely say, "Sure. I can remove this late fee as a one time courtesy for you."


Late Fee Vanished!

Budget Breaker Averted! 

Step 7: Close nicely and thankfully.
Phone representatives get scored on random phone calls. Help them get a better score for helping you out! After you write down the confirmation number, don't forget to say, 

"Thank you so much, (insert name you wrote down). You've been such a great help. I really appreciate it. That will be all and have a great day!"

Yes, it really works!

Click here to see a real Budget Breaker: Food Waste.

Have you ever gotten a late fee? What did you do?

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