Before Julie G. became a client service rep, she had a job that was similar but different: she worked for an IT company, answering calls from confused customers whose computers didn’t work. But people are more complex than computers, she says. So her 11 years at Consolidated Credit have been the most challenging and fulfilling part of her life.
“I like helping people, I like being able to provide a good source of knowledge to people that they can use in the future,” she says. “People are going through all sorts of stuff and fall into debt because of these issues. You hear stories from a death in the family to ‘How am I going to pay my bills?’ to ‘I’m living in the streets.’ And sometimes you have to be a counselor, psychologist, and psychiatrist.”
What’s the most memorable call you’ve received since becoming a customer service rep with this company?
“I had a situation a long time ago where the client was tired of paying his bills,” she remembers. “He was living in his car and was in a lot of debt. His wife had taken the kids and left him, and he couldn’t see them. He had also lost his job, and he felt he had no purpose in life. I remember him saying while cocking a gun in the background, ‘I don’t care about anything else I just want to get out of here.'”
Julie says people are carrying heavy loads and some to the point of taking their own lives over it. She stresses that people don’t have to go through it alone and should seek help.
“I do my best to help clients,” she says. “Being able to help even a little makes my job worthwhile.”
That’s heavy. How do you deal with such calls?
“First, you need to make sure that you gain their trust,” she says. “You don’t elevate your voice at any point, and you have to keep them interested in your conversation. Keep them at a point of sanity. I also bring it to my supervisor’s attention, so they get the clients outside help to save them from harming themselves.”
Julie recounts a similar situation involving an older woman.
“I had a 94-year-old lady who pretty much wanted to do the same,” she recalls. “She was on Social Security, and had been paying her deceased husband’s debt four years after his passing. She just couldn’t afford it anymore and felt that was it for her.”
What’s the most common reason people give for falling into debt?
Julie said the most common reasons are split between poor money management and overspending on credit.
“People are using credit cards to pay bills,” she says. “If push comes to shove, I understand that you have to do what you have to do but there are other ways of doing things. The other one I hear a lot is from people who open businesses. People often say, ‘I opened up a business, it didn’t go the way it was supposed to so now I’m drowning in debt.'”
What advice would you give to people who are in over their heads in debt?
Julie would like to pass on the valuable knowledge that she received from her parents and the ones that she’s learned from Consolidated Credit.
“My parents taught me that you don’t buy something if you can’t afford to pay for it. No matter how much you want it, it can always wait,” she says. “Think about the fact that anything can happen; you may lose your job tomorrow and then you’re stuck with this bill. If you have it in your savings and you want to increase your credit score, that’s OK.”
Why do you think people are so inclined to spend?
“Some people just don’t understand credit,” she says. “They use their credit cards because it’s money ‘I can get it now, I’ll pay it sooner or later.’ It’s an instant gratification thing. I get calls from people who say, ‘I graduated about a year ago, and I need to come back on the program because I used my credit card again. I have a shopping problem.'”
Julie asserts that shopping is a ‘vice that needs to be treated just like an addiction’.
What’s the nicest thing a graduate from the program has ever said to you?
“Thanks for saving me $50,000. Thanks for saving my marriage.”
Julie says the client was on the verge of losing his wife over his debt woes. In fact the debt wasn’t his but that of his deceased mother.
Do you get crying clients? How do you deal with a screaming client?
“Pretty much at least once a week, I get a crying client, but often from the older ladies who are really struggling,” she says. “I let them vent. I pace myself and make sure that the information that I provide is as accurate as possible. I will never give clients inaccurate information just to make them feel better.”
Do you have additional advice for people out there?
“Before signing up for something, do your research first and make sure to read the fine print.”
Don’t despair. You don’t have to go through it alone
If credit card overspending or a break-up have you at the end of your rope, call us. Consolidated Credit has certified credit counselors standing by to help you get over your debt burdens. Don’t wait, dial 1-888-294-3130. You may also request a free Free Debt & Budget Analysis online.