Posts tagged with "effort"

Politics by 360 Magazine via 360 Magazine

Extend the PSLF Waiver

Menendez, Kaine, Gillibrand, Van Hollen, Sarbanes, Hayes, Courtney Urge the Biden Administration to Extend the PSLF Waiver.

The bicameral group of lawmakers asked for the waiver deadline to be extended until July 1, 2023

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), alongside U.S. Representatives John Sarbanes (D-Md.-03), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.-05), and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.-02), today led a bicameral group of nearly 100 colleagues in urging U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona to extend the limited Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) waiver deadline until July 1, 2023 – when the Department of Education’s new PSLF regulations are set to take effect, in order to ensure all public servants with federal student loans can benefit from this historic waiver. Since the Department announced the limited PSLF waiver last October, more than 189,000 public servants have had their student loans forgiven through the program and one million have received an average of one additional year of PSLF credit.

“To date, the waiver has been overwhelmingly successful in reducing barriers for borrowers to receive PSLF relief, as the waiver accounts for almost all (91%) of the borrowers who have received forgiveness through the PSLF program through July 31, 2022,” wrote the lawmakers to Secretary Cardona. “The limited waiver [has] also [been] a lifeline for Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) borrowers who—for the first time—have seen their payments acknowledged in the PSLF program.”

Despite how many public servants have already benefited from the limited waiver, the lawmakers highlighted that these borrowers represent only a fraction of the public servants who are eligible for PSLF. According to the Student Borrower Protection Center’s estimates, only 15% of the 9 million public service workers with student debt have filed paperwork to track their qualifying payments under PSLF. The lawmakers also echoed the more than 20 state attorneys general who warned that fundamental programmatic problems with the PSLF program will immediately return – likely in a more exacerbated manner – if the waiver ends before the Department of Education implements its new PSLF regulations.

“Extending the PSLF waiver will also allow more military service members and federal employees to make progress towards loan forgiveness through PSLF. Though the Department has announced that it is currently working to ensure that all federal agencies and departments automatically provide credit for PSLF for members of the military and federal employees, this program is not yet in place,” added the lawmakers. “Military and federal data matches are critical to ensuring that the Department can identify which borrowers are eligible for PSLF and provide them automatic relief.”

Sen. Menendez and many of his colleagues have long called on the Department of Education to make comprehensive fixes to the PSLF program, which has faced scrutiny for several implementation challenges since its inception in 2007, with only 1 to 2 percent of PSLF applicants being approved each year prior to the Biden Administration proposing a sweeping overhaul of the PSLF program. Today’s effort comes more than a month after Sen. Menendez and several of his colleagues led a group of more than 100 lawmakers in calling on the Biden Administration to extend the PSLF waiver deadline.

This effort is supported by 35 advocacy groups, including: AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Accountable.us, American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), American Council on Education (ACE), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), American Psychological Association (APA), OCA- Asian Pacific American Advocates, Association of Young Americans (AYA), Chicago Foundation for Women (CFW), Community Service Society of New York (CSSNY), Consumer Action, Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Fosterus, Maryland Center for Collegiate Financial Wellness (MCCFW), National Action Network Washington Bureau, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Association of Social Workers (NASW), National Council of Nonprofits, National Education Association (NEA), National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), New Leaders, New Jersey Citizen Action, Public Law Center, Social Current, Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC), Student Debt Crisis Center (SDCC), The Arc, The Education Trust, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), UnidosUS, and Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC).

Joining Sens. Menendez, Kaine, Gillibrand, and Van Hollen in the Senate in signing the letter are: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Joining Reps. Sarbanes, Hayes, and Courtney in the House in signing the letter are: Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.-12), Colin Allred (D-Texas-32), Cynthia Axne (D-Iowa-03), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.-44), Karen Bass (D-Calif.-37), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.-01), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.-16), Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.-02), Shontel Brown (D-Ohio-11), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.-24), Sean Casten (D-Ill.-06), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27), David Cicilline (D-R.I.-01), James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.-06), J. Luis Correa (D-Calif.-46), Angie Craig (D-Minn.-02), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.-07), Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.-03), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.-11), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.-12), Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas-35), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.-13), Dwight Evans (D-Pa.-03), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.-07), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.-04), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas-29), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.-03), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas-18), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.-53), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.-07), Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.-06), John B. Larson (D-Conn.-01), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.-14), Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.-03), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.-08), Lucy McBath (D-Ga.-06), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.-04), James McGovern (D-Mass.-02), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.-09), Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.-04), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-32), Marie Newman (D-Ill.-03), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.-At-Large), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.-14), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.-06), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.-20), Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.-09), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine-01), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-45), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.-07), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-05), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.-08), Deborah K. Ross (D-N.C.-02), C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.-02), Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.-01), Gregorio Sablan (D-N. Mariana Is.-At-Large), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.-09), David Scott (D-Ga.-13), Adam Smith (D-Wash.-09), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.-07), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.-11), Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.-03), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.-15), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.-13), David Trone (D-Md.-06), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.-12), Peter Welch (D-Vt.-At-Large), Susan Wild (D-Pa.-07), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.-05), and John A. Yarmuth (D-Ky.-03).

Find a copy of the letter HERE and below.

Dear Secretary Cardona:

Thank you for your continued efforts to improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. As you are aware, the limited PSLF waiver, announced last October, has significantly improved the lives of the more than 189,0001 public servants who have had their student loans forgiven though the program and the one million2 who have received an average of one additional year of PSLF credit. Given the upcoming October 31, 2022 limited PSLF waiver deadline, we write to reiterate our request3 that the Department of Education extend its deadline until July 1, 2023—when the Department’s new PSLF regulations will take effect—in order to ensure that all public servants with federal student loans are able to benefit from this historic waiver. 

To date, the waiver has been overwhelmingly successful in reducing barriers for borrowers to receive PSLF relief, as the waiver accounts for almost all (91%) of the borrowers who have received forgiveness through the PSLF program through July 31, 2022.4 The limited waiver is also a lifeline for Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) borrowers who—for the first time—have seen their payments acknowledged in the PSLF program. Yet, data indicates that only a fraction of the public servants who are eligible for PSLF have utilized the waiver. According to the Student Borrower Protection Center’s estimates, only 15% of the 9 million public service workers with student debt have filed paperwork to track their qualifying payments under PSLF.5

As more than 20 state attorneys general have pointed out, “[g]iven the essential benefits provided by the limited PSLF waiver, and the fact that fundamental problems with the PSLF program will immediately return (likely in an exacerbated form) upon the waiver’s end, we have grave concerns about the plans to end the waiver . . . before the Department’s new PSLF regulations take effect.”These attorneys general, alongside the education advocacy, government, and non-profit community as a whole, agree that operationalizing and explaining the waiver has been an incredible challenge for the Department, as well as its servicers. Such challenges have left numerous public servants confused about how the waiver, consolidation, and the Department’s one-time review to fix forbearance and deferment failures will work. This is especially true for FFEL borrowers and borrowers who still hold joint consolidated loans from the Department, many of whom are still unaware that they may have an opportunity to qualify for PSLF under the limited PSLF waiver.

Importantly, extending the PSLF waiver will also allow more military service members and federal employees to make progress towards loan forgiveness through PSLF. Though the Department has announced that it is currently working to ensure that all federal agencies and departments automatically provide credit for PSLF for members of the military and federal employees, this program is not yet in place. Military and federal data matches are critical to ensuring that the Department can identify which borrowers are eligible for PSLF and provide them automatic relief.

Since the deadline of October 31, 2022 to qualify for PSLF under the waiver program is less than one month away, we ask that the Department extend this deadline in order to ensure that all public servants with federal student loans are able to benefit from this historic waiver.

Sincerely,

Follow Senator Menendez on Instagram I Facebook I Twitter I YouTube I Flickr I Website

Boutique illustration by Heather Skovlund for 360 Magazine

Boutique Customer Service Tips

Customer Service Tips Every Boutique Retailer Should Try

By: Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!

Supplied makes it easier for small boutique owners around the world to access high-quality, affordable wholesale boutique items, whether to stock their physical store or IG shop.

Do you remember the last time you had a truly fantastic customer service experience?

Maybe a cashier complimented your earrings, or maybe the person at the drive-thru unexpectedly threw an extra taco in for free. Or maybe you were just really vibin’ with the enthusiasm you could hear at the other end of the customer support line. Whatever it was, chances are it made you more excited to return and support that company with your business in the future.

Now… think back to the last time you had an awful customer service experience.

Was someone being unnecessarily difficult while you were trying to return a sweater, you’d bought a week ago? Or did someone leave you on hold for hours and hours? Or maybe someone just would NOT honor your coupon, even though you received it in an email yesterday?

Whatever that bad experience was… I’d be willing to bet it made you a whole lot less likely to go back anytime soon.

As Vince Lombardi famously said, “It takes months to find a customer and seconds to lose one.” One poor customer service experience could cause you to lose all of a valuable customer’s future business.

Offering better customer service skills often doesn’t cost a dime, but it can make a world of a difference for your profits. Studies show that acquiring a new customer can cost five times as much as retaining an existing customer. Plus, the success rate of marketing to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while it’s only 5-20% when marketing to a new customer. 

If you haven’t been making great customer service a major priority in your boutique lately, now is the time to change that. 

Read on to learn 25 powerful (but easy!) customer service tips every retailer should try implementing in their business.

(If you’ve hired someone else as the main customer service rep for your boutique business, send this article along to them as a reminder!)

Top 25 Customer Service Tips

Focus on the customer in front of you

As a boutique owner, you’ve constantly got about a zillion and one thing that need your time and attention. But when it’s a customer you’re dealing with, zero in on them and their needs. Nobody likes feeling unimportant – make sure you give them your undivided attention while they’re talking to you, whether it’s over the phone, in person, or in your site’s live chat.

Be empathetic

Chances are, you’ve been in the exact same situation your customer’s in right now – whether they’re trying to figure out what size shoe to purchase or they’re trying to initiate a return for something that didn’t turn out the way they’d hoped. Do your best to see the situation from their perspective. You’ll be able to provide a better customer experience if you’re in touch with their needs and emotions.

Make an extra effort

Work tirelessly to solve your customer’s problems. If a customer wants a certain size that’s out of stock, double-check your inventory, let them know when they can expect that item to come back, offer them alternatives, or give them a discount code for their trouble. Your customers will appreciate you going the extra mile for them.

Improve systems

Customer service isn’t just about making your customer feel valued while you’re speaking to them – it’s also about providing a great all-around customer experience. Do a quick audit of your website and make sure it’s user-friendly. Is it easy to check out? Browse new arrivals? Search for specific items? Purchase using the payment method they prefer? If not, set aside some time to make some adjustments.

Identify their needs

There might be all sorts of things you could be doing to provide a better customer experience that you don’t even realize yet. Put together a short survey to send out to your customers about the checkout process and their past customer service experiences. It’ll show you what’s going well and what you could improve.

Use their name

Simple, but effective. Whenever a customer reaches out to you, take note of their name and use it. It’ll give your communications a more personal touch. (Don’t forget to introduce yourself by name, too!) Bonus points if you remember other personal details about them for next time.

Smile

Yes, even if you’re not talking to the customer in person! Make an effort to be friendly and positive, even if you’re just sitting at your desk at home – you can totally hear a smile through the phone, and it makes a difference.

Be generous

If you could spend $5 to secure a customer who’s loyal to you for life… would you do it? Sometimes, that’s all it takes. When a customer reaches out to you, your priority is to make them happy – offering free shipping or accepting a late return can do just the trick. And that’s not just common sense – research shows that accepting someone’s generosity makes you feel indebted to them, which can translate to return business.

Don’t say “I don’t know”

Sure, you’re not gonna immediately have the answers to every single one of your customers’ questions… but it’s kinda your job to know. So, when you tell a customer “I don’t know,” what they hear is “I don’t care.” Not exactly the message you’d like to get across when you’re on the phone with a customer! Practice saying “Let me check on that for you” instead.

Celebrate birthdays

Acknowledging your customer’s birthdays is a surefire way to make them feel valued and appreciated. Ask your customers for your birthday as they sign up for your mailing list, then send them an email with a promo code for a free gift or a discount right before their special day.

Be clear about your policies

Your customers aren’t mind-readers – if you don’t let them know, they have no idea about how long shipping should take, where you ship to, or under what circumstances you accept returns. Be sure your shipping and returns policies are clearly stated on your website to avoid confusion. It’ll answer some questions before they’re ever even asked!

Honor your promises

Your customers need to know that they can trust your boutique to deliver the value it promises. Stick to the shipping and return policies you have listed on your website (unless you choose to go above and beyond them, of course!) Honor coupons and discount codes for as long as you said you would. Post any giveaway winners publicly in your stories. Trust is key!

Acknowledge frequent customers…

Let your return customers know how much you appreciate them! Whether you throw a quick handwritten thank-you note into their next order or you offer a discount code that’s good for their next purchase, it’ll definitely make them want to keep coming back.

But make sure new customers feel the love, too!

It’s a big leap to order from a company you’ve never purchased anything from before – make sure new customers feel super welcome. Acknowledge new customers by offering free shipping on their first order, sending a promo code when they sign up for your mailing list, or even sending a quick thank-you email for taking a chance on your shop.

Be transparent

Running a business is tough, and sometimes extenuating circumstances make it even tougher. Be open with your customers about the hurdles you’re currently going through, especially if it will affect shipping times or restock dates.

Sincerely apologize

We all make mistakes – especially when we’re doing huge, crazy difficult things like running a business. If you’ve made a mistake on a customer’s order, own your error, sincerely apologize, and do whatever it takes to make things right. It’s much more professional than shrugging off responsibility or blaming someone else. (Bonus points if you reach out and own up to it before the customer even notices!)

Make it easy to get in touch

Have you ever sent an email to a company’s customer service team… and then never heard anything back? Yeah, that’s the worst. Don’t be that company. Let your customers know the best way to reach you, whether it’s through Instagram DMs, email, or over the phone. If you want to go the extra mile, include a live chat feature on your website that’s available 24/7. (Also, word of advice: if you have a contact form on your website, make sure to check it every so often!)

Offer self-help customer service

If your customers can find their own answers to their questions, it makes their lives easier AND your life easier. Include a comprehensive FAQ page on your website that answers common questions about shipping, sales, returns, and more. For more complicated questions, you might want to write up an entire blog post to give your customers more information. Just be sure your customers still know that they can reach out to you with any questions they can’t find the answers to.

Plan for the holidays

Here’s a hot tip: over the holidays, things get BUSY. Even if you usually don’t have very many people blowing up your inbox about shipping questions, there’s a very good chance you will during the holidays. Make sure you’re prepared with multiple customer service reps helping respond to questions (if need be) and detailed holiday shipping info displayed on your website and social media pages.

Respond quickly

Make it a goal to respond to all customer emails within 48 hours whenever possible. No matter how busy you are, customers want to feel like their concerns and questions are a top priority. As for Instagram DMs, Facebook messages, and comments, try and get in a habit of responding to those right when you see them. (Your customers will like that and so will the algorithm!)

Hire the right people

If you’ve only recently opened your boutique business, you might be the only person your customers ever interact with. But as you grow and add more people to your team, make sure they’re people who are kind, friendly, and pleasant to interact with. Nobody’s perfect, but a positive attitude can make all the difference.

Be polite

Pretend you’re at the dinner table with your strict aunt – say lots of pleases and thank yous. Not only is it common courtesy, but it’s also good business. It’ll also help you still sound friendly and polite even when you’re communicating via messenger or text.

Set clear expectations

Sorry, but you’re not superwoman. When your customers approach you asking when they can buy an item you aren’t planning on restocking, or when they ask if you can make sure the package, they just ordered gets to them by tomorrow, sometimes you just can’t give them the answer they were hoping for. Be realistic in your responses and don’t make promises you can’t keep. Setting clear expectations is also helpful in responding to emails – sending an automated email letting a customer know when they can expect a response is also helpful, even if they were initially hoping for a reply right away.

Be human

There isn’t a robot at the other end of all of those incoming customer emails – it’s bright, bubbly, sparkly you! Don’t be afraid to infuse your communications with your genuine personality. Strike up a conversation with a customer on the phone, ask about their day, say “top of the morning to ya” instead of “hello” when you feel like it. It’ll help forge a relationship with your customers!

Offer suggestions

Have you ever asked a waiter what you should order, only for them to respond, “I love everything on the menu equally!” Yeah, that’s not helpful – don’t be like that guy. When your customers ask for your opinion, politely give it. You’re the real expert on the products you carry – use your insider knowledge to guide your customers to the right decision for them.

Create Your Free Wholesale Account Today

Joseph Heller
Joseph Heller, small businesses expert and CEO of Supplied!

Michael Porter Jr. Pays His Dues

While Denver Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. works to get back on the court, he’s found other exciting ways to help his team out. The videos below show a fun spin on MPJ’s rookie duties and how Autotrader helped him find the perfect car for the job. 

Michael Porter Jr. Pays his Rookie Dues: http://twitter.com/MPJr/status/1050356874321846272

Also, check out Autotrader’s newest feature, Accelerate, which saves buyers time at the dealership by helping them start their deal online.