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3 Things Tax Day Teaches About Customer Service

I hate doing my taxes.

Oddly enough it has nothing to do about actually paying the taxes – sure, I wish they were less, but it is more about the arduous nature of the process than anything else.

I gave up trying to do them myself some time ago – and the reason was fairly straightforward.  I think it is an overly complicated process that tends to drain the life out of me (and anyone around me) when I attempt to calculate them myself.  Now I know there are a multitude of excellent software programs out there and that I should be smart enough to fill out the forms, but yet last night I sat in the cubicle of my very nice tax accountant and let her prepare my return.

As I sat there hoping that I’d had enough federal taxes deducted and watched her fill out the extra forms for my book sales, it occurred to me that there were some lessons to be learned here that we can all benefit from when it comes to serving Guests.

Tax time taught me 3 things about Customer Service:

  1. Difficult Processes are Irritating.  I think that is the biggest issue I have with filing taxes each year.  There are more forms that I can comprehend and what is the difference between a 1040 and a 1040-A?  Who knows and who cares!?!  From an outsiders point of view, it seems like one form per person should do the trick and everything else just seems like an excuse to keep form makers in business.  I wonder if we don’t all have processes in our business that absolutely drive our Customers up a tree?  When was the last time you really looked at your business from the point of view of a Guest?  It is an easy thing to forget in the hustle and bustle of creating an amazing product or service.  But slow down and look at the end-to-end process.  It could be how your web site is arranged, your return policy, how long you hassle someone for your store credit card, or even just finding particular items in your show room.

  2. Reputation Matters.  The IRS is seen by many as a scary, complicated, and inconvenient entity that needs to change.  I look back over the years and see that they have made efforts – those in charge are always talking about the ideas of a “friendlier IRS.”  Its obvious they know change is needed, and I bet there are good people at the helm who really want that to happen.  They have tried friendlier offices, online support, and call centers designed to help out.  That said there are many who believe there has been no change.  So the question becomes: Have they simply not changed or not been perceived to have changed.  The lesson I believe we can learn is that reputation goes a long way.  The longer you wait to address poor public opinions, the longer it can take to overcome them.  That isn’t to say that you cannot, but it will require additional efforts and PR.  The other key to remember is that once you correct any issues in your organization, then you have to market those changes.  You need the equivalent of a megaphone and a message – and then the determination to get your message out to your Customers.  Change is only effective if you can properly change the perceptions folks may already have of your business.

  3. Waiting Rooms Matter.  As I was sitting for my taxes to be completed, I noticed that there were some short comings in the office space that this firm uses for their business.  I believe our Guests are always looking for reasons to trust us (or not to trust us), and often waiting rooms and offices are a part of that equation.  In this case, the coffee was cold at their “Please Enjoy Some Coffee While You Wait” station and their water cooler was empty.  This is unfortunate because both could have been wins – but since they neglected to make sure they were well maintained, this actually became more negative than not offering anything at all.  I think the same thing about hostess stands and waiting rooms with expired magazines.  My dentist’s office always has bottles of water stocked in their little cooler in their seating area and the magazines are always fairly recent.  I really appreciate that.  In the case of my tax preparation company, well, they were lagging there.  Couple this with uncomfortable chairs, an open cubicle concept not exactly set up for privacy, and the tension in the air between coworkers, and it has me looking for a new company for next year.  Let’s face it, most of these “big box” tax preparers are relatively the same, so it comes down to the team on the ground.  That is a good lesson for us all as we look to differentiate ourselves.

Take a moment to think about your experience during tax season – or really any time you are dealing with a process that you think can be cleaned up – and then apply those learnings to your business.

The best news of all is that when you turn even the simplest moments into learning opportunities, you become well poised to treat every Guest like a cherished friend.


Tony Johnson Customer Service Expert | Author | Trainer | Speaker

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