Learning from TaxACT 2 – Find the Unasked Questions

In a previous post ‘Learning from TaxACT 1 – Step by Step’ I discussed my difficulty with filling out the Oklahoma withholding using TaxACT Online. When I got fed up looking around I filled out their online form for support:

“We are using the Oklahoma non resident and there is no way to enter withholding at any point. I have entered data in every frield and each time I go to pront the form the witholding box 43 is always blank. I have paid my $8.00 and I want it back as your system can not perform the required work”

First let me explain. I was very tired after trying to figure out the website for a few hours.  Also, there is no spell check on their form. Here are the mistakes I made:

  • I did not mention that the withholding was from royalties so they did not have all the information to assist me from the start.
  • I demanded a refund without giving them the opportunity to correct my problem first.
  • I didn’t take the time to look over what I was writing and correct spelling and other issues.

It was a failure from the start.  No one wants to give service to an idiot. They get yelled at all day by people with unreasonable expectations. By spelling horribly and not providing sufficient information I led them to think that I am the stereotypical bad customer that can never be pleased. This encourages them to not try and solve my problem.

Here is their response:

“It appears that your federal and/or state returns have been printed. Since this is the case, we will be unable to issue a refund for the charge(s) you are requesting. At the time you created your return, you were asked to consent to our license agreement which did state:

“If the billing steps were completed when e-filing the return online or calling in to our support center and the return was rejected by the IRS and cannot be re-filed, it is the user’s responsibility to contact 2nd Story’s Customer Service Department within 30 days of the original billing date to request a full refund of the fees paid. If a return was printed, there would be no refund issued.”

For your convenience, we have included a link to our Satisfaction Guarantee which is posted on our website:


Technically, this does answer the simplest interpretation of my request, but, does it meet all the needs of TaxACT or the customer.

Find the unasked questions

One of the principals I discovered by running a help desk was “Find the unasked questions”. The goal is to reduce support costs by looking for any potential reason for the customer to email back and heading it off now instead of later. This principle may have been more important on an internal help desk where most of the time the issue will eventually come back to haunt you.

In the model of TaxACT it is more likely that at this point the customer will give up and go to one of the other online tax preparers. The cost to the customer to change companies is small and email customer service is difficult. TaxACT, in similar, cases may  successfully have lower support costs by making it easier for their customer to go to another company then pursue all their needs. It does take more time to take a moment and read into the customers email for unasked questions. If you lower support costs by not pursuing the unasked questions then you are trading PR and future profits for the saving in support costs. It seems that in most cases the additional time spent in support looking for unanswered questions would be well invested in PR and increased customer retention. It may, on the other hand, increase the retention of high maintenance customers. In a smaller internal support desk looking for unanswered questions has a significant impact on reducing long email chains. In the end, it seems better to do what is right for the customer that use any tactics to weed out undesirables at then expense of public good will.

Here are the questions they missed:

  • How do I enter the Oklahoma withholding in your system
  • Why could I not find how to enter the Oklahoma withholding in your step by step process

They also generated a new questions

  • Why could I not get a refund if the system could not do build my tax form correctly just because I had printed it.

To be clear, viewing the completed form will indicate to TaxACT that I printed the form. There appears to be no way for me to verify that the system build the form correctly before I eliminate the possibility of the refund. Also the refund is not predicated on the providing a valid document. The could deliver garbage and the customer has no recourse.

This email also does one more thing. It enrages the customer. Throwing back a legal statement implies the me that they only want to perform the minimum limits to meet their requirements. They appear to have no desire to do what is logically correct for the customer or even what is best for their company. This type of response is likely to create people passionate about bringing your company down. Wit the extra energy they tend to tell all their friends and write nasty blogs posts (not like this one)

What could have have been done better

They could have simply provided the instruction on where to enter the Oklahoma withholding.

In most cases the customer would enter the data and use the resource and TaxACT might have converted a potential loss of several customers into a customer passionate about using TaxACT. They may gain a few customers.

Addressing the refund question could be handled by stating

“We desire to help you successfully use our product so that a refund will not be necessary.”

The lawyers may say that that does not adequately address the issue and implies that a refund is possible. If forced I might say “It is our current policy to not refund returns that have been printed.” Better yet, I would change the policy. It’s basically unfair to set an arbitrary limit to a refund that is not based on the accuracy or quality of the work provided.

Prevent the issue from reoccurring

Internally, they could track these emails by section and eventually realize that there is a gap in their step by step process. Some development could then reduce inquiries like this. Unfortunately, I did not provide enough information for them to find the actual location of the issue. Based on the quality of their response I find it doubtful that they have a process in place thoughtful enough to prevent this issue from happening again.