Learning from TaxACT 3 – The Dangerous Assumption

This is my third posts in a series “Learning from TaxACT”. In my previous posts I discussed a problem with the usability of TaxACT’s software and I analyzed my first email exchange with TaxACT:

Learning from TaxACT 1 – Step by Step

Learning from TaxACT 2 – Find the Unasked Questions

This post is looking at what else we can learn about how to successfully provide customer service  from the other email exchanges. In my previous post I mentioned that they did not answer some questions that could be derived from my email. This was the next day so I had rested (and received shock treatments for the depression caused by using the TaxACT software.) I chose to not be emotional in the emails and as clearly as i could state the questions I needed answered. I even put numbers next to them to ensure that they were seen as separate points.

I Wrote:

“1) Am I correct that there is no way in your system to enter the data that goes into line 43 (Oklahoma Witholding) of the Oklahoma non-resident form 511NR?

2) How do I veiw that the field is correctly filled out prior to completing the billing process? ”

Wow, I really need to remember to run spellchecking in Gmail. I’m spoiled by Outlook’s automatic spell checking. As mentioned in my previous post. Badly formed questions and bad spelling just discourages the support desk from taking my question seriously. I expect them and anyone working for me to rise above that even though it is the natural response.

Here is their reply:

“If you had state withholding on your retirement distribution, you would enter this information on Form 1099-R as it is shown on the document you received. This information will then flow to Oklahoma Form 511NR, line 42.

To enter state withholding on Form 1099-R:

1. Log into your TaxACT Online return or start your TaxACT Desktop program 2. Click on the ‘Federal Q&A’ tab 3. Click ‘Retirement Plan Income’ to expand the section and then Click ‘IRA, 401(k), and Pension Plan Distributions (Form 1099-R)’ 4. Click ‘Review’ to review a form already created 5. Click ‘Continue’ until you reach the screen titled ‘Retirement Plan Income – State Tax Withheld’

Thank you for using TaxACT. Please let us know if you have any further questions.”

The Assumption

Can you spot the assumption. It may not be apparent unless you work with taxes some. To the customer in the situation it is obvious because he has all the facts. In this case the withholding was not from retirement income but is from royalties. It appears that they were aware they were making an assumption because the began the sentence with “If you had”. They were looking at my documentation otherwise they would not have assume that it was retirement income instead of regular income. They had an opportunity to notice that it was Texas retirement for a Texas resident and I was referring to Oklahoma withholding.

I can not say how many documents in their system handle state withholding. It would be helpful if they could do a quick search on the system to see all the screen with the word withholding. They could then see which appear to apply to my friend. It is possible that there were so many that it would have been cumbersome to put them all in the email. Still, they could list them out just so that I know they are reading my emails intently. They could also say “If the withholding came from another source then let us know and we will assist you further.” Wow, wouldn’t that seem helpful.

They did provide the most likely information in general for this question but not specifically for this customer base on the information they had. They bought themselves another email exchange and risked angering the customer further by following an assumption dogmatically.

The unanswered question

In my previous email they missed an unasked questions. That is common and requires special insight and experience. In this case they neglected a question that was specifically numbered.

“2) How do I veiw that the field is correctly filled out prior to completing the billing process? ”

The typo might make it more visible also. In this case it was completely missed or ignored. Some of the things that anger customers to convince other people to boycott your company are having unfair business practices and ignoring or not reading correspondence. This is a double whammy. They ignored a question about their unfair business practice. I can understand the reluctance of getting into a philosophical debate with a customer over a piece of legal jargon the lawyers suggested to limit liability. End user agreements are generally biased towards the company. That is why it is unfortunate that they led off the last email with it. This also begs for the customer to continue the dialog with another email that will need time to answer.

The costs of this customer keep rising and the customer is encouraged to tell other people to not use your company. It doesn’t appear that TaxACT accomplished any potential cost saving or public relations goals with this email.

If you can see any other lessons we can learn from this exchange, Please put them in the comments of this Blog.