Learning from TaxACT 4 – Leading Away From the Answer

This is my fourth posts in a series “Learning from TaxACT”. In my previous posts I discussed the problems with the usability of their software and I analyzed my email exchange with TaxACT:

Learning from TaxACT 1 – Step by Step Learning from TaxACT 2 – Find the Unasked Questions Learning from TaxACT 3 – The Dangerous Assumption

Here is my next email. Is is self explanatory after reading the previous posts:

“1)The state witholding was not on the retirement distribution. It was on the royalities. I entered information on the taxes for the royalities and nothing appeared on the Oklahoma document.

2) You did not answer the questions “How do I veiw that the field is correctly filled out prior to completing the billing process? ” Please answer all the questions on my email.”

Please continue to ignore the typos. I am copying the emails verbatim. I will try and remember to use spell check. I know how to spell those words. It comes down more to typing speed and quality.

I finally give them enough specific information to solve my problem.

The Response

“Dear TaxACT(R) Customer:

Question 1 For a video presentation of Correcting or Adding Forms W-2 and 1099, please click this link: http://www.taxact.com/tsupport/video/video-tax-topics.asp?sc=081604150409

To enter Royalty income with state withholding: 1. Log into your TaxACT Online return or start your TaxACT Desktop program 2. Click on the ‘Federal Q&A’ tab 3. Click ‘Form 1099-MISC’ to expand the section and then Click ‘2-Royalties’ 4. Make the appropriate selection and click ‘Continue’ 5. The program will proceed with the interview questions for you to enter or review the appropriate information

To enter state withholding: 1. Log into your TaxACT Online return or start your TaxACT Desktop program 2. Click on the ‘Federal Q&A’ tab 3. Click ‘Form 1099-MISC’ to expand the section and then Click ‘3-Other Income’ 4. Select ‘Form 1040’ and click ‘Continue’ 3 times

The state withholding will transfer to your state return, and this will not prevent you from electronically filing either the federal or state return.

Question 2 You will be prompted to print your returns in the ‘Filing’ steps so you can review them.  Then if any changes are necessary you will be able to go back and make the corrections before actually filing.

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

A Video!

Wow, a video, that is cool. I go and watch the video and it tell me how to get to the forms. I had already filled out both forms so I obviously did not need to know how to get to them. The video does not mention anything about withholding or detail on filling out the forms. Why did they send this to me?

Analysis of this issue taught me a valuable customer service lesson. Any information that does not lead to the answer leads away from the answer. In other areas of customer interaction you are generally trying to impress upon the customer you abilities and depth. Videos can provide an appearance of capabilities beyond their actual value. In customer service about an issue this can backfire as you spent a lot of time you and my time not meeting my needs.

The Misleading Title

You will notice that the first title says “To enter Royalty income with state withholding:” and they state in that section “Click ‘2-Royalties’”. I went through the whole section under Royalties and there is a box for taxes but there is no way to indicate which state they are for no there is no way the data can reliable end up on the Oklahoma form. In actuality this whole section is just as wasteful as the video. It leads away from the answer.

In this case I specifically mentioned that I had already filled out the tax field under the royalty section. They had clear information that this section was useless. It is possible that they did not understand that in their own software that this section did not have state withholding in it at all.

The Hidden Answer

They way to actually accomplish my goal was to follow the third paragraph titles “To enter state withholding:” Which seems reasonable except that it appears to be a subset of the more specific section before “To enter Royalty income with state withholding”. My natural reaction is to avoid issues by entering data in the more specific section. Sure, if that does not work I should then check the less specific section.

I did in fact spend another hour looking through all the fields and found the elusive state withholding field where I can select which state it goes to. But that caused more concerns that I address in my next email

Think About the Worst Case Scenario

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

TaxACT:  “You will be prompted to print your returns in the ‘Filing’ steps so you can review them.  Then if any changes are necessary you will be able to go back and make the corrections before actually filing.”

The neglected to answer my question specifically. It some cases it is best to answer the needs of the customer instead directly answering the question posed. That can work as long as you aren’t making any unfounded assumptions.

It appears that the assumption they are making is that I will “be able to go back and make the corrections before actually filing”. they are neglecting the possibility that their system can not handle the necessary changes. I doubt they would make the changes prior to April 15th. They chose to focus on the best case scenario where a jaded customer will usually be focusing on the worst case scenario. It is possible that they customer service representative could think of even worst case scenarios than the customer did and you don’t want to give the customer even worse ideas. In this case your policies should already take into account the worst case scenarios so they customer never even has the opportunity to consider them.

It Aint over ‘till…

We learned a lot from this exchange. Too bad the problems were not resolved satisfactorily. There will need to be more emails and more money spent.

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