Preparing Your Customer Support for a “Taxing” Tax Season
The 2021 U.S. tax season was called the “perfect storm”. The IRS received 167 million calls, four times the usual volume, and only 9% reached a live assistant. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen when faced with unexpected call volumes. What can tax filing software companies learn from this? Be prepared. Consumers will choose tax software vendors who offer the most value for money and the best customer service. And with tax filing season only months away, have you scaled your customer and tech support channels so you can offer the best service and product experience? Here are some things to consider…
Why This Tax Season Will Be Busy
If the 2021 tax season was any sign, this season will be much the same. According to the IRS, last year, almost 91% of individual returns and about 69% of business returns were e-filed, and most consumers surveyed say they intend to use tax preparation software again this year. E-filing is quickly becoming the norm in households across America. But even the best tax filing software can have glitches, and some aren’t always the most intuitive to use, so customer inquiries are to be expected, especially for first-time e-filers.
Customers will have questions about your products, and which ones suit their needs, whether it’s for individuals, businesses or the self-employed. They will want to know about pricing and features, and once they buy your product, they will likely have questions about basic functionality. This could include how to attach documents, how to access special forms, how to use certain features, and any technical issues that could arise along the way.
Much like last year, this tax season is also going to be more complex. Due to COVID relief programs still in effect throughout 2021, and recent changes to tax laws, including the introduction of new tax credits, like the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit, e-filers may require more help. There may be more forms, more documentation to submit, and customers will likely have more questions than usual about how to do those things using your software. They will need your help navigating increasingly complex tax returns.
This Season Could See Increased Sales
Another reason this tax season may be busier? There were 16 million people who still filed their 2021 returns by paper. Why does that matter? After last tax season, some of them may choose to e-file this year. The IRS’ 2021 backlog of returns was bad for e-filers, but it was much worse for paper returns. This is because information on paper returns must often be transcribed, entered, or scanned, into electronic systems before they can be processed, which adds substantial delays. E-filing cuts this extra step since the information is in an online form and documents are electronically attached.
More people may want to try filing online, for easier and quicker returns. But there are often perceived barriers that need to be addressed. According to customer and small business surveys, the reasons often cited for avoiding tax return software include:
- Concerns over privacy and security
- Confusion about how e-file works
- Unaware that e-file is more accurate
- Belief that e-filing is too complex
- Fear of greater risk of audit
Cost is also something that must be addressed up front. With the recent backlash against the tax software industry, over the confusion of “free” offerings versus paid, the way to avoid consumer frustration is to be clear about pricing and whether free versions of your software will best suit a person’s needs. Dispel the misconceptions that stand in the way of purchase and offer support channels that educate consumers about the benefits of using tax software. People often don’t mind paying when they know the value of what they’re buying.
How to Scale Your Tax Filing Software Support Channels
So, you can expect a lot of calls this year. How do you cope with a sudden influx of product inquiries, support calls, and technical questions?
Tax filers will be looking for a great, or at least pleasant experience, when contacting your company. But let’s face it, the tax filing software industry is not known for its customer service. A 2021 report by CPA Journal showed that for the third consecutive year, customer support was the lowest rated feature, with an average rating of 3.3 out of 5. And one of the reasons that consumers cited for switching tax software products was dissatisfaction with customer support.
Know What You Need
The way to do better is to evaluate what your customers need and understand which channels to ramp up during tax season. According to CPA’s 2021 report, phone assistance is by far the preferred channel, with 42% of customers reporting that they use it often. This was followed by email support (15%), online help (27%) and live chat (15%). Know your customer preferences and which channels you’re going to scale, then determine the amount of volume you can expect using your company’s historical data.
Build Out Your Capacity
Are you going to need to scale 30, 40 or 50%? Understand your operational needs when scaling your customer support. Recruiting large numbers of agents, training them, and equipping them with the right tools often requires a massive amount of effort. You may need to upgrade your IT infrastructure, or even add physical workspaces, and you may only have 3-6 months to do so. Finding enough qualified customer service agents in the U.S. can be particularly challenging. That’s where outsourcing can help. It could be easier and more cost-effective to partner with a reliable customer experience provider that already has in-built capabilities and access to international talent.
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Partner With Us
If your company has a reputation for poor customer service and tech support, people may look elsewhere, to a competitor who can offer a better experience. Don’t get caught with poor service. itel can help you scale quickly and efficiently for tax season. With our geo-diverse locations and talent pools, we can easily find the right candidates with the right technical and customer service skills, and we have reliable, secure infrastructure already in place (PCI and SOC 2 certified), that allows us to offer the best in-house and/or work-at-home teams.
With nearshore outsourcers like itel, there’s also the bonus of having your customer support operations closer to home, and often in the same time zone as your head office, at costs comparable to offshore vendors.
Ready to Take on Tax Season? We can help. Contact our team to get started!