Let’s be honest. This headline could apply to the current COVID situation or to a regular run of the mill tax season. Between it being tax season, the current pandemic spreading by the day, and the fact that people are still having trouble navigating the new tax laws, the tax office as we know it is pretty stressful.
One thing that remains true for the tax preparation industry is that this is our time to shine as trusted advisors to our clients. Our clients – whether families, businesses, or individuals – are facing uncertainty financially and even mentally. We’ve got businesses worried that they won’t survive, families worried about loss of income… people are even unsure about having enough toilet paper! As tensions rise, we need to be a source of reassurance and go above and beyond to help guide them.
As you navigate the tax season – which has now been extended to mid-July – here some thoughts on delivering excellent customer service.
First thing’s first, a phone call or email from a potential client is the first experience they’re going to have with you during the social distancing order. This is why it’s important to establish a phone and email answering policy. Since your staff is likely working from home, you’ll need to establish a call forwarding schedule to share phone answering responsibilities. You’ll also need a policy on how many rings a call must be answered in, and what the protocol is for missed calls.
For email, who is responsible for answering emails coming to your general inbox? What’s the time-frame for responding – even if it’s to say “we are looking into it”? The important thing to remember is to be prompt and communicative. Being a source of reassurance can be huge for people who are worried about their future.
You should also be communicating with current clients to ensure they know about tax season changes. Be the thought leaders and provide information via blog posts or curated articles to help guide your clients during these uncertain times. You can do this on your blog, social media sites, in email newsletters, or via webinars and Facebook Live broadcasts.
Offer Flexible Services
There’s a reason the IRS extended the tax season. It’s because people should not be out and about right now. Just because the tax season is extended, it doesn’t mean clients should wait until this blows over. You can still offer the same great service without conducting a physical appointment.
Two things we offer at our sister company, Peoples Tax are our Virtual Tax Pro and Tax Return Drop-Off Services. Our Virtual Tax Pro(SM) service is just as it sounds. Clients create an account on our client portal and submit documents virtually for tax preparation. Any communication that needs to be done is over the phone or via email. For our Tax Return Drop-Off Service, clients can drop off documents anytime we are open.
Another option is to offer virtual tax consultations. You will still need to have a way to send documents securely, but you can meet with clients virtually for their tax appointments through a service like Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Be a Resource
People have lots of questions right now. As an industry professional, how can you be a resource for them? And how can you do it in a meaningful way? Everyone’s got their “Guide to COVID” and the SBA Loan is the default link in all of them. But what are the implications of the loan and is it a good idea for everyone? What should taxpayers be doing and thinking about right now, as well as six months from now? How can you answer the questions everyone is asking? That’s what being a resource means. Maybe you write a blog post or do a social media series. Maybe you curate resources in an email. Maybe you host a webinar or hop on your favorite social media platform and let people ask questions. Try to be as helpful as you can right now and your clients will thank you for it.
Support your employees
It is equally important, or even more important, to provide support, tools needed to do the job and encouragement to your loyal employees during this crisis. If your employees are positive and feeling good about their jobs, that will translate to your clients being satisfied by the service being provided to them.
Excellent customer service is the best way to stand out against your competitors right now. Give people an experience they’ll rave about and you’ll have a customer for life.