A lot has happened since last year’s tax season. Pandemic effects have rippled to significantly impact the economic circumstances of many people and businesses. Job losses and changes, work-from-home setups, the proliferation of digital data, and other considerations have made many tax returns more complicated, requiring deeper levels of support from tax agents and related organisations.
With a call volume surge on the horizon this tax season, tax agents can’t rely on the same old support strategies. The pandemic jumpstarted digital transformation in many industries unaccustomed to digital services – from healthcare and education to entertainment and public services – and consumers now simply expect more convenient, digital, immediate experiences everywhere. Preparing and lodging taxes is no different. Consumers want an easy way to select the right tax time partner if they’re not doing it themselves.
A digital-first, rapid, empathetic approach to customer support is essential to manage surging tax-related volume. For example, the process of finding a registered tax agent and scheduling an appointment can be significantly improved with a combination of automation, AI, and data analytics and human associates.
Working with a digitally enabled customer experience partner, organisations squeezed by tax seasonal surges can benefit from delivering accurate tax information, communicating effectively, and scheduling appointments at scale with readily empathic associates. Internally, they can reduce contacts handled and create cost efficiencies across scheduling, appointment management, and FAQs with automated messaging and technology. Specific benefits include:
- Connect empathetic readily available at-home associates with prospects & customers to deliver accurate tax information, communication, and scheduling support at scale.
- Have at your fingertips a sophisticated, fully managed contact centre operation for tax season call surge that can be rapidly deployed during spikes in volume.
- Reduce contacts handled and create cost efficiencies with automated scheduling and messaging technology to reach out to clients, send mobile or email reminders, and provide follow-up information.
- Deflect IVR and web chat volume with mobile messaging for simple questions.
So how can it be done in a compressed timeframe, as we approach FY22? Here are just a few tips:
1. Create a surge playbook
A step-by-step playbook aligns all necessary resources to be prepared for surging contact volume. The playbook should include plans for quickly activating agents if needed, as well as ensuring your associates have access to the right information and resources to provide consistent and reliable support.
2. Identify your contact centre blind spots
Conduct an operational assessment to identify people, process, training, and technology gaps to support tax season surges. The goal is to determine which channels are likely to need more support during the surge and whether the organisation has the technology and tools for seasonal associates to provide additional support during peak times.
3. Train agents for skill and empathy
Taxes are complicated, and tax brackets and subsidies are constantly changing. In addition, empathy is a vital skill associates can employ to anticipate and understand customer needs – especially with something as sensitive as taxes. Taking the time to train associates on empathy in addition to providing a strong knowledgebase sets them up to deliver superior support during the busy tax season.
4. Pair AI with humans for optimal results
A mix of human touch and digital technology can create an optimal balance of positive customer experience and streamlined operations. Real-time insight from voice analytics, for instance, helps associates focus on what matters to customers. And AI-powered training scenarios enables associates to quickly practice and hone their skills at their convenience.
5. Think flexible scheduling
The more flexibility an organisation has in ramping up or down quickly with a variety of skilled associates increases its ability to meet service levels and deliver an excellent experience. For example, tapping into skilled at-home associates is one way to augment support during surges.
6. Enable authenticity with technology
Associates will need the right tools to meet customer surges head on. An omnichannel, cloud-based customer-experience infrastructure can enable and integrate digital tools such as automated self-service, AI, text messaging and live chat to deflect calls and scale as needed. A strong digital foundation enables associates to dedicate their time to the more complex customer conversations.
7. Be proactive every step of the way
Tax agents and associated services can leverage digital tools like messaging to provide information and communication directly on Facebook Messenger, Apple Business Chat, WhatsApp, or direct SMS messaging. These are channels consumers already use, so information will likely be received and engaged with.