Customer focused

When making things right can make them worse for your customer

Like many other law-abiding Americans, I’m in the midst of completing my taxes.  In the last week, I received a corrected W-2 from a former employer.  It took me a minute to figure out what changed.  Everything was blank other than one check box for a Retirement plan. Because they were a former employer, I’m thinking “I know I didn’t contribute last year”.  No explanation came with the W-2.

I decided to check the Benefits Center online to see if they had any information. Nothing.  Have to go old school and make a call. I looked up the number.  After navigating through the IVR, I spoke with an agent.  I described what I received. He said the company sent an explanation letter today.  I asked him how many calls he received.  He said ‘a lot’.  Obviously not well planned.

Imagine a company that has 200,000 current employees and, oh 45,000 previous employees in the past year between cuts and normal attrition. I have no idea how many people were impacted, but how many calls you think they got?  Let’s say 10%. Even 5%.  I bet the call center was really happy about that.

Mistake #1:  A corrected W-2 with absolutely no explanation.

Did anyone consider sending an explanation with the correction?  I wonder how the discussion went.

“Geez, we sent out incorrect W-2’s.  We need to send everyone a correction.“
“That’s easy, our tech folks can create a corrected form and it will get right out.  With the bulk mail rate, it will cost us $25,000″
“Rounding error.  Go for it.”

So I (and somewhere between 1-and-245,000 others) received one of those rip-off-the-flaps all-in-one letters and my head scratching begins.

Mistake #2: No consideration of the impacts to the contact center

Forget for a minute that I’m perplexed (we’ll get to that in Mistake #3).  When the calls started coming in and the company realized it had a problem on its hands, why didn’t they put something on the front end of the Voice Response system to let people know that a follow-up letter is on its way with an explanation?  It might not have answered my question completely, but I would have been happy to wait for that letter. It also would mitigate the volume the call center agents had to handle.

On the positive side, the agent knew I would receive an explanation letter.  Assuming a clearly written letter, I would not need to contact them again.

Mistake #3: Little consideration of the impacts to the customer

I experienced multiple concerns upon receiving that corrected W-2.  First, no dollar amounts appeared on the form.  I noticed only one tiny ‘x’ after looking at the form three times.  Because no income appeared on the W-2, I started to wonder about any remaining income from my former employer and the impact to my taxes.  Secondly, I was happy that I had not yet completed my taxes.  If there had been a change to income and I’d already filed, then I’d have to deal with an amended return.  Finally, I had to take time to figure out what this all meant.

Your decisions impact your customers

Nearly every decision follows the Law of Unintended Consequences.  A truly customer-focused company will recognize that everything it does will impact its customers or end-users. In this case, someone should have spoken up and said “Let’s send a brief explanatory letter with the corrected W-2.  We also need to consider that the call center will experience additional volume.  Let’s get ahead of that with an announcement on the Voice Response system and make sure the agents have a clear script”.

Anytime you solve a problem, look at it from both the customers’ and operational perspectives.  What could they ask, what is not clear, can we take an extra hour to create better documentation to improve satisfaction and eliminate a contact center call?

No company is exempt from making good customer-focused decisions.  But if you make a mistake, be very careful and attentive in how you solve the problem.  Don’t make the response even more taxing.


Discussion (in the Comments section below)

1) I’d rather (fill in the blank) than do my taxes

2) What’s your favorite money-themed song?

3) What one customer-focused change will you make today?

Do you need help assessing risks or creating standard customer-focused processes?

Contact me and I will respond within 24 hours to setup a call with you.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *