Monday, May 13, 2013

The tax office: huge opportunity for service innovation

As most of our public institutions (education, police, community hall etc.) provide services, they can benefit hugely from service innovation. However, in order to reap those benefits, they need to be open to the fact that their users (‘the public’) are really their customers. That in itself will require a huge shift in attitude!

Let me give you an example.  I am helping my mother with her income tax. She has signed an authorization to automatically pay for her 2013 taxes.  So far, so good. But, after 4 months, she did receive 2 mails on the same day. These mails were contradicting each other.  In any case, there was a problem, they said, as they could not withdraw the money from my mother’s account. And of course, they are threatening with fines, if she didn’t pay soon.  So, I did call the bank, which said that there were no limitations. Then I did call the tax office.

They told me that 2 months were paid. This was not true, as the money was not withdrawn from my mothers’ account, but from the account of a complete stranger! Also the account number in their system for my mother was wrong.  I did ask them to sort out this problem and fix it, as they clearly messed up their admin. They told me to be available for a call between 11.00 hrs. and 14.00 hrs., the next day. Immediately they told me that if I did miss the call, there would be problems. The next day I did wait and …. nobody called!
Therefor I did write them a letter and asked for explanation and action.

Just a few days ago, they did send a new form for authorization and a copy of my own letter. No explanation, no apologies, nothing.

That is not a customer friendly response! But, clearly they don’t see me as a customer. I can understand that you will make mistakes, which happen to all of us. But then at least you can have the respect and decency to admit that and explain why you mess up different accounts.

Research indicates that if you adequately follow up to a customer complaint, then your customer will be more loyal and share that positive feedback with his/her networks.
This is especially important for the tax office.  A first start would be to see your users as customers and treat them accordingly.

Enthusiasm drives Excellence!

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