Friday, June 4, 2010

Customer service counts

I am the trustee of my father-in-law's estate, and have been busy settling his affairs. There is a lot to do and it's been a bit of a challenge.  I was further exasperated when I received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service.  "This can't be good," I thought to myself as I walked back from the mail box.

It wasn't, and a wrote a letter in reply.  Low and behold, shortly thereafter I received a call one evening at dinnertime from the IRS office in Cincinnati.  The caller had read my letter, and we had a pleasant conversation about the problem.  She promised to conduct some further research into the matter, and to call me back within the next few days.  She found the source of the problem (a mix up between the estate EID and the trust EID), made the necessary correction, called me back at the appointed time, and suggested that she would send me a letter describing the transaction for my records.  As promised, I received the followup letter shortly thereafter. 

The service I received from the IRS was remarkable.  It wasn't just prompt, professional, and accurate, it was downright nice--no, friendly.  She had no idea that I was also a faceless bureaucrat on the government dole, but she went out of the way to deliver customer service beyond all expectations.  You would have thought, from the tone of these conversations and from the followup, that they were really hoping I would stay with them again, and not jump ship to some other hotel chain. 

Ms. Stenger thank you very much for blowing that stereotype out of the water. Consider this customer delighted.  You can count on me to come back and do business with your outfit again.

11 comments:

Herb said...

U was audited four years ago. Other than the scheduling necessary yo make three appointments over 5 weeks, and having to remember to leave my pocketknife outside the Federal Building, it wasn't an entirely unpleasant experience. Because of the nature of my work and the way I pay myself, there are some idiosyncrasies that required as much research on their part as my own. In the end, I owed them $17 and they owed me $14. We called it a draw. Overall, an educational experience and one that allowed me to do my own taxes better next time.

Anonymous said...

"You can count on me to come back and do business with your outfit again."

We have a choice? I did not know that.

Steve said...

Customer service has been sort of a buzzword in the business community for a long time now. Unfortuneatley, for most companies, it is just that. ( n. 1. A usually important-sounding word or phrase connected with a specialized field or group that is used primarily to impress laypersons) There are notable exceptions, especially in the online world of business. They seem to realize, more than others, that convenience is one of the most important aspects of customer service. Personally, if I have to deal with automated phone menus and such when I call a company, I'm looking for someone else to do my business.

Mike said...

My wife and I had some issues with the IRS after her mom cashed out some stocks in my wife's name without telling us, causing us not to report it to the IRS. We were surprised to have much the same experience as you did -- they were both friendly and helpful (far more than the broker we also had to deal with to get the necessary information). Our problem was certainly less complicated than yours, but they treated us equally well.

Anonymous said...

When I was in the trucking business I had to go through several audits. On my first audit we spent from 8AM to noon and everything had checked out OK. The only thing left was per diem expenses. At the time I believe the automatic allowance per day from home was $15.00. When I had done my taxes I was so frustrated by the time it came to going through everything I just tossed all my per diem receipts in a grocery bag and estimated them at $22.?? a day. The auditor said we could take a one hour break for lunch and then finish up. I asked him if he could recommend a good place close by to eat. I knew it was going to be a tough afternoon when he pulled out a small brown bag and told me he didn't know because he always brought his lunch.

Back from lunch I watched him go through all my receipts. I never saw fingers fly like his did on that adding machine. In about fifteen minutes he had totaled all of my receipts and told me I had made a mistake on my per diem expenses. I shut my eyes and thought to myself "oh boy, here it comes". I felt great when he told me that I had actually had daily expenses of a dollar or so more than what I had claimed. Of about six or seven audits there was only once where I owed the IRS more and on one occasion they found some "lost" money for me that was significant.

Gun Nut

Tom Casady said...

Steve:

I had a horrid experience with a certain provider of antivirus software on their telephone support line, and just the absolute opposite when I finally gave up and used their online chat help. I think you're right: the online biz is setting the standard. On the subject of future policing, I wonder what we should be learning from this trend.

That's what she said...

I think maybe the message here is that even though law enforcement agencies like LPD have a monopoly on the crime fighting, report taking, and ticket writing business, people should be treated with the respect humans deserve (even if they sometimes don't act like they deserve it).

Steve said...

With so many people out of work nowadays, you'd think companies could find real people to answer their phones. Perhaps some of them don't realize how many customers go somewhere else when they encounter the automated systems. Of course, some companies have a virtual monopoly on their product/service and don't care about customer satisfaction. If it weren't for my wife wanting them, I would have stopped the newspaper, TV, and phone service years ago. I'd rather drive across town to do business with someone than go through "press one for English, etc." for an hour and still not get my problem solved.

As for the police, I don't often call for non-emergency service anymore (didn't like the customer service), but instead, email to you or my team captain when I have a police issue. I generally get a response fairly quickly. Of course, in an emergency, I'd call 911, and would hope I'd get to talk to a real person (never have needed to call 911 thankfully).

Tom Casady said...

That's what she said...

And that is the whole point of my retelling of this personal story: we should aspire in government--including policing--to provide the kind of service I received from the IRS, despite the fact that they (like us) have both the power and a monopoly.

As I tell all new police officers, it's really quite simple, you just treat people the same way you'd like to be treated in similar circumstances--the Golden Rule. How would you like to be treated if you were confused and a little overwhelmed by a letter from the IRS? What would you like the police to do, officer, if your own car had been creased by a hit & run driver, your own small business had been burglarized, or your own teenage daughter had run away from home?

Act accordingly, and the world is a happy place.

Anonymous said...

As another "government worker" I would estimate that the service one receives from us government schleps for the most part far exceeds the service offered by private business. I certainly know that the services we do in our office, for about 1/3 the cost of our counterparts in private business, are handled quickly and professionally.

My one dealing with the IRS was as you state, Chief: Professional, quick, responsive and humane. As it should be in all of life.

It's kind of sad, actually, that this type of service is so rare and so refreshing that we make note of it.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

For a business to thrive, customer service is important.