The return was pretty much done a week or two earlier but I wanted to check one or two more things before I sent it in. So, after I got home from a dinner meeting, way too close to the stroke of midnight, I opened my return, checked a couple figures, and hit "submit."
To my horror, I received a message that said servers were overloaded, try again in 2 hours. Um it's 11:40. Uh oh.
I tried over and over again to no avail. Then I checked the Turbo Tax website and found a somewhat comforting message that told me there were problems, recommended we "keep trying...you might get through" and most impressively said that their biggest priority is to protect tax payers so they were working with the IRS to would assure returns would be considered filed timely.
Wow. Okay, cool. But how much hassle would it be to deal with the IRS to "prove" I'd tried to file on time and that "technology" hindered my efforts? Ugh.
I still kept trying and, miraculously, at the stroke of midnight, my return seemed to be submitting, but a message afterward said successful transmission couldn't be confirmed, check back in 24-48 hours.
Thankfully, as I get older, I am a lot more relaxed than I used to be about things I cannot control. I shrugged my shoulders, thought "I did what I could...I'll deal with this tomorrow..." and went to bed. Slept fine.
Here's where Intuit has blown me away. Jet Blue should take note!
Even before I confirmed whether my return actually went through (which it did), I received this (emphasis by me):
Dear TurboTax Customer,
We want to let you know that Intuit will be refunding any TurboTax credit card charges that were charged to your credit or debit card between 3 p.m. PDT Tuesday, April 17 and 4 a.m. PDT Wednesday, April 18.
We deeply regret the frustration and anxiety you may have experienced trying to e-file your return on April 17.
We worked closely with the IRS to allow taxpayers who were affected by the delay to file their returns until midnight tonight, Thursday, April 19, without penalty. Intuit will also pay any other penalties that customers incur as a result of the delay, although none are anticipated. We will be contacting you early next week with additional details about this refund. We value your business and appreciate your patience.
Bob Meighan Vice President, TurboTax Customer Advocacy Intuit, Inc.
So, what did Intuit do right?
- Got the word out on their website that their first priority was to PROTECT CUSTOMERS (even moreso than to fix the server problem!)
- They IMMEDIATELY COMMUNICATED with customers by email that they were all over the problem and again reassured us, in writing, that we'd be okay with the IRS and that if, for some reason, the IRS would penalize us, they would cover those charges.
- Sure they said they regretted customers' frustrations and anxiety, but ten times better, they PROVED THEIR SINCERITY by refunding all filing fees before most customers even thought to ask.
- Intuit took steps to ensure no inconvenienced customer would be missed by blanket refunding every filer during affected hours, even those who filed successfully!
How much money did Intuit spend by this broad action? ($15 million BTW) Does it even matter?
Think of the risk to them of having
however many thousands or tens hundreds of thousands of current and future customers FEARFUL of using their product. Now think of the loyalty they literally CEMENTED by their prompt, decisive action. Was the cost a drop in the bucket compared to future sales? I'd say so.
This is a fantastic example of a customer service situation handled beautifully. Sure, some customers were certainly very upset. But as I'm always saying, things happen! It's not whether or not you'll make a mistake, it's what you do when it happens.
People make mistakes. Companies do, too. And the more external factors we rely upon (suppliers, subcontractors, etc) the greater the risk of service foul-ups.
What's your company's reaction when something goes wrong? How about when a customer is frustrated or anxious--even if you DO come through in the end and deliver? Do you make up for the stress they might have in dealing with your organization?
My final thought on this... let's reflect on what TurboTax sells. Is it a product? A "commodity" as some would say? A packaged "do it yourself" item? Well then, tell me this: How many product companies would refund for stress??
I think Intuit just proved they sell a service much more than they sell product. They sell the ability for people to be self-sufficient in preparing and submitting their taxes. They sell the ability for people to trust their product to let them do just that.
If Intuit can sell 'service: self-sufficiency and trust' in a bar-coded box, why do accountants and lawyers assert that they sell "hours" instead of peace of mind, solutions, and knowledge?
Here's a story from Computer World on the problem and the refunds.