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Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fun with phone support

First let me state from the outset that this issue ended up being my fault. But that's not going to stop me from ranting about the state of outsourced phone support...

I used TurboTax to do our taxes. This year, we owed money on both our state and federal returns. I used TurboTax's e-file feature to have the funds withdrawn directly from our bank account. I set the withdrawal date to March 7...or so I thought. In looking at my bank statement, I noticed that only the state funds had been withdrawn on the 7th. The federal funds had not.

So I used Intuit's "live" online chat feature to enquire as to the status of that payment. After 2 tries, I was able to convince the support person (assuming it was a real person), that I was not interested in checking the status of my refund. I was interested in checking the status of a payment. The support person then assured me that my return had been received and accepted by the IRS and I had nothing to worry about. I pointed out that I knew it had been accepted because TurboTax provided me with that status. What I wanted to know was why the amount I owed had not been paid on the date I specified. I was then told to call the support number.

I was on hold for a surprisingly short while after which I had to once again convince the support person that I was not expecting a refund. She then told me that they "did not have the resources" to check on the status of my payment. I then asked what I suppose to do about this and she told me that I should see the withdrawal in a few days and if not, I should call back and they'd take care of it. Of course, I couldn't let the illogic in that go unchallenged and asked how, if they didn't have the resources, she knew that the withdrawal would happen in a few days. And then if the withdrawal didn't happen, why they would have the resources to resolve this a few days from now, when they didn't seem to have the resources today. All she could do was repeat that they would be happy to resolve this at that time. Clearly, I wasn't going to get anywhere with this line of questioning so I just agreed to check my bank account in a few days.

Before I hung up, the support person asked, "Have we resolved your issue today sir?". I just hung up... Yes, that was very rude and if the support person happens to read my blog, I'd like her to know that I apologize...

So then on a hunch, I called the IRS e-file support number and in about 2 minutes I had accessed my e-file information via an automated response system. The nice automated voice reported that my return had been received and that funds were scheduled to be withdrawn from my account on April 7--not March 7! Hmmm... So I went back into TurboTax and lo and behold I must have accidently entered 4/7 instead of 3/7 when I e-filed my fed return. What a turkey.

Yes, this was my fault. But still, I was able to get information in 2 minutes from an automated service that I was not able to get from a live human being. TurboTax support should have at least been able to tell me that I had set the withdrawal date to April 7 instead of March 7. And maybe this is just an American thing (or maybe just a Brian thing), but the politeness with which they are unable to resolve customer issues is infuriating!

Yeah, I know. I'm far from the first person to complain about this sort of thing. But hey...that's what blogs are for ;-)

I dread talking to customer service people. I'd much rather work through an automated system. I guess it's a good thing we're software engineers instead of sales people.
Brian... first, my apology that you did not get the level of support you expected. Your feedback, actually all feedback, is appreciated because it challenges us to do better... and we will.

FYI... no one at Intuit can tell you when funds will be withdrawn from your account to pay your IRS balance due. For security and privacy reasons, no one is authorized to look at your data unless we receive approval for you. The only information we can gleem from our records is when your return was accepted or rejected. There seems to be this perception that Intuit knows when refunds will be deposited (we can only estimate based on processing schedules published by the IRS), when payments will be made, or why processing is taking longer than expected. For good reasons, we don't have access to any of this personal and confidential information.

Thanks for your feedback and I hope this information helps.

Bob Meighan
VP, TurboTax
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