Customer experience innovations soothe the anxiety of tax season

Every April, millions of Americans stress about the IRS during the final stretch of tax season. (If you filed for an extension, perhaps you still got taxes on your mind.) Under such circumstances, it makes sense that people would be open to some assistance as they grip their calculator and stare at W-2s, 1040s and Schedule Cs and try not to pull out their hair.

You are doing your taxes online like you do every year, but changes to the tax law, the house you bought last summer, and even reported errors in professional accounting software have changed everything. Doing a Google search to try to find the answer doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. To address this kind of scenario, TurboTax offers live video chat, injecting human expertise into its self-service online platform while offering a certified public accountant when taxpayers hit a filing snag. With just a few clicks, they can virtually chat face-to-face with a real, live tax professional. In fact, every tax season, TurboTax hires 1,000 CPAs to provide real-time advice in a service that starts at just $80. Smart, smart move.

The service shows that TurboTax isn’t just concerned about the transactional nature of customer relationships—it wants to offer a customer-centric experience that alleviates their anxiety. The service has been a resounding success, and competitors like H&R Block have begun offering similar services.

Brands in other industries should emulate TurboTax’s approach. It is powerful when companies foresee customers’ pain points and help ease them: Research shows that problem-solving is the most important brand attribute for today's consumers. Not only that, video calling is an increasingly common way for people to communicate in the smartphone era. Consider that there were 17 billion video calls on Facebook Messenger alone in 2017. Forty percent of consumers say they have either interacted with a brand via video chat or likely will soon, and more businesses are starting to implement the feature to turn consumers’ anxiety-inducing purchase decisions into branding moment.  

With that in mind, here are two more great brand examples of live video chat being used to address customers’ concerns in their times of need.

Can you see me now, doctor?

Last August, CVS debuted its "digital doctor" video service nationwide, addressing easy-to-diagnose medical issues within the brand's smartphone app. The live video chat feature attempts to address allergies, colds and coughs, earaches, the flu, upset stomachs and more.

Sound cutting edge? It is. An actual doctor is available 24 hours a day, popping up on the customer's iPhone or Android thanks to a partnership with tech-minded customer service company Teladoc. CVS' move illustrates that voice communication—which just a few years ago was considered to be a bygone human activity—isn't going anywhere.

Additionally, CVS’ innovation reflects how even legacy retailers should think like direct-to-consumer brands and offer a memorable customer experience. CVS knows that when folks feel under the weather, they’d rather not leave their home, get in their car or on a bus and go chat with a physician face-to-face. Bringing the doctor to them via live video chat takes away a common paint point.

Boutique plays on the cutting edge

Live video chat isn’t just for huge brands—businesses of all sizes can realize the customer service benefits of connecting with people 1:1. It’s one of those rare, clear examples of technology making companies more human rather than the other way around.

One example is Barbara Frères Boutique, an online retailer with one store in Düsseldorf, Germany, that uses live video chat to consult with customers about boys’, girls’ and baby clothing. Getting a shoe size right can be difficult when you have a growing toddler or kid; so the boutique essentially goes into customers’ homes with video chat to make them feel like they are making the right purchases. The comforting and personal experience helps create loyal customers.

A new medium looks here to stay

Live video chat makes a lasting impression on customers because it offers a human-to-human touch that bots and automation just can’t offer. The feature is gaining traction among not just the brands featured above but many others: research firm Gartner estimated that 100 of the world’s largest 500 companies have introduced live video chat.

In particular, brands in financial services and other high-stakes verticals such as health care, insurance and real estate need to understand the emotional element of the customer experience. A study by Accenture found that around half of customers who have a poor experience with a brand will stop doing business with that company entirely.

TurboTax, CVS, and Barbara Frères Boutique are retaining customers by leveraging technology to offer a service that’s truly human—live video chat gives customers a layer of personal care and convenience. By this time next decade, nearly every company will be doing the same thing, and we’ll look back at these brands as customer experience pioneers.

Ian Dailey is Sr. Director of Product Marketing of call tracking and analytics software company Invoca.

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