H&R Block Understands Social Media

by DJ Waldow on February 3, 2012 · 18 comments

HR Block LogoThis past summer, we received that letter. You know, the one that every taxpaying American citizen dreads — a letter from the IRS.

As it turns out, we had an error on our 2009 tax return. Long (long) story short, it was an honest, human error on the part of our tax professional at H&R Block. Luckily, we had signed up for Peace of Mind®, a program that essentially protects you from errors by H&R Block.

Fast forward several months and things were still not resolved. Meanwhile, I kept getting letters from the IRS saying we owed them money. The process, the time and energy I spent trying to get it resolved — all for an error on the part of my tax professional — was excruciating. It was frustrating. I was angry. I was bitter. I just wanted it to be done.

Turning to Twitter

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I called my H&R Block tax professional, after sending them numerous emails, asking for an update. They were not able to provide me any more information. I felt like they continued to make this my issue. They continued to make me do the work — for something that was clearly their error. Frustrated was an understatement.

My wife, a physician who is not active in social media (no Twitter account, a barely-used Facebook account), said, “Why don’t you complain on Twitter?”

As someone who has spent the past few years living & breathing social media, I didn’t want to be “that guy” who used Twitter to vent. I try my best to tweet out positive things. That being said, I’m human too!

I explained to Kristina that Twitter is not “just for complaining,” However, I finally agreed with her that I had no other choice. I was in need of an answer. I just wanted everything to be back to normal. So at 11:06AM MT yesterday, I sent the following tweet:

11 minutes later, this response from H&R Block’s twitter account appeared in my stream:

Shortly after that, I received this tweet from Scott Gulbransen, Director of Social Media at H&R Block (and UNLV grad):

I thanked both Darla and Scott through a public tweet, then replied to “DT” (Darla Tierney) through a private message (DM) and included my email address. Less than 5 minutes later, Darla sent me an email with the subject line “Lack of Response”:

Hi Dj,

Saw your tweet. Thanks for giving me the info to contact you. I’m really sorry you have not received a response or a resolution of some sort to this situation. Can you let me know what is happening? Let’s see if I can help eliminate some of the frustration you are feeling.

Thanks,
Darla

A few short minutes after that email, Darla sent me a private tweet (DM), that read, “Emailed u. I would be happy to call you or you can call me if you would prefer.” It included her direct dial phone number.

Holy cow, right? Let’s take a second to step back and reflect on what transpired over at 15-minute period. This happened because H&R Block was listening (monitoring Twitter) and had a plan on how to respond.

  1. I publicly tweeted my frustration with H&R Block
  2. Within 11 minutes, Darla from H&R Block replied
  3. Shortly thereafter, Darla send me an email followed by a DM with her direct dial
  4. Then, Scott Gulbransen, the Director of Social Media at H&R Block tweeted me, apologizing and letting me know Darla would be following up

But wait. It gets better. After cooling down a bit, I decided to call Darla directly. After all, she did give me her phone number. Darla picked up the phone on the second ring. After identifying who I was, she immediately apologized and asked me to explain what had happened. As I was taking her through the last few months of my life with H&R Block, I could hear her furiously typing notes.

Before we hung up, Darla promised to get back to me by the end of the day. She reiterated that promise in an email which read, “Thank you! I will be in touch by 5:00 p.m. CST.” She called at 4:22PM CT and followed up with an email shortly after.

Here is that email (note: I removed the personal information as indicated by “…” or “XXX)”:

Hi Dj,

Sorry I wasn’t able to speak with you by telephone. I’m sure your crazy busy! I wanted you to know what we have done to correct this situation.

*2009 Tax Prep Fees: We are refunding …

*IRS Claim: XXX was approved by our POM dept, but I am paying the additional on this one.

*Free Tax Prep for 2011: by a method of your choice. If you choose to do Block Live (I think you would like this – you can do it from home, real time) I will set you up with Elaine Smith who we all use and love here in social. If you choose a retail location I will find a tax pro for you and schedule your appointment at a location closer to your house. You name it, your way, and we’ll get it right if you are willing to give us another chance.

Two checks will be cut tomorrow and sent UPS Next Day Air to you: … If you receive more notices, please send them to me directly.

I realize no amount of apologizing can make up for the hassle and frustration caused to you and your family. I do hope you will give us another shot and allow me to assist. Feel free to call me with questions or anything else you may need. Thank you for reaching out to us!

Darla

She included both her work and cell numbers in her email signature.

**To be clear, ever customer situation is different. Don’t go sending angry tweets to H&R Block expecting everything to be resolved this quickly. Don’t expect them to offer free tax preparation services just because you contacted them. Also, to be transparent, all I asked for was that Darla look into my situation and see if she could fix it. I did not ask for anything for free.**

But wait. It gets even better! Yesterday evening, Darla called me … from her cell phone. She wanted to be sure I had received the email. She wanted to be sure it all made sense. She wanted to be sure I was happy.

This morning, I received a follow up email from Darla indicating that she had personally picked up the check and sent them to me via UPS next day. She provided the tracking number and concluded with, “If you need ANYTHING else, please let me know. Look forward to hearing from you.”

Needless to say, I was floored.

Lessons Learned

I’ve been active in the social media world for several years now. I used to be the Director of Community for Blue Sky Factory. I currently own my own company, Waldow Social, where we advise clients on email and social marketing strategies and tactics. I understand the value of social media. I believe in it’s power to help make big companies seems smaller, more human. I know that, if used effectively, it can help grow sales, build brand awareness, and/or serve as a first line of defense for customer service issues.

However, my experience with H&R Block reminded me another powerful aspect of social media: Communication matters. Let’s take a look at how Darla communicated during every single one of our exchanges – Twitter, Email, and Phone.

Her messaging was consistent throughout and is a good lesson for any company or brand active in the social media space who is faced with an unhappy customer.

  1. Respond quickly
  2. Apologize
  3. Empathize
  4. Provide an easy way to connect
  5. Make it right (if possible)
  6. Follow up on any promises
  7. (Over)communicate
  8. Be and talk human (not corporate-speak)
  9. Provide a reason to return and/or use product or service again

I’m not sure that my wife and I will take Darla up on her offer for a free 2011 tax prep; however, my frustration towards H&R Block has been tempered. They have successfully turned an angry client into a happy fan. Icing on the cake? I was so inspired by this exchange, I am now blogging about it for the whole world to see.

Thank you H&R Block (& Darla specifically) for understanding how to effectively use social media. Thank you for being human. Thank you for making things right.

Do you have a story to share about a company that understands social media? If so, I’d love to hear it. Please share below in the comments.

DJ Waldow
Waldow Social
@djwaldow

18 comments
sharondobkin60
sharondobkin60

I am always heartened (an old person's verb, I know) to hear that social media can be a helpful and positive tool.

I am forwarding this to my friend who is an administrator at H&R Block.  She will appreciate it.

 

On another note, I am saddened that we still do not pay attention to tweets, posts and the like in identifying potential harmful and/or criminal behavior.  Just take a look at the recent high school shooting.  The signs are almost always there, and yet we continue to focus on WHY someone has acted in a particularly horrific way instead of focusing on HOW to detect the warning signs.  I have said it with bullying, genocide and terrorism...... THE SIGNS ARE THERE, and in modern times, they typically are broadcast via social media. " I am angry, I am diaffected, I am envious, I am hurt and I am going to hurt someone to 'ease my own suffering'." 

I have more to write on this subject..... believe me...... but in the meantime, nice job  DJ, (again)on the use of social medial to solve a problem. 

LauraC
LauraC

Wow, I'm really impressed with there response. It is rare that big organisations, let alone government ones, respond so quickly and well to social media.

Latest blog post: Chamonix Ski

KellyVanGinkel
KellyVanGinkel

Learned the power of real-time Social Media Management when our daughter's luggage was lost on a return flight home for the holidays. After a week of having gone through the proper channels to no avail, I finally tweeted the info to @UnitedAirlines @LAX @MDT @ORD @dickinsoncollege.

I kept it informative w/o complaint, although I did add that @JetBlue was "listening" and had spontaneously joined a tweetchat led by my social media marketing teachers at UCLA. Their name had been mentioned in the conversation so the Jet Blue Twitter peeps jumped right in. We were all amazed that a big-name brand like Jet Blue found our little tweetchat group to be important...

Just like Darla at H & R Block, a warm and friendly human being named Charles from United Airlines called to let me know they were working on it and stayed in communication with me until the situation had been resolved. Even though Katie's bag looked like every other black bag AND had no ID tags, baggage claims managed to find it in a different airlines' lost luggage cemetery in another state!

I was so impressed with the way United Airlines handled our situation that I tweeted multiple times thanking them, the other airlines and airports that had been involved. I can't remember if the guy's name was Charles but it doesn't matter. What matters is that because of the exchange I had with this one guy, United Airlines very effectively turned me into a positive "influencer" for them.

After having had this experience, I've decided that I would like to be a "Darla" or a "Charles" too. I want to work for a company that understands the exponential value that a social media management team can bring to their brand (that is if I'm unable to convince my current employer to hire me to do it...)

Billy_Delaney
Billy_Delaney

Isn't this what is supposed to be happening and going to change the way business is conducted?

Thanks for this time line of a problem solved and sorted. I will keep this handy. 'Cos I'm sure it will be needed in the future in some way or other. Billy

Hilary Jones Alexander
Hilary Jones Alexander

I wish h&r block would do this for all of us. I too am waiting a loooong time for my refund b/c of an error done by there tax "professional". Still no resolution yet, no offer of ny type of refund. Ur very lucky

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

 @sharondobkin60 Thanks for the comment, Mom! You do know I love it when you read and comment on my blog posts!

 

Excellent point about not paying attention to the signs about potentially harmful and/or criminal behavior. I think there is a business opportunity there, as odd as that may sound. What about a company/service that would identify social media posts that were suspect ... ?

 

Again, just thinking out loud here but I think it's doable and certainly valuable.

HRBlock
HRBlock

@fullcirclec I'm sorry to hear that! I respect your decision, but would like to get your feedback. Plz DM your info.^DT

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@KellyVanGinkel Hey Kelly! Thanks for sharing that story about UAL. LOVE IT! I think you'd be a great Darla or Charles. Best of luck!

(and thanks for the comment)

djwaldow
djwaldow moderator

@Billy_Delaney I'm not sure I'd say it's what is *supposed* to be happening, but I do believe that companies can take advantage of social media (twitter, in this case) to help customers resolve issues in a timely manner.

fullcirclec
fullcirclec

@hrblock email is carissa.newton@gmail.com-too long to explain in tweet...boils down to HRBlock mistakes...I had to correct/pay for.

KellyVanGinkel
KellyVanGinkel

@djwaldow Thank you, DJ. Sorry it was so lengthy. Hard to tell the full story in abbrev version. Many companies can benefit from your H & R story if they open their minds.

KellyVanGinkel
KellyVanGinkel

@djwaldow you think? As in start my own blog or contribute to another blog? I like your idea...writing is another think I want to do more of : )

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