When Customer Service is Too Fast

A couple of months ago, I was in H&R Block filing my late father's taxes. It was late April, and the tax deadline here in Canada is April 30, so you can imagine the scene. If not, allow me to paint it for you: chaotic, depressing yet hilarious, and nobody from H&R Block was happy to be doing their job. The manager, who was no older than 25 and, for what it's worth, stereotypically gay, told one person who complained about the price of her tax return, that he wouldn't pay that much to get his taxes done here and would absolutely go elsewhere, if not for the fact that he was the manager on duty. This might get him in trouble, but I believe his name was Tyler. Sorry Tyler. Another woman, whom I had been in to meet with two days earlier about my late father's tax return only to have her show me the door when I wasn't able to produce legal documents authorizing me as the executor of my father's will (which didn't exist because my dear old dad died without a will, or an executor, or anything else for that matter) and after explaining the situation to her, she still turned me away. Imagine Kelly Kippur from "The Office", and suck every ounce of life and personality out of her—voila. On this particular day, Tyler the manager told her that her next customer was ready, to which she replied something to the effect of "I need to go to the washroom", and left. Somewhere between five and ten minutes later she returned to her workstation, and immediately turned around to leave again while her customer waited. When asked where she was going by her boss, she snapped back at him "I haven't been to the washroom yet!" even though she had just been out of the office for an extended period of time. She eventually came back from the washroom. Fortunately, I was not the person waiting on her.

The person I was waiting for was an older woman. I didn't have an appointment, but I was next in line to meet with her. She was late taking her lunch, and unfortunately had to take it while I waited for her to return. She spent her lunch hour outside the "office" (I use the word "office" loosely—it's poorly lit, has no windows, and is located on the top floor of The Bay at Yonge and Bloor in Toronto, shoved into a glorified crawl space at the far end of a cafeteria that I doubt few know exists), which I would have no problem with if she hadn't spent half of that hour meeting with a client about a tax return while I waited. Yes, she worked through her lunch (good) but met with someone else while I waited not just within earshot but in plain sight nearby (very bad).

So after waiting about two hours and seeing all of this, plus listening to Tyler take phone calls and watching H&R Block co-workers attempt to co-exist, I had every reason to tweet the following:

I'm at H&R Block, by far the most hilarious screwed up workplace I've encountered in a long time

I thought absolutely nothing of it and continued waiting. That was at 3:07 p.m. At 3:30 p.m. I received an email from H&R Block titled "H&R Block Customer Support", and it reads as follows:

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for contacting H&R Block's Customer Support.

We were sorry to read that the service you received did not appear to meet your expectations.

We have escalated this concern to the District Manager in order to have your concern further investigated.  Please trust that your satisfaction in our product and services is of the utmost importance to us at H&R Block, and that you will be contacted by a local resource within 2 business days.

We have started a file for your concern, for tracking purposes your reference number is XXXXXXX. Please keep this number and refer to it should there be a need for any future correspondence.

Thank you for choosing H&R Block for your tax requirements and providing us with the opportunity to ensure that our service does meet your expectations.

Have a nice day.

Customer Support Team H&R Block Canada

My first reaction was confusion. My post on Twitter didn't even come to my mind, so I didn't know what this e-mail was regarding. Obviously, I asked Tyler because I thought he might be able to explain it since there was a reference number quoted. Tyler was helpful and picked up the phone to find out more info, but the person on the other line couldn't give him any information because it was a matter for the district manager and he wasn't privy to that information. He actually told me it was a big deal and he would be sure to hear about it soon—and he didn't mean that in a good way. I still didn't have a clue why I had been contacted by customer service. I sat down, spent at least 15 minutes thinking it over, and slowly realized what had happened. That's when I stopped talking to Tyler and started to worry.

I needed to get my late father's taxes done. I didn't have a clue how to file for a deceased person, especially one without anything more than a death certificate and a T4 slip. I had waited for several hours. I was at the mercy of H&R Block, and I had just told the store manager that I had been contacted by customer service about a complaint that I knew nothing about.

You may be saying, "Chris, how could you not have figured out in today's uber-connected world that H&R Block was e-mailing you about your tweet because they monitor social media?" and that's fair. In my defence, I'm not a genius. Still, for H&R Block to file a complaint, escalate it to the district manager, and notify me of it all before I even had the chance to leave H&R Block's office? That's fast—and because my tweet could have upset any number of people who work in that office, I say H&R Block reacted too fast. YES, TOO FAST. Tyler wasn't able to learn why I had received the email from customer service over the phone right away, but he soon learned (while I continued waiting) that my complaint came from "one of those internet sites like Twitter or Facebook". Can you imagine how uncomfortable it made me feel to sit there waiting for service from his staff thinking that at any moment he could find out that I said his office was "hilariously screwed up"?

In the end, I sat down with the woman I had waited a few hours to see, and she filed my taxes in minutes. Tyler even gave me a discount for waiting so long. In the end, I had a good experience with H&R Block at the store level because I understand that everyone is under pressure during tax season. Would I take my tweet back? Of course not, but H&R Block's customer service did the company a disservice by contacting me and putting me in the uncomfortable position they did. I'm sure there's a lot to be said about privacy and social media monitoring in this example, but I think I've said enough for one blog post. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments if you have any.

Oh and by the way, I never did hear from H&R Block, even though they promised to contact me within two business days.