turing-testWith our business focused on sales tax outsourcing, we frequently migrate companies from an outsourcing solution where they are underserved into our outsourcing solution. In doing this, I’m sometimes amazed by the insight these companies provide regarding how other solution providers approach sales tax outsourcing.

When I refer to sales tax outsourcing, I’m specifically describing the process that an otherwise in-house employee would manage – preparing and filing returns, registering with the taxing jurisdictions, making decisions regarding whether to register or not for sales tax purposes, reviewing exemption certificates for validity, etc.

What surprises me is the level to which other solution providers apply a technology approach to address, what I believe to be, a process that demands a service approach. There are good technology vendors that have great sales tax calculation tools that bolt-on or otherwise integrate to an ERP system. But these same technology vendors are not necessarily great at providing a service.

Technology vendors are experienced with developing and supporting software. They generally have a customer support function that requires a “trouble ticket” to be completed before an issue can be addressed. These “trouble tickets” are routed to a support agent who attempts to resolve the problem – sometimes completely electronic via email or some other chat functionality. After all, it’s much more efficient to not have to speak with an actual customer live on the phone.

When these same technology vendors try to provide sales tax outsourcing SERVICES, they apply the same business processes as they do to the software portion of their business. Specifically, asking clients to enter trouble tickets for support issues, not assigning a dedicated resource to the client, and otherwise not being available to speak live one-on-one. I’m just shocked when I transition a client from a different sales tax outsourcing provider and hear them say, “I could never get anyone on the phone.” Or, “Whenever I had an issue I entered a trouble ticket and I got a response via email. Even when I specifically asked someone to call me back they emailed me.”

I find it hard to wrap my mind around how a company could make a service so impersonal all in the name of efficiency.

Maybe I’m behind the times and believe that service counts for something. That people enjoy interacting with other people. That people like to know the name of the person who does their work and that they can call that person with a question. That people want you to help them. I believe that technology will keep pushing us forward but you’ll never replace good old-fashioned customer service.

If you are considering an outsourcing service or switching providers, click here to read more in our white paper, Sales Tax Outsourcing – Framing the Decision.
Brian Greer

Written by Brian Greer