There is no better time to talk about what did and did not work in your practice this year than now—in the aftermath of tax season. It is only natural, of course, for those of us who have survived yet another tax season to book a cruise that leaves port on April 17.
The problem with this approach is that by the time you are back in the office post-pina colada, some of the pain of the season has been left on the beach and you do not remember all the critical pieces we wanted to address.
Despite it being a busy season, we debrief with our staff the day right after every deadline, including March 15, even though we are jumping right into other returns. We get the best, most honest feedback that way.
Not that we are throwing a party when our staff are stressed, but they are less likely to sugarcoat things during that time, which means you will get the most pointed feedback.
How do you conduct post-tax season interviews with your team for the best results? Here are a few tips to help you sort through the best feedback:
No. 1 — Find the biggest stressor
I know this feels like a loaded question, but it will help to flush out the biggest potential issues you will want to address, not to mention potentially help prevent staff turnover going forward. If the team feels like they are being heard when it comes to the things that they struggle with, you will develop a greater sense of loyalty from them.
For example, in our team this season the biggest source of stress was the administrative work that comes with our returns. While we were technically staffed for the preparation and review of returns, we were understaffed when it came to onboarding new clients, making sure the upfront workflow was actually pulled together before it went to a preparer and communicating with the client on the backend for things like copies of returns, K-1s and payment instructions.
The result was an influx of emails from clients that our prep team ended up having to address which slowed down their normal workflow. The key to identifying it was our post-March 15 meeting to discuss “what’s your biggest stressor.”
No. 2 Re-evaluate Technology
Get your IT team involved, or if you do not have one, look for other resources but do a full analysis of your tax season tech stack. Did you have any problems with your tax software? If so, what were they? Document them so they do not get forgotten when everyone stops opening the software for a week.
Tech issues could be popping up for a number of different reasons, it is possible the software doesn’t actually do what you need it to do, it’s possible staff are not trained properly, and it is possible the software just needs troubleshooting or updating.
DESPITE IT BEING A BUSY SEASON, WE DEBRIEF WITH OUR STAFF THE DAY RIGHT AFTER EVERY DEADLINE, INCLUDING MARCH 15, EVEN THOUGH WE ARE JUMPING RIGHT INTO OTHER RETURNS.
I always recommend going straight to the source to save yourself time. Get on a call with your account rep ASAP and ask them to go through each potential issue with you. They will be able to answer you quickly as to what the source of the problem is and then how to fix it.
This also can help you to start setting up your post-tax season training schedule while affording you the opportunity to identify where your team is weaker and needs more support.
No. 3 — Request Client Feedback
I know this can be a scary one, but it is critical in making sure you are avoiding unnecessary client attrition. Mostly, we all just want to be heard, and even a client who may not have had the best experience with your team when everyone was stressed out, usually will feel better given the opportunity to tell you what they need to see in the future to have a better experience.
You can control this feedback a little by using a specific survey. Ask the questions you really need the answers to, like was our client portal easy to use, was getting us your tax documents simple and efficient, did we communicate to you everything you needed to know.
Customers tend not to answer open requests for feedback where they must come up with all the answers, but simple yes/no or multiple-choice surveys that are short and to the point will get good response rates.
Make it worth their while by offering up something for their time. I like offering a $25 Amazon card or a $5 coffee card if you are expecting a higher turnout to tell them how much you appreciate their time. Use your surveys to actually put some of the client requests and suggestions into place and make sure you communicate the results to your team so everyone has the same goals for client satisfaction moving forward.
Whether you try these techniques or use some of your own, remember to get the feedback you need to not only see what you did right, but also what you can improve upon.