Financial Technology

Financial Technology

January 06, 2017

Case Study: H&R Block Leverages Automation to Take the Pain Out of Tax Season

By Special Guest
Chris Pope, Senior director, Office of the Chief Strategy Officer, ServiceNow ,

Tax season is a stressful time of year for both accountants and their clients. The pressure to gather all the necessary documentation and prepare filings is high, and even the smallest delay can create big headaches. That’s why H&R Block Canada made the decision to automate a number of frontline and backroom processes. As a result, customer service is more efficient and effective, and tax season does not, well, tax H&R Block’s thousands of local tax professionals and customer service operatives.

H&R Block Canada has helped millions of Canadians with tax solutions to meet their unique needs for more than 50 years. It is Canada’s leading tax preparation firm thanks in large part to the thousands of local tax professionals who work directly with clients.

Faster, better customer support

H&R Block supports every local office with a central team of experts. However, if one of the local professionals needed support during a client meeting, they had to manually consult a long list of telephone numbers, then call the right person – or hope they had on the first attempt. That led to phone calls that lasted for more than an average of 10 minutes, forcing the client to wait.

To eliminate this reliance on these types of time-consuming manual processes that wasted both employees’ and clients’ valuable time, H&R Block turned to ServiceNow (News - Alert) to help streamline the support process. The result is the automated system dubbed “Block Signal.”

When a local tax professional needs support – for example, tax legislation advice or instant cashback approval – they open a ticket right from their desktop. The support request is automatically routed to the right person, who typically answers within 10 minutes. During this time, the tax professional can continue to work with the client and build the relationship. No searching for the correct support phone number, no more forcing clients to cool their heels.

Constant measurement and improvement

Another focus area has been enhancing client service delivery. H&R Block now uses an operational service platform called GREAT. This operational service platform addresses five key client service delivery areas critical to every single client: greet, relate, experience, add value, and thanks.

Information collected from in-store systems is held up to a number of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure these five areas and create a GREAT scorecard. Regional directors and district managers can then easily see the overall GREAT score for each of their stores, and pinpoint what’s working and specific issues to address. Since creating the GREAT scorecard, H&R Block has significantly increased customer loyalty. Their Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a widely accepted measure of customer loyalty – has increased by 12 points over the two years GREAT has been operational.

Preparing for tax season

Tax time always means a significant increase in the demand for professional help, and consequently the number of people that turn to H&R Block for help. H&R Block anticipates this demand every January by opening more than 800 stores and kiosks across Canada over just a span of three weeks. That requires the completion of more than 87,000 tasks, and in years past, a reliance on manual processes led to delays.  Some stores were not able to open until March, frustrating clients and impacting the bottom line.

Today, the company manages the entire process with a Field Office Readiness Dashboard that tracks the 22 milestones for each new location. Milestones are sent to mobile devices, and employees have instant visibility into which stores need additional help. The process procedures are stored in a knowledgebase that provides each location with a documented, repeatable process. The result: 97 percent of the stores opening on time.

What’s next?

H&R Block has launched several other initiatives to automate business processes and workflows. The company has built workflows to automate store opening and closing processes, to verify the correct installation and operation of IT equipment, track store inventories and procure supplies. Having proven the value of automation for IT processes, other departments such as HR and finance are looking to do the same.

“We’ve transformed how we engage with customers and conduct our day-to-day business,” said Darrel Popowich, Vice President of Information Technology at H&R Block Canada. “We’ve done all of this with just 1.5 full-time technical resources – our business analysts now work directly with our internal business partners to create solutions.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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