Adding value to the customer experience; lessons from the trenches

By Alan Gregory | 20th February 2018 | 4 min read

For many accountancy practices, the relationship with customers is changing from process-driven tactical accounting and bookkeeping to one of added value and strategic financial consultancy. And it’s not only accountants driving change: IRIS continues to transform its own customer experience to support every aspect of the compliant end to end digital journey.

Just as we are encouraging accountancy practices to create a seamless customer experience, we’ve been improving our technology, processes and mindsets to support accountants as they revolutionise their businesses.

For the last few years, our customer service expertise evolved in silos: great for specific requests which required in depth knowledge, but these queries needed to be transferred to the correct expert which inevitably delayed solving some problems quickly and efficiently.

In the industry, accountancy practices field a variety of questions from clients; many are asked questions outside the core accounting remit, so to reflect the changing nature of the industry IRIS has restructured its customer service team.

Over the past year, we’ve implemented an extensive development programme for colleagues in customer service to become experts in a variety of subjects. Just as accountants have the comprehensive knowledge to respond to all manner of enquiries, we have extended the guidance accountancy practices seek, from essential accounting advice to wider business recommendations.

HMRC have released a new version of their Self-Assessment Exclusions for individuals. These are a list of scenarios that the HMRC system cannot cope with or will not calculate the correct tax liability for and therefore there is an exclusion in place to allow for these returns to be submitted by post instead of online. 
HMRC have advised us that all Self-Assessment taxpayers need to file their 2016/17 Tax Return, pay their balance and make their first payment on account for 2017/18 by 31 January 2018. 
They have confirmed that a “small number” of taxpayers are affected by the exclusions and therefore unable to file online or get an accurate income tax liability calculation for 2016/17. Their forecasts suggest that the exclusions for 2016/17 will only impact “a very small proportion of SA customers (a fraction of 1%)”.
In these instances taxpayers (or their agents) should:
File a paper return, along with a completed reasonable excuse claim
Make a reasonable effort to estimate the income tax liability based on the information they have
Pay the estimated balance for 2016/17 and make their first payment on account of 2017/18 by 31 January 2018
Should the tax liability calculation for 2016/17 be too low or the deadline of 31 January 2018 be missed because of an exclusion, HMRC will not apply late filing, late payment penalties and/or interest. Automatic issue of these can be cancelled by a reasonable excuse claim. 
From February 2018 HMRC will contact “customers” and their agents where they feel that the tax calculation needs to be corrected to confirm their actual income tax liability. 
If you are uncertain as to whether or not your client’s circumstances match an HMRC exclusion and IRIS allows you to submit your client’s tax return online you should still file the return online, and pay the tax liability due. 
HMRC have stated that they will:
Identify any cases filed online where the calculation is incorrect
Make any required correction to the income tax liability 
Inform the customer of the correct liability 
Advise when the revised amounts need to be paid
Inform the customer that they will not have to pay late payment penalties and/or interest attributable to any additional amount arising from the correction if it is paid before the revised due date
In most cases, if your client’s circumstances fall into one of the HMRC Exclusions the IRIS software will warn you and advise that the Return be sent by post. There are some scenarios, only recently highlighted by HMRC that the software will not warn you about, but the Return will be rejected online with a 6492 error. In these circumstances the return should be sent by post accompanied by a reasonable excuse claim.

This change reflects the transformation across the industry and enables IRIS to provide strategic financial consultancy. From guidance on GDPR (general data protection regulation) and customer relationship management, to complete visibility of business performance; our focus is to resolve problems so accountants can focus on attracting new clients and growing their practices.

Businesses thrive from the relationships developed with customers and at IRIS we have extended customer service to include a website ‘chat’ function. Many have experienced huge benefits – from the time saved, the responsiveness of the customer expert and the ability to multi-task while online. We also recognise accountancy professionals have demanding days and are likely to spend time working out of hours, so have extended our telephone opening times to provide additional support. 

Challenging every aspect of customer service is the basis of continual improvement. Alongside coaching customer experts, leadership skills are challenged and developed, teams are reorganised and deployed bringing different departments together. The goal is to ensure every element of customer service is seamless. It will always be work in progress – but as Frank Zappa said, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”.