Are You Like the IRS in Terms of Customer Engagement?

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12 June 2021
Karen Monks

Recently my husband and I got a bill from the IRS for about $100. The accompanying letter said we underpaid our 2019 tax penalty which we didn’t think that we did given we used the calculation they provided via our tax software. So . . . we tried calling the IRS to ask about the bill but call lines were busy and the estimated time to each a live person was a few hours! Calling back later we couldn't get through at all.

We tried the website but couldn’t finalize our registration on the IRS site because even after entering three different authentication pieces of data it didn’t recognize either of our cell phone numbers as being a valid phone number to text us a PIN. We have valid US based cell phones so we have no idea why they couldn’t use our cell phones numbers. We did find where you could pay online using your SSN so we paid the $100 online just to avoid the future penalties figuring we would get a credit when it was deemed in error.

After the failed attempt to get an authentication code via our cell phones, we needed to request one be sent via mail. The code would arrive in about a week. When the code arrived, we tried to access our account to only find that our account history was unavailable at the time. In all we probably spent about 3 hours trying to find out why we owed $100. And then guess what arrived in the mail yesterday? Another bill with a penalty on the original balance because they said they did not receive our payment in time. We tried to access our account history online to see if our payment was indeed received, but alas we couldn’t see our tax history or payments because are account data was STILL unavailable.

As you can guess the level of frustration builds and here I am writing about the horrible customer experience. But it’s the IRS and it’s expected right? What is this was a company? How should the customer react? My colleague Dan McCoach recently wrote Catching Up in Life: The Customer Engagement Continuum. He points out that today’s insurance experience is often cumbersome, difficult and complex. Sort of like the IRS right? Well, let’s hope not! Consumers today are demanding more, especially for digital convenience and engagement so it is imperative that you are never compared even remotely to the IRS!

This report introduces a framework to understand and navigate the journey – The Customer Engagement Continuum for Life Insurers.. The Continuum will help insurers understand the engagement philosophies, concepts, strategies and technologies required to become more relevant to their customers’ lives. The Continuum is designed to frame the insurer’s journey from digital automation of existing processes to the curation of highly valued and engaged customers. Insurers should strive to progress along the continuum reaching the ultimate goal of establishing an engaged community who enjoy a meaningful relationship with your brand.

Celent’s Customer Engagement Continuum for Life Insurers

When I look at this diagram, it's evident that the IRS has attempted value chain automation, but not successfully. I don't believe that the IRS great example of how this continuum should work because I don’t think they desire an engaged and loyal community; they just want people to pay taxes. But if a company has a customer engagement path like what I went through recently, they will never move from automation to engagement.

I highly recommend this report if you are trying to plan your customer engagement strategy. This simple model should be a touchstone as you move from one step to the next.

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Asia-Pacific, EMEA, LATAM, North America