Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Hand of Friendship

Note: This entry appeared in my original blog, "Home|Work"

I'm going to wrap up this little series on customer service stories and leave on a high note. Not all of my experiences have been bad, as you read in my last missive. This one, though, even impressed me.

Two years ago, my wife and I got married and our joint taxes became my problem. She had been a resident of Ohio and was now a resident of Michigan. She still worked for a Toledo-based company (who still sent her withholding to Ohio). The whole situation was a little confusing to figure out. Now here is where the surprise comes in...

My vote for best customer service of 2005? The Ohio Department of Taxation. Yes, the tax collector.

I called them up hoping against hope that they would answer one simple question: How do I determine the amount of income credited to Ohio and how much to Michigan? Is that on a daily or motnhly basis? Y'see, I've got a real aversion to making mistakes in general. That goes trebly for anything having to do with taxes!

The polite and very professional man with whom I spoke was able to answer my question clearly, distinctly, and without that hint in his voice that would have said that he was talking with an idiot. Wait a minute, don't be hasty. This is not the reason that he gets my vote. This would get him a nod of thanks, but certianly not the championship trophy! Now, listen for it... He then offered, "Sir, if you'd like, we can go through some of the other calculations, just in case there might be any other confusion." Free tax help? Who am I to turn that down?

My hero then proceeded to walk me, line-by-line, through the entire State of Ohio income tax form. I was astounded and amazed. In our everyday belief system, tax collectors rank even lower than used-car salesmen and ambulance-chasing lawyers. The only real difference is that the latter two categories tend to be the butt of jokes. The tax man, though, is no laughing matter. We fear too much the havoc in our lives that his undo interest could cause and we justly fear him for it. Yet, that day, this professional young gentleman came to my rescue without my having even to ask. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our beliefs in this matter.

Certain jobs engender respect by their very nature (or should, at any rate) -- teachers, computer programmers, accountants, etc. The tax collectors, whether state or federal, have no such benefit. In general, they are reviled and feared. Few, upon learning their occupation, hang around long to share small talk at a party. That this guy could rise above it and act contrary to the stereotype should inspire the rest of us to match his example.

And so I put forth this challenge. Find the Tax Man of 2006. Who do you know who does just a mind-bogglingly good job at customer service? I'd love to hear your stories.

What was the best customer service situation you've ever experienced?

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