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CX Innovators - H&R Block

CX Innovators: Andrew Clark, H&R Block

Modernizing Infrastructure and Services for Tax Preparation

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Andrew Clark is head of design at H&R Block, the tax preparation company headquartered in Kansas City, Missouri, that operates more than 10,000 tax offices around the world. Clark started in architecture and has a background in design, but his current interest falls squarely on all things digital. By his own admission, he has spent a great deal of time during his career on branding, and understanding what customers want and desire from brands. H&R Block, he says, has established a CX organization and greatly desires to be a customer-centric brand that people love, and while the company is making progress, there is more work to be done.

Andrew Clark, Head of Design, H&R Block

Most Significant CX Challenges

H&R Block is modernizing and digitizing core platforms and technologies. Since Jeff Jones’ arrival as the company’s CEO in 2017, the company has focused on diversifying its services. This endeavor is a particular challenge given the unique nature of the company’s history – H&R Block is a retail company known widely for assisted tax preparation. The company’s ambitions are to continue its growth in DIY tax prep, enhance its year-round banking service Spruce, and deliver more help to small business beyond tax preparation. Changing the way they deliver services is often condensed into a few months for their 30,000 seasonal employees. In addition, says Clark, H&R Block is a franchisee business, so in many ways, it is “in the business of having businesses,” he states. The firm is investing in virtual tax preparation to offer customers ease and convenience in submitting their forms online, and an initiative is in the works to shift emphasis to viewing tax preparation more as a year-round effort—not just a once-a-year undertaking during tax season.

CX Success Stories

The firm is close to completing a five-year technical infrastructure transformation effort that will also see its platform migrated to the cloud. These improvements have paralleled the growth in virtual tax submission from clients. During the 2022 tax season, virtual service and tool uptake from clients more than tripled. H&R Block’s new, innovative fulfillment network enables tax professionals with capacity to process a return from anywhere in the country, regardless of location, which results in clients being more quickly served, and one of the reasons the company saw strong tax professional productivity in 2022. Finally, H&R Block cites rising customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores and the launch of its Spruce mobile banking app as examples of the firm’s continuing drive to provide better CX.

Internal Barriers

Given the H&R Block business model involving tens of thousands of seasonal workers every year, an obvious challenge entails the management of such a large influx of temporary employees for immediate work or assignment. This yearly phenomenon impacts the company’s real estate footprint in accommodating a huge workforce expansion during tax season every year, which requires a careful balancing of physical office space requirements, scheduling and capacity, and a highly disciplined approach to change management.

H&R Block is also going through a five-year modernization of its technology stack, a complex process that required tradeoffs to be made and the practical recognition that not everything engineered could be implemented. And as H&R Block makes the transition from being a tax firm to a multiservice organization, the company must pull off the difficult task of harmonizing various divisions, departments, and agencies to work together in concert.

Key Technologies

To run its business, H&R Block relies on various technologies, including home-grown systems, in-house micro applications, software from previously acquired companies, and Salesforce solutions for knowledge base and call center operations, the latter serving H&R Block’s customer support organization (CSO) as well. The company is also moving its analytics data to the single customer database platform, while undertaking a two-year transformation project with identity software developer Ping.

As to future technology, the company is considering several possibilities, including AI and machine learning (ML); telephony, to enable seamless handoffs across communications channels; and SMS as part of an omnichannel customer approach. Machine learning models are helping improve time to complete returns, and 40,000 human labor hours were eliminated in 2022 with robotic process automation (RPA). The firm has partnered with MX—the Utah-based money experience provider—for budgeting and spending insights, and Atomic —payroll connection provider— for a new, more automated direct deposit system. In addition, H&R Block uses the Twilio platform for service messages, and virtual capabilities like video chats between agents and clients.

Predictions for CX Market Development

As society reopens and attempts a return to pre-pandemic living, the shift may unsettle legions of consumers suffering from post-Covid hangover, unable or unwilling to reintegrate into the social fabric. Soon, however, we will be living in the “phygital” realm, the world of hybrid touchpoints bridging the physical and digital divide, Clark says. The result will be an enhanced user experience that savvy CX leaders will be able to deliver, accompanied by a wide array of tools for analysis and mapping the customer journey. For customers able to deftly navigate these newly fabricated hybrid environments, the broadening range of tools and options at their disposal will be key to unlocking richer and more immersive experiences.     

About the CX Innovator Series

The CX Innovator Series is an actionable and educational industry initiative that showcases the best practices that leading end-user executives are using within their organizations to shape their community’s experience. The series is a collaborative effort between Dash Network, Sleeping Giant Labs, and Team Wakabayashi. Using expertly curated executive interviews combined with quantitative research from consumer surveys, the CX Innovator Series provides tangible insights and a deeper understanding of how successful companies are utilizing CX programs resulting in positive business outcomes.

The CX Innovator Series is made possible by support from our lead sponsors: Concentrix, eGain, Tealium, and QuestionPro. If you would be interested in participating in the CX Innovator initiative, either as part of an end-user interview or as a supporting sponsor, please contact us.

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