Five Ways TurboTax can use Social Media to Avoid a Nightmare

In case you haven’t heard it, TurboTax found itself in the middle of a nightmare this week due to a “processing error” pertaining to tax refunds that were to be deposited.  My friend Cheryl Phillips has documented the story from the beginning to the present time.

It seems that customers are angry.  Understandably, and the TurboTax social media channels were of little help.  In fact, a quick scan of the Facebook page shows no mention of the “processing error” by the TurboTax social media team.  The same is true with their Twitter account.  No mentions.

So, what could or should have TurboTax done.  I offer five different things they could have done to avoid, or help avoid, this nightmare.

1.  Admit the mistake

There seems to be some confusion about who’s fault it was.  Customers don’t want to hear that.  They want someone to take responsibility.  Big companies seems to respond to errors like politicians do, deny or hide it.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, social media calls for, and sometimes demands, companies to be more transparent.  When you give customers a voice, they will use it.  TurboTax’s Facebook page is filled with angry customers expression their frustrations.

TurboTax Facebook Page
Screenshot of TurboTax's Facebook Page

2. Issue official statements on all social media channels

Some folks follow Twitter, some Facebook and others are on YouTube.  Offer an official statement.  Why be silent?  That’s just what big companies do (see above).  Go ahead, get that statement crafted, get it out through your channels.  Also, if you can, beat the backlash.  Get that message out before anyone knows about it and the “news” goes viral.  Find ways to be creative about the message.

TurboTax Twitter
TurboTax Twitter

3.  Respond to individuals

In a situation like this, you may never be able to respond to everyone who tweets or leaves messages on Facebook, however, you can respond to some of them.  It makes the company seem be personal, caring.  It helps us customers to simmer down if we believe we are actually being heard.  Explain the situation, help offer a solution and never try to downplay the problem.

4.  Offer Solutions and Compensate

Companies rarely like to compensate, however, when there will always be a consequence to an error.  It’s better to go ahead and offer solutions.  If you have determined that a fee should not be made due to an error, go ahead and state it publicly on your social media channels.  If a refund needs to be issued, make a statement.  You may need to be general by having the customer to contact the company, etc., but make sure those affected know that there is compensation.

5.  Cultivate your community.

This one takes time and is not reactionary.  There are issues that delay responses that are outlined above such as legal reviews, etc.  However, if TurboTax, or any other company, takes the time to cultivate a vibrant, helpful community, the “crowd,” as it is, becomes agents for your company keeping others abreast of information.  They can offer solutions to other customers or simply verify that there is a problem.  On TurboTax’s Facebook page, several people actually took up for the company and alerted others customers to some glitches with the IRS system.

The bottom line is that TurboTax may not even be at fault here.  I am sure there is a big debate behind the scenes.  Nevertheless, their customers choose them unlike they choose the IRS or any bank they are using to process the direct deposits.  It is imperative that they respond responsibly because customers will make choices about them in the future.  With social media, we, as businesses, can show customers that we listen, we care and we speak the language that millions of people are speaking now.

Other Social Media/Customer Service Examples

Home Depot

United Airlines




What customer service experiences have you had? How did you use social media to engage customers?