Are Credit Union Employees Ready for Tax Day? How to Ensure Staff is Trained + Prepped to Handle Customer Needs
Another year, another tax season. But is the 2023 tax filing season a more complex one? With Tax Day quickly approaching on April 18, and considering 36% of Americans are relying on their tax refund to help with their financial health, millions are already digging through multiple forms filled with complicated industry-specific terms and trying to make sense of all the different documents. What’s more, with changes to credits and deductions and new rules to contend with, a new gig economy tax and 1099-K forms that include income from apps like Venmo, many consumers are understandably panicked well before the tax deadline.
Whether they’re feeling generally confused or have specific questions, many will be seeking help from associates at their local credit unions and banks in order to properly file. And with so many people looking to their credit unions for support, this is a key opportunity for financial institutions to build and maintain their customers' trust.
To ensure associates are properly prepared to handle an influx of customer needs during this busy period, associates must have access to updated training and learning opportunities so they feel confident managing customer experiences during one of the most stressful periods. Fortunately, there are several actions credit union leaders can take to equip their associates with the skills and knowledge needed ahead of Tax Day.
Ensuring staff have the hard and soft skills needed to tackle customer needs
In 2021, over half (53%) of all taxpayers used a paid tax professional to help file them, and in 2023, people are expected to continue turning to the pros for advice and guidance. In order to navigate customers’ concerns about properly filing their taxes, associates must have both technical expertise and an array of soft, or durable, skills. To help refresh associates’ minds about best practices for filing taxes and which information they should have handy, employers should provide training opportunities geared toward the tasks and issues they expect to face in the coming weeks. This might include handling customers with outdated paperwork or information, or customers whose financial situation makes them frustrated—especially if they are under financial stress before visiting an associate.
In addition to answers about filing taxes, associates should have several soft skills in their toolkit, including communication, problem-solving and organization. After all, research has shown that the majority (89%) of “bad hires” lack at least one individual soft skill and specifically in the banking sector, 54% of managers and 38% of employees consider leadership and social influence a top soft skill. Therefore, associates must be ready to connect and communicate effectively with customers, especially when discussing delicate topics or answering complicated questions that need to be explained in plain language. When associates with the right soft skills meet with concerned customers, they can put their worries at ease while using technical knowledge to handle the more in-depth questions.
Handling challenging customers and conversations
Ahead of Tax Day, credit unions should prepare for the worst, and hope for the best, especially since over half (59%) of frontline workers encounter customer conflict and issues daily. While credit union associates already face customer frustrations in their day-to-day roles, during tax season there’s a heightened sense of stress. To make matters worse, 37% of frontline workers say they’ve not been trained at all to handle a dangerous or challenging event, so employers should prioritize training in this area during expected upticks in customer incivility.
These learning opportunities will give associates examples of ways to handle and overcome various challenging situations while remaining calm and professional. Through increased training on communication and customer service, associates can build their confidence so they can de-escalate incidents, should they arise, while making sure the customer walks away with the information they need.
Prioritize continuous training
While associates receive some level of training, it often isn’t enough. In fact, two in three frontline workers say they’ve only been trained for two days or less. Although we’re already in the midst of tax season, there are still steps credit unions should take to ensure their teams get adequate and routine training. For example, employers can block out time in an associate’s schedule for them to complete on-the-job learning opportunities. Ahead of Tax Day, credit unions can offer tailored learning that focuses on relevant topics, like helping customers file taxes and understand their tax documents.
These learning opportunities should be consistently offered. After all, 72% of banking executives believe there is a moderate or significant skills gap threat and 47% of financial institutions are planning to close digital and technological skills gaps through internal training and reskilling. So, providing continuous learning can help associates become experts in their field, allow them to be more productive and close potential skills gaps.
For credit unions and banks looking to offer more skilling opportunities for their teams, tax season can be the catalyst to start offering more learning and continuous training. During this period, associates are eager for additional support and with so much to their associates need the most to deliver outstanding customer service.
Matthew Dubeau is a Finance and Insurance Specialist for Axonify. With over 20 years of experience working with enterprise accounts, Matthew integrates insightful and strategic solutions for clients worldwide.