Work/Life: TurboTax – crunching words as important as crunching numbers

Last post I detailed my 24-hour worryfest over a TurboTax glitch. It turned out no more sinister than a doh! from deep in the bowels of Intuit HQ. The TurboTax damage control unit are all over me now. Someone saw my mayday on FastCompany and hit DEFCON 10.

Last post
I detailed my 24-hour worryfest over a TurboTax glitch.


It turned out no more sinister than a doh! from deep in the bowels of Intuit HQ.

The TurboTax damage control unit are all over me now.

Someone saw my mayday on FastCompany and hit DEFCON 10.

The “Turbo Tax Customer Care Specialist Supervisor”, Jodie, jumped on my
advertised offer to phone or email me in Australia and
come to my rescue.

Jodie is the Customer Evangelist (CE) you have when you don’t have a customer evangelist.

She’s eager to help but naturally, speaks from the stance of we,
Intuit, and you, the customer. No crime in that, but no CE points just


I’d saved them a lot of angst, she said. After a cue from me (“I would
LOVE you to upgrade my Quicken 2004”), she asked what Intuit could do
for me. I’m no freebie hound, but noted the opportunity for CE points:
Offer reparations first, and let the customer refuse.

It was pretty simple – I need my tax done.

It so happens Intuit offer a service called Personal Pro, the
flagship product in their fleet of tax preparation services. It involves a
human being with CPA creds, processing your return in cyberspace for a
hundred or so bucks.

So I’m going to test drive Personal Pro from a customer point of view, and see how a big, successful corp handles an untrained monkey pushing a button and saying “what
does this one do?”

This is less about being a free ad for Intuit, and more about what makes for a great online customer experience.

TurboTax’s online presence is attractive and well written – it hooked me:


And here’s the rub: I can’t say the same for their offline communications.

I received a
couple of emails from another part of their damage control unit which
bore little relevance to my experience. This is like a large
company not having a decent note recording system – you’ve just
finished telling them your life story and the next time you call they say ‘que?’

Here’s the email, with suggested “copy-righting” in []’s.

Dear Lynette Chiang, [Why not just “Dear Lynette”?]

Thank you for contacting TurboTax Office of the President. I do
apologize for the inconvenience, but we were unable to reach you by
phone with our first contact attempt.

[Thank you for letting us know about a possible TurboTax problem. We tried calling you but weren’t able to track you down.]


After researching the issue that you are experiencing with TurboTax, I
have found that the e-mail you received was for the Extension Express
program provided by TurboTax. The program is designed to help a
customer e-file a Form 4868 Application for Automatic Extension of Time
to File a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

If you would like more information on this program and its features,
please go to and type in “6004” in the search
menu. That will bring up the Support Article: Use the New TurboTax
Extension Express to Apply for an Extension of Time. Please use that
article to gain more information on the program and its features.

[I see you’ve tried to use our Extension Express program. You’ll
find the instructions at this link: Just type
in “6004” to display the article ‘Extension Express: Apply for an
Extension of Time.’ We’ve tried to explain how this works as best we
can – please let us know if we can make it clearer.]

Your willingness to help Intuit improve by taking the time to provide
suggestions and feedback is greatly appreciated. Below you will find a
link to a survey asking you about my performance on today’s contact, as
well as any additional comments you may have in regards to the TurboTax
product. Your help will allow us to understand where we can improve .
So we can continue with our promise to provide our customers with the
best support available, please take a few minutes to complete the
survey. Please accept our sincere gratitude for any feedback you choose
to provide.

[Why isn’t this a more memorable URL?]

[One more thing. There’s a link to a brief survey below. Can you spare
a moment to fill it in? It will help make TurboTax a better and
smoother experience for everyone. If you need to contact me at any
time, go to this link:]


If you have any additional concerns, please contact me at any time by
calling me at 877-777-3303, Monday – Friday 8 AM -5 PM PST. Either
myself or another member of my team will be happy to assist you.

Thank you for your time in this matter.


Anthony C
Customer Care Specialist
Consumer Tax Group

**Please do not reply to this message. This e-mail was sent from a
notification-only address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.

Please note:
If you are in further need of Service or Support please visit us here:

[The sign-off is important – leave people feeling heard and confident. A full name rather than “Anthony C” inspires that trust.


Call me on (866) 373-7829, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm Pacific
Standard Time. I, or someone I’ve briefed, will be here to help you.

Thank you for trusting us with your tax return.

Anthony Conran
Your TurboTax Customer Care Specialist

PS: Don’t hit ‘reply’ on this message, it’s a notice for your eyes only –
call us instead. If you need more help, visit Service and Support here:


Thus, “damage control” English = English as a first, or very proficient second language.
To borrow an advertising dictum: say it straight, then say it great.
Words can mean the difference between 1x “unsubscribe” or 1000 people saying ‘get me off your list’. It can also mean the difference between
being forgiven and being sued …



Former Saatchi & Saatchi copywriter the Galfromdownunder says, a picture may paint a thousand words, but a handful of eloquent grunts could save your ***.





About the author

"Be social and the networking will follow." Lynette Chiang is an award-winning copywriter, brand evangelist, social media community manager, filmmaker, solo world bicycle adventurer and inventor of useful things. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Harvard University curriculums, the New York Times Book Review, FastCompany and the relationship marketing business press