Resilient voice is key to improving the taxpayer experience

This year, the IRS committed to improving the taxpayer experience, making it a top priority in its Strategic Operating Plan.

Tax season serves as an important reminder that for some federal organizations, huge surges in citizen interactions can put a big strain on communications resources. Agency call centers are put to the test every year as the public inundates the IRS in March and April with questions about everything from filing their returns and deadline extensions to status updates on payments.

This challenge isn’t unique to the IRS. Parallels can be found at agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services during open healthcare season and the Office of Personnel Management as waves of retirements hit toward the end of each year — or any government organization in which public interactions center around recurring deadlines.

This year, the IRS committed to improving the taxpayer experience, making it a top priority in its Strategic Operating Plan and dedicating resources to its Taxpayer Experience Office. This will take a monumental effort as IRS customer service representatives answered 7.7 million calls during the 2023 filing season — a 65% increase compared to 2022, according to a January Government Accountability Office report.

The nation’s tax agency serves as an important example for understanding how a resilient, cloud-based approach to unified communications can take the burden off overworked federal employees and improve the taxpayer experience.

Modern voice and the citizen experience

Voice communication tools are the most efficient and resilient way for the IRS to connect taxpayers with relevant resources, quickly answering questions during filing and improve communications between government employees.

Translating dependable communications into improved CX requires going beyond the basics to envision the role of voice and unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) in supporting the way people interact. This means finding ways to integrate the latest advancements, like AI, extending modernization across all communications technologies and prioritizing reliability.

One way to do this is by transitioning from a traditional call center, which can’t keep up with the evolving way the public communicates, to a modern cloud contact center. While voice is at the heart of these platforms, the cloud component gives agencies the flexibility to meet citizens on whatever channel is easiest, regardless of spikes in demand.

Modern call centers aren’t just about offering different channels of communication; they also function as a way for agencies to better understand their user base. With advanced functions such as skills-based routing, call monitoring and predictive dialers, call center software empowers agents to provide services tailored to the needs of the individual citizen.

For example, cloud contact center platforms act as a hub to gather user data for analysis. They can use behavioral, demographic and location-based customer information to properly match the right agent to the right customer. This all translates to a better and more personal experience for the public, which in turn drives a better relationship between agencies like the IRS and their constituents.

Meeting demand behind the scenes

As the public floods IRS call centers in the weeks leading up to Tax Day, teams are working behind the scenes to make sure taxpayers get the answers they need quickly. A modernized, cloud-based communications approach with voice as its foundation can dramatically improve workforce operations during the busy tax season.

According to a Forrester Total Economic Impact study, organizations using UCaaS solutions saw 45% reduction in call-handling time and a 60% decrease in the time to close a ticket.

These kinds of cloud-based contact center platforms allow agencies like the IRS to instantly scale workforce teams to meet the ebb and flow of demand. This makes it simple to add or reduce the number of agents as needed without having to purchase additional software licenses, buy more server space or add IT personnel.

Beyond that, hosted contact centers are more reliable than premises-based call centers. By housing infrastructure in geographically redundant data centers, these cloud-based platforms can guarantee uptime as high as 99.9999%.

Put more simply, a cloud-based unified communications platform centered around voice will reduce the complexities inherent in delivering IRS services and empower employees to better serve citizens.

For agencies like the IRS that see dramatic fluctuations in public interactions, modern and resilient voice is non-negotiable. While communication options have proliferated over the last decade, voice and 1:1 interaction between individuals will always form the backbone of meaningful connections.

Technology has allowed voice to evolve its century-long history of connecting people into a modern and resilient communications channel that can improve citizen experiences and, ultimately, strengthen public trust.

Doug Buffkin is regional vice president for business development, public sector at RingCentral.

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