Bellatoris Consulting, LLC

A Myth about Automated Phone Systems

In Audits on October 11, 2011 at 1:33 PM

You’ve got a question, so you dial a toll-free number.  When you immediately hear the automated phone system, do you roll your eyes in frustration?

A friend once told me about a sure-fire way to get past automated phone systems and transferred to a live human being.  [I’m guessing that I’ve got your attention now!]

His secret was simple…swear into the phone.  [He was dead serious!]

Funnily enough, I never tried his trick until today.  I called my bank after noticing a problem with my online bill pay service.  The automated phone system picked up and the fun began.

I won’t tell you the bank’s name because I’d feel weird about that.  However, if you want to see what I had to deal with, call their phone number: 1-800-WELLS-FARGO

There were tons of options to choose from, none of which fit the description of what I needed.  After a minute or two, I started entering “0” a bunch of times on my phone while
saying “HELP!”  No dice.

That’s when the cloudy-looking thought bubble came from the top of my head.  I saw my friend’s face and he was saying to me in a ghostly tone: “It’s time to unleash the beast.  Swear into the phone!”

So, I gripped the phone tightly and yelled, “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!”

It didn’t work; no live human being answered my cry for help.  [Maybe I should have used stronger language??]

Is there a lesson we can learn from automated phone systems that would relate to sales taxes?  HECK YEAH!

How we handle sales tax audits is a prime comparison that comes to mind.  Although you’re working with a live human being from the taxing jurisdiction, these front-line auditors often shield their superiors from taxpayers and consultants with warrior-like protection.

The front-line auditors are great at handling routine matters, but they often fall short when more complicated issues arise.  Audit supervisors have a greater level of expertise, but their schedules are crammed.

When there’s a dispute with a front-line auditor’s findings, it’s best to try to resolve the matter with that individual first.  Think of it like calling your bank in search of your account balance.  The phone system is perfect for that.

If the issue is more complicated, and the auditor is not able to adequately resolve the matter, you may have to get a supervisor involved.  [Taxing authorities are not immune from mistakes!]  Think of it like calling your bank if you suspect that someone has stolen your credit card number.  You’ll definitely need to speak to a live human being for that.

Be patient with the process and try to respect the chain of command.  Just like an automated phone system, yelling swear words at your front-line auditor probably won’t expedite your request to speak with his/her supervisor.


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