Liberty Tax / E Smart Tax: BAD
Last year after having such a terrible go at H&R Block, I went and found a little startup site called Liberty Tax.
Their forms were a little rough, and it felt a bit like using the Chinese knock-off version of some electronic device, but they got my return submitted and I got my refund quickly.
This year it's a different story. They've re-branded, and their site is quite different, and sorry to say, it doesn't work very well.
Having spent a few years now in software development, this reeks of 'under'-development. That is, imagine your strange uncle who thinks computers are magic and wonders why they can't just make a program that will do everything. Now imagine him as a high-level manager on an e-commerce project. "Make us a real nice website, go on, I trust you can do it. For about, oh, $4,000?"
That example is true, in varying shades and flavors, all too often.
Anyway, their site has some major failings.
1. My return was rejected because "my spouse AIG information was wrong." ...well, if I had a spouse, or had filled in any of that information... yeah. Furthermore, I received an e-mail informing me the return had been rejected- not by the IRS, but by esmarttax's own internal systems. Then I received another such message. And another. And finally a form telling me I could now go and fix my return and re-submit it, by clicking the "edit" link. Except the "edit" link was not there, and even if I had, there was no spouse AIG information on my form to fix.
2. "Do you want to get your return quicker?" was a link in the closing steps of filing my return. Clicking on this link, I was forced to deduce on my own and after some confusion, was applying for an advance loan on my tax return. It walked me through several steps of seemingly unrelated information and I could not understand how any of it was connected to submitting a tax return. Finally, I decided to just go back to the beginning of the section and started over, and didn't click that link this time. This kind of poorly set-up and deceptive page-flow is not helpful for the end user. Whether intentional or not, the end result is the company misleading the customer.
3. Once my problem in #1 emerged, I contacted their support. They wrote back to me and said they had sent the issue on to their developers, and that they would get back to me. It wasn't a particularly polished response, but that's ok. I don't need to know they've handed it off to their developers, but knowing that was worrisome, because I know how long things can get stuck in the queue. In the time I wait for them to a.) get around to looking at the issue and b.) actually return a result to me, I could have filed my taxes elsewhere and been done with it. In effect, "wrong answer" from support. I wrote back and told them to delete my tax information, and that I would file elsewhere. Well, they deleted my entire account, and never notified me that they had done anything. And thus, this, their 'thank you' from me.
In closing, some hints for esmarttax:
When your customers have a problem, even if they are angry at you (and chances are they will be- confusing forms AND money are involved), you've got to keep it together and deliver them a useful, timely answer.
When you put together a website as complicated as this, you have to test it. Proper testing requires trained QA staff and it is time consuming, and very expensive (no, the developers should not be testing their own work). Myself, I wouldn't touch testing a tax-return website with a ten foot pole- waaay too many possible paths through the system and things you need to know about the ins-and-outs of the different forms to properly test such a website.
And last, you have to give a crap about your customer. The lack of a decent website shows you just cared about getting something out there and probably making some money off of it, and the lack of decent support is another way to show you don't care. Better luck next time around.
PS: to the poor person paid to scour the internet and post snappy replies to complainey blog posts, I would advise you have your ducks in a line before leaving a comment here. I will approve your post, and I will hastily dress you down for all the world to see. So, speak at your own risk. I am the customer, and I am always right. If you'd like, instead, to send me a check for the time, effort and frustration you have already caused me, that would be great. The consultation rate for the kind of work I do is around $120 an hour, so, that's an hour for filling my forms in, an hour dealing with support, and an hour writing this. $360, please.
PPS: Yes, I know I am using a free file website. If your free section is a piece of junk and support is poor, then it kind of follows that 'pay' part of your site is a piece of junk and the support there is also poor, no? So. If I ever was going to pay for something, your 'teaser' isn't particularly inviting, is it?