For many Americans, the arrival of a second government stimulus check can’t come soon enough. The payments began arriving in eligible citizens’ bank accounts this week, but not all are available for immediate access, and that has some people very upset.
On Jan. 4, many customers of H&R Block took to social media, frustrated they couldn't get their stimulus checks. Some customers who utilized the IRS’ Get My Payment website to inquire about their check saw unfamiliar account numbers associated with the amount. H&R Block went on social media and issued a press release to confirm that customers using the “Refund Transfer” option for their 2019 tax return may see an unfamiliar number.
The IRS Get My Payment website may display an account number you don’t recognize. If you took a Refund Transfer, it may be reflecting that account number. Check your 2019 return to confirm.
— H&R Block (@HRBlock) January 5, 2021
Needless to say, customers were not pleased. And many of them moved to blaming the IRS as well, as its Get My Payment site failed to load.
So again, a new day and I still don’t have my money. Now on top of that their 800 number is not working. I WANT MY MONEY NOW @HRBlock @HRBlockAnswers still no response from sending multiple private messages either. Ready the class action lawsuit.
— Greg (@kunzg81) January 5, 2021
I'm just not understanding why my stimulus was sent to H&R Block this time. The first stimulus was sent to my bank account directly. Now, it's sent to some random account that's not mine. Never had an emerald card either.
— Shaylan Thompson (@IAmShayT) January 4, 2021
The IRS website slower than the PS5 drop
— KYLE 🖕🏽 (@thekillakay_) January 4, 2021
The stimulus money rollout, which should have provided a temporary reprieve for many Americans, forced more confusion along several botched channels.
H&R Block provided real-time updates and information for customers via social channels. Its press release gave a longer explanation as to where the IRS funneled payments and why, as well as bulleted information for questions surrounding the payout. The release included clickable links to contact H&R Block, as well as pages where customers could find more information. Was this enough action to satisfy customers in a crisis?
Douglas Hesney, EVP at Makovsky, said it's important for businesses to understand key constituencies and audiences when it comes to a response of this magnitude. This is particularly so when dealing with customers' financial concerns.
“Given the unprecedented uncertainty and economic dislocation created by the pandemic, it is only natural that Americans are anxious to receive their relief payments,” Hesney said. “It’s incumbent for any company and the IRS to be transparent on these issues—especially around delayed payments. People remember how brands behave during times of crisis, and the pandemic is no different. While I can't speak to the specific technical issues faced by H&R Block, the situation requires consistent communication to their customers both a rationale for why the issue is occurring and offering a clear notification once it is resolved."
Hesney suggested that a strong communication response looks to the audience first when determining the channels to us. In H&R Block’s case, social media played a big role, but it may need to reach out via other methods for older or less tech-savvy customers, depending on who needs to access the information.
“Often—a direct email or a phone call (if the universe is more proscribed) can be more effective than a public statement on social or traditional media,” he said.
Nicole Schuman is senior editor for PRNEWS. Follow her @buffalogal.