The Virginia Department of Taxation (TAX) recently announced that it would discontinue its Live Chat feature for tax professionals effective Dec. 31, 2014. The VSCPA spoke with Tom Edicola, assistant tax commissioner in TAX’s Office of Customer Services, to get more information on the decision. This interview was conducted via email.
For further information, watch the video below with TAX's Jeremy Armstrong, filmed at the VSCPA's IRS Liaison Day in November.
VSCPA: Why did TAX discontinue Live Chat?
TE: While one factor considered in the elimination of Live Chat resulted in cost savings to the state, there were multiple factors that influenced the decision to eliminate the service.
- The current technology utilized was no longer supported by the vendor and therefore needed to be replaced. This cost was substantial.
- Recent audit findings of the current system identified potential vulnerabilities and security risks.
- Ongoing risk of taxpayer disclosure issues could not be fully mitigated as a result of failure to adequately authenticate and validate origins of the chat.
VSCPA: Will TAX be enhancing any other offerings?
TE: Yes. We will be making several changes to enhance and improve our phone services as a result of this transition:
- All Live Chat representatives will be retained and be re-deployed to our phones and to secure messaging to assist customers.
- The majority of chats received are for online support. We have established a specific online support queue for individual taxes through our current telephony system. There is already a business online support queue.
- Live Chat allowed taxpayers to request in writing account adjustment and/or changes directly to the representative who was providing assistance, thus getting issues resolved quickly. We will be implementing a similar real time fax process for phones in early 2015.
- We have added additional telephone support to our hotline group to ensure timely service. This phone number is not available to the general public and will continue to be the primary source of assistance for tax practitioners. We are revising our quality monitor programs and performance scoring to ensure that quality assistance is provided and first call resolution occurs.
VSCPA: How can tax practitioners give feedback on the change?
TE: Our customer service representatives have been instructed to collect and report all comments and feedback daily. This information is shared with Contact Center management, the director of customer services and our commissioner’s office.
VSCPA: Are there plans to bring Live Chat back in the future?
TE: While there is no current plan to bring back Live Chat, we believe that at some point there may be an opportunity for Live Chat to be reintroduced.
VSCPA: If Live Chat is reintroduced, do you anticipate changes to the types of issues that TAX will address?
TE: Yes. The issues mentioned in the first question above will need to be addressed before we would be able to reintroduce Live Chat. The types of assistance we provide and how we provide assistance would likely need to change.