When Texting Just Doesn’t Work in Professional Settings

Image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Image courtesy of Pixabay.com

A few years ago I wrote about how annoying it was to get text messages from clients. The incessant “how r u coming w r txs?” texts drove me crazy.

Those kinds of texts still do drive me crazy, but as time has passed, I’ve softened my stance on texting.

To an extent.

It doesn’t annoy me to get texts from clients anymore. But there are times when texting simply isn’t appropriate.

I had a new client this past tax season, a 20-something recent college graduate. It was her first full year of being on her own. Her first year with 12 months of full-time income.

She was excited about using my secure website to send files to me, and it seemed like this would be a simple return for me. Just one W-2 and a small amount of student loan interest.

I finished the return quickly, posted everything to her on the secure website, and sent her a text letting her know there were files for her to review and a few things to sign and scan back to me so I could e-file things. I also let her know what her refunds came to. (She had said texting was the best way to get through to her.)

Within minutes — barely 1 minute — I got a text back (paraphrased): “No, this doesn’t sound right. Do not submit. I will be seeking a second opinion because I know the refunds should be larger. This isn’t right at all.”

Note that this person had 1 W-2 and a small amount of student loan interest. There was nothing I could have “messed up” nor would a “second opinion” change anything.

Many of my friends in the tax pro community would have fired the client then and there. I took a different approach.

I don’t have time to deal with nonsense, and this person was being nonsensical. If they wanted to waste their time seeking a second opinion on a tax return with one W-2 and student loan interest, fine. Go seek a second opinion.

I wrote back: “Okay. If your second opinion produces a larger refund, please contact me to let me know what I missed.”

About 45 minutes later, the client texted me again. She was apologetic. She had gone out to the secure website and — GASP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! — actually looked at the tax return I had prepared.

She realized that her income was way up from the previous year, and that I hadn’t messed up anything.

In fact, over the course of about 5 minutes, I got multiple apologetic texts from her. (At 9 pm on a Saturday.)

So I guess this story has a happy ending. At least she apologized.

One time last year I had a corporate client (now an ex-client) tell me I’m an “incompetent a$$hole” because I told him his books were a disaster, the prior-year tax returns (prepared by H&R Block!) were totally messed up and that I’d be filing an extension and fixing his mess after April 15th.

He told me I was an “incompetent a$$hole” and that I was “screwing him over” and that he’d be going back to H&R Block because they never asked the kinds of questions I was asking. They just “got $hit done” and he wished he’d have known from the start that I was “in over my head” and he wouldn’t have wasted his time with an a$$hole like me.

That person took their stuff to H&R Block and didn’t apologize for what they said to me.

But I digress.

Back to texting.

With the client who told me she would seek a second opinion, I learned a lesson.

In a professional setting, texting is fine for saying “the returns are done, please review,” or “I’m running 10 minutes late to our meeting.”

Texting is not appropriate for discussing outcomes of tax returns. 

The girl in my story above saw the numbers in my text, immediately reacted and told me off. Because that’s what she felt that very second.

I couldn’t really explain anything or react in real time. Sure, you can respond in seconds to a text, but it’s hard to add context in “real time.”

In those situations, a phone call is better. Sure, people can tell you off via phone as well. The guy who called me an incompetent a$$hole did so by phone.

But at least you can respond immediately and try to add context and nuance. That’s hard to do via texting.