The Key to Transforming Taxpayer Behavior 

Patty Melton

Paying county taxes might be an unavoidable aspect of life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t benefits to investing in the taxpayer’s experience.  

Let’s try an experiment: picture your ideal taxpayer. What behaviors do they partake in? What do they never do? How often do they call your office? 

In a recent webinar, we asked an audience of billing and collection professionals this same question. They described their ideal customer like so: 

  • Customers that pay on time, every collection cycle, so there are fewer late and delinquent payers to chase down. 
  • Customers that don’t make frequent phone calls or in-person visits with questions about the billing and payment process. 
  • Customers that are enrolled in self-service options like pay by text, saving staff time and budget. 

Sounds well and good, but can the perfect taxpayer really exist? You’d be surprised. There are ways to shift the taxpayer mindset that benefits treasurers and other county staff – and it begins by identifying and removing friction from taxpayer journey

How does removing friction change taxpayer behavior? 

The concept of friction vs. fuel was originally posed in The Human Element, a best-selling book by Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal, about overcoming resistance to change. Here’s a passage from the book that perfectly sums up the misconception of what’s more impactful, removing friction or adding fuel: 

“The assumption of most…is that the way to sell an idea is to focus on heightening its appeal. We instinctively believe that if we add enough value, people will say “yes.” This reflex tends to lead us down a path of adding features to an idea and amplifying its benefits in order to get others on board. We refer to these tactics as Fuel. But by focusing on Fuel to enhance attraction, people often neglect the other, more critical half of the equation – how can we remove the Frictions that work against the desired behavior we seek in others.” 

“The Human Element,” Loran Nordgren and David Schonthal

For bill payments, friction is often used to describe steps along the payment route that are unnecessarily difficult for customers to use or understand (i.e. having to login or enter payment info multiple times). These moments of friction can often lead to: 

  • Low rates of self-service (i.e. using digital payment options) 
  • Higher call volumes and operational costs 
  • Frequent late and delinquent payments  
  • The need to hire temporary staff to help overwhelmed employees 

Not to mention spikes in customer frustration, which your staff then has to mitigate! All of these issues make it difficult for counties to function efficiently, and all roads lead back to eliminating areas of friction to make self-service options as easy to find and use as possible. 

Making self-service the path of least resistance 

In today’s world of one-click Amazon purchases and high-quality digital experiences, customers are looking for the easiest and most convenient way to make payments – even tax payments. A recent InvoiceCloud survey found that although mailed-in checks were one of the top-used payment channels for county taxes, only 6% of respondents actually prefer to pay bills that way. In reality, they’re looking for an easier, more convenient option. 

By making digital self-service options easy to access, enroll in, and repeatedly use, municipalities can actually make self-service the path of least resistance for customers. Ultimately, this is how tax collectors and treasurers can begin the process of shifting taxpayer behavior for the better. 

Want to better understand how to identify and remove friction, improve your taxpayer’s experience with your office, and save precious resources? Get your free copy of our popular ebook, The Ultimate Guide to Transforming Customer Behavior, where you can get more information on: 

  • How municipalities can strategically eliminate friction and drive ideal customer behaviors 
  • Which engagement points tax collectors should maximize to conserve staff time and resources 
  • How billers are saving up to $900k/year with frictionless experiences 
Patty Melton

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