Interview With Shane Wilson, Director Of Experience Design At H&R Block 2016-2019

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Shane Wilson Director, Experience Design H&R BlockShane Wilson was the Director of Experience Design at H&R Block from 2016-2019. His team works hard to create and innovate the DIY tax preparation industry’s customer experience.

We got the chance to chat with Shane about his experience with one of the top online tax prep service companies. Go behind the scenes at H&R Block and learn how they’re helping business owners retain revenues.

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What are your primary goals at H&R Block?

Our goal is always to get the best result for our clients and make DIY tax prep even simpler for more people. With tax reform and new forms in 2019, making sure customers understand how the changes will affect them was top of mind.

For tax season 2019, we’ve been working hard and listening to what our customers were saying about their experiences with us. As a result, we’ve expanded some parts of the online experience that customers were telling us they wanted more of and we’ve put a lot of effort into making the online product simpler and even more helpful.

And of course, we added some really great features that I can’t talk about quite yet, but I wish I could – we’re really excited about them.

How does H&R Block evolve with ever-shifting tech and security needs?

The big news for us is that we’re able to take advantage of new tools and technologies to authenticate customers, keep their information secure, and let them engage with us in new ways.

In addition to “just” a secure, accurate, and simple DIY tax prep experience, we’re thinking about seamless experiences across an ever-increasing number of channels. We’re designing experiences for online with a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, with software, or with our apps.

But, we’re thinking about technologies that we may use in the future, too. We don’t know yet what part delivery technologies – like voice, VR, or AR – will play. We don’t know how people will use AI or blockchain, but like everyone else, we’re thinking about how our clients’ experiences might be improved with them.

What do you find most challenging and how do you overcome that challenge?

I’ve worked with some amazing teams all over the U.S., and the challenges at H&R Block aren’t any different. Business owners have to communicate a problem, the team (including design and developers) have to solve for it, and then it has to be built.

Product owners, designers, writers, project managers, developers and everyone else involved in the design process have different ways of communicating ideas and fundamentally different problem-solving methods. The most effective organizations communicate really well and have a lot of trust among team members so individuals can focus on what they’re great at and see that everything else is covered.

Communication and trust are good at H&R Block, and we’ve worked hard to put into place tools and systems to collaborate – and we’re continuing to improve. It’s an exciting time here.

What makes H&R Block stand out from other online tax prep services?

Our founders, Henry and Richard Bloch, started offering tax return preparation in 1955. Since then, we’ve continued to learn how we can help individuals and business get the best outcomes at tax time. As we continue to find ways to reach customers through our DIY products, or tax offices, or a little bit of both, we’re proud that we can offer over 63 years of experience helping our customers – in ways that no one else can.

How would you describe the company culture?

When I joined H&R Block in 2016, it was described as being like a family. That idea runs very deep and turns up in a lot of different ways. Teams work together closely to solve problems. In my organization, we know each other really well. We share, we debate, and we like each other. There’s no “I win” mindset. The customer wins and we win – or no one wins.

Any tips for small businesses preparing for future tax seasons?

Last year, we made it easier for small business owners to use our DIY product to complete their tax return. We added a new Self-Employed and Small Business online product and a new partnership with the expense tracking app offered by Stride. To make sure they have the help they need, we also made it easier to chat with an expert, AND we continue to expand Tax Pro Review – a way to have a tax professional review your DIY return to make sure it’s accurate and that you’re getting the best result.

For the upcoming tax season, we continue to expand the features and benefits for all of our customers – including small business owners – to make tax prep even easier.

Even when you’re using the DIY product, you’re getting the benefit of our tax experts at H&R Block. From everything we’ve learned from preparing taxes since 1955 to the tax experts who offer that expertise through The Tax Institute at H&R Block, we’re ready to help individuals and small businesses.

Outside of work, what do you do for fun?

My wife travels most of the time for her work. So when I’m not in the office, I spend most of my time at home with my dogs, working to restore our 116-year-old home in Kansas City.

It’s a great arrangement though. I like the construction part of it, and I love spending time with the best dogs in the world. One’s from a rescue in Texas; the other is an African village dog my wife brought home from West Africa.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

When people tell you how they feel, they’re never wrong. Listen to them.

How do you stay current with the latest UX (user interface)/design trends?

Designers are lucky that way in that we love talking about what we’re working on and sharing ideas. Any opportunity to get in a room with designers is a good opportunity to learn. Local events, workshops, lunches, dinners, happy hours, coffees, are all great opportunities to hear what other designers and leaders are working on. I also have a daily ritual where I go through my favorite webcasts, blogs, sites, email lists, and even Google searches. I make a list and try to spend at least 20 percent of my time at work looking at what people in design are doing.

For my team, we also have “Design Inspiration” every Friday. Everyone is encouraged to leave the office and go do something that inspires them. Whether it’s a museum, conference, performance, or just a webcast, it doesn’t matter to me – as long as it keeps them creative. Then we get together frequently to share things that inspired us.

What’s next for H&R Block customers?

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This is such a great time to be a designer in the world, and H&R Block has completely embraced design as a core strategic initiative. It’s a great working environment for designers, but customers will be the real winners. We are working every day to make completing your taxes easier than you ever thought it could be.

H&R Block has always been a technology-forward company. As a pioneer in technologies behind online DIY tax prep, e-filing, data import, and document capture, we’re still among the first to look at technologies like AI and voice to solve customer needs. The technology changes but we’re still looking at everything we can get our hands on to make tax prep easier.

Thanks Shane for taking the time to share your experience with us (no pun intended). We appreciate your insights into what it’s like behind the scenes at H&R Block and for the valuable tips for our readers. Read our full review of H&R Block to find out how they stack up against the competition.

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