Real Help from a Surprising Source
A call from the government usually isn’t something that instills appreciation and thanks. But there are exceptions
By André van Heerden, Communications Director
I have a positive and inspiring story about the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). No, this isn’t the setup line for a joke, and, yes, I was surprised about this experience too.
I will tell this story without using real names and avoid details so I don’t infringe on anyone’s privacy. I’ll call my CRA hero Greg.
It began about two months ago when I received a voice message from Greg who explained that he was from the CRA and that an account that I was responsible for had some very overdue forms that needed to be completed and returned.
I don’t know about you but receiving this sort of message sets off a lot of alarm bells for me and usually makes me want to ignore it. Is it a scam? How confusing are these forms? Will I even be able to find the documentation I need to complete the forms? How steep will the penalties be? How do I even begin to handle this?
But Greg’s voice message was conversational, informative, understanding, and even hopeful. His message gave me enough details that I knew it wasn’t a scam. He gave me hope that the number of confusing-titled forms that he mentioned (random letters and numbers put together) shouldn’t be that difficult to handle, and, most importantly, he gave me the sense that he wanted to help.
I called him back and surprisingly I actually reached him—not a machine, not someone else, and not someone that I had to wait hours on hold to talk to. True to his message, he quickly surmised correctly that I was responsible for this account only because I was legitimately helping someone else and that he’d have to walk me through what I needed to do.
He also let me know that because I called him back promptly, he would keep the file open longer, which would help me avoid penalties and interest charges. If I was able to get back to him again with the forms—or even updates about the progress of the forms—he’d continue to help by keeping the file open and answering any questions I might have.
Inspired now by Greg’s willingness to help, I contacted the person I was helping. Over the next few weeks, information was gathered, documentation was shared, and Greg continued to be readily available and to help. So much so that on the last day he arranged a conference call on the spur of the moment. With the three of us on the line, he guided us to a successful, painless, simple conclusion.
His candor and openness with us encouraged us to be equally transparent, and that led to all of us getting what we wanted. Greg got what he needed to officially close the file. My involvement with the account was now thankfully complete. And the person that I was helping had now fulfilled their duties with the CRA.
This person commented to me afterward, “Nice guy who works for the CRA—who knew? So nice when people show a bit of humanity and help people who are trying to do the right thing versus beating them with a bureaucratic sledgehammer.”
And it was that comment that motivated me to share this story. It could have been very different and taken much longer and resulted in all of us feeling frustrated, disrespected, and used. Greg inspired us to help him by showing that he cared, that he knew what he was doing, that he could help us, and that we could trust him.
It made me think about tough tasks that I have to do at work and how I could encourage others to help me. So, a shout-out to “Greg” at the CRA. He took a difficult and complicated job and motivated flustered, inexperienced, and wary others to help him get it done.