At Intuit, Customer Delight is by Design by @Bob_Thompson

The following is a guest post from Bob Thompson.

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Most companies focus on fixing problems and refining what they’re already doing. That’s all well and good, but customer-centric leaders also strive to create new products and services for unmet customer needs.

One of the best in the world at this is software maker Intuit, which sells solutions for mundane tasks like accounting, personal finances, and paying taxes—and somehow makes it exciting! The company booked over $4 billion in 2012 and has been growing 10 percent compounded per year for the past five years. During that period, its stock price doubled while Microsoft (a key rival) and the S&P 500 stock index increased only 20 percent.

One of Intuit’s core values is “Innovate and Improve,” defined as:

We innovate to drive growth, and continuously improve everything we do. We move with speed and agility, and embrace change. We have the courage to take risks, and grow by learning from our successes and failures.

Company leaders really do encourage risk-taking. Take, for example, the Free Tax Advice service (turbotax.intuit.com/tax-answers). The idea came from observing that customers looked to TurboTax as a source for answers on how to use the software but not for tax advice. This raised the question, according to product manager Katie Hanson, “Could we do more?” With support from an aggressive general manager, they decided to market it as “we give tax advice” with no use of an Intuit product required.

This service, along with many other solutions, is the result of Intuit’s “Design for Delight” approach to innovation. It was initiated in 2007 when founder Scott Cook realized the company wasn’t wowing customers. The company adopted Net Promoter Score in 2004 but found it mainly helped fix problems. That cut the percentage of “defectors” but did little to increase “promoters”—those answering “nine” or “ten” on a likelihood-to-recommend scale. Cook realized he had to focus the entire organization on innovation, in contrast to the Steve Jobs model with a visionary calling the shots from the top.

Since the tax advice service involved hiring hundreds of agents, it was very risky. But Intuit believed it would increase customer loyalty and drive new product sales. Leaders were willing to take a risk to add value to existing customers and potential customers

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My too-good-to-be-true warning light flashing, I decided to try the service with a real tax question. After entering it into the online form, I got a list of possible answers from their online knowledgebase, followed by options to contact Intuit through its TurboTax community, online chat, and phone. Yes, it really was delightful!

Listening to customers and fixing problems isn’t enough to become an industry leader. In the end, it’s up to business leaders to make innovation a priority and implement sustaining processes and reward systems.

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Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of CustomerThink.com, the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His book Hooked on Customers (April 2014) reveals the five habits of leading customer-centric firms.

For more information visit http://hookedoncustomers.com

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