From what I’ve read in HBR, you’re leading a design thinking initiative at Intuit. You’re passionate about improving the quality of your products and overall customer experience. You want your teams to transform those utilitarian financial products so people not only find them functional, but also “take pleasure in using them.”
Each of us quickly realized that we recognized beautiful design when we encountered it and that we should be delivering the same experience to our customers.
“How I Did It: Intuit’s CEO on Building a Design-Driven Company,” Harvard Business Review, Jan.-Feb. 2015
I applaud your intent, but rage is the emotion that describes my response to my most recent experiences with Intuit. I’ve wasted unproductive hours trying to install QuickBooks Pro 2015, to no avail. In every encounter or touchpoint related to this, there’s been an execution failure that has cost me needless time or money.
Before telling my story, here’s the context: I believe that design thinking should apply to the entire customer journey, not just the usability model or visual design of a software product. You should be designing for delight from the moment someone buys (or chooses to upgrade) an Intuit product, from box opening to installation, as well as day-to-day usage. Everyone who represents Intuit, including your customer support reps, should embrace this commitment and put it into practice. You and your managers should invest in incentives and managerial practices to encourage this behavior.
You’ve got a long way to go…
A Tale of Mistakes and Broken Promises
My story begins with QuickBooks version 1. As one of your earliest customers, I began relying on QuickBooks to manage the books for my newly fledged consulting firm. Back then I loved QuickBooks’ functional simplicity, its minimalist approach, and highly recommended it to colleagues.
Those days are long past. Every QB release since then has gotten increasingly bloated, slow, buggy and larded with features or marketing offers that are unappealing or irrelevant to my business. I find persistent errors from one release to the next, which has prompted me to buy alternating releases to minimize the hassle factor. My delight with QuickBooks evaporated years ago. If I weren’t trapped by the legacy data that’s hostage to QuickBooks, I assure you I’d be using a competitor’s product.
But let’s focus on the recent events that prompted this letter. It’s a tale of one execution mistake after another.
A few weeks ago Intuit sent an email to notify me that support for QuickBooks 2012 would be terminated in May. As a result account synching with banks and other online services would no longer function. Intuit’s recommended solution: upgrade ASAP to the latest version of QuickBooks.
As recommended, I took action and purchased a CD-based version of QuickBooks Pro 2015 from Amazon.
What was the initial mistake on Intuit’s part? I am currently using QuickBooks Pro 2013, not 2012, so this support termination policy does not apply to me. I did not have to upgrade immediately.
For some misguided reason, the QuickBooks team has chosen to mask the unique license key and product key with silver tape on the boxed CD versions. This smelled like trouble to me, so I took extra precautions once it was clear the silver tape would not come off easily…
Before attempting to remove the silver tape, I wanted to know how Intuit recommended removing it safely. I read the “Getting Started” instructions cover to cover. I read all the fine print on the box packaging, including the CD disk itself. I went online to see if there were any special tips. Nothing.
As feared, when I tried to remove the silver tape, it pulled away all the printed license info and part of the packaging material, leaving blank white paper showing beneath. Result: no legible product key.
Therefore I could not install the software without the required keys.
I went online to the QuickBooks support site, looking for help for products with a missing or illegible product key. It took more time than expected to find an answer, but the instructions were surprising.
I was instructed to fax a copy of proof of purchase and a photocopy of the back of the box, to show the UPC code. No problem, I had all those documents. But why didn’t you give me the option of scanning the documents and emailing them to an agent, so I’d have a better record of this transaction?
To make matters worse, I haven’t had to use a fax machine in two or three years, so it was a big hassle to remove it from the “dead storage” closet and set it up.
As instructed, on March 13 I sent a 4-page fax to the number published on Intuit’s website, comprising a cover letter and all the required documentation. In my cover letter I requested an email response, providing me with the requisite license key and product key.
No response, for days, from Intuit’s customer service. Dead silence. Fail…
Four days later, realizing I was unlikely ever to hear from the Intuit service center, I went online again, this time looking for a phone number that I could call for help with this situation. As you probably know, your customer support numbers are buried, and it takes quite a bit of time to find one.
I called your 800#, and was notified that call times are unusually long, and that my wait time would be about 15 minutes. I put the call on speaker phone, and waited for at least 15 minutes… (Note that other software vendors offer the opportunity for a call-back, when a CSR is available, to avoid wasting the customer’s time like this.)
Eventually, an agent with the alias of “Mark” got on the line, heard my story, apologized profusely and said he’d take immediate action to resolve my situation.
He did not assign a case number to me. He did not request a call-back number in case we were interrupted.
Whether by design or mistake, he placed me back in the queue. This time I was told that the wait time would be 30 minutes. Sad, but true.
After waiting for another 30 minutes, a new agent got on the line, so I had to repeat my story again. She, too, promised to help, and like her colleague, did not assign a case number.
She put me on hold several times, telling me that she was exploring what the options were.
Eventually she came back and explained that the only recourse was to ship the defective product box (and everything else) back to the Refunds department at Intuit. She promised that instructions would be sent to my email address.
I was frustrated that she could not simply provide a replacement license key, but reluctantly agreed to return the product.
Twenty-four hours later, and still no email with instructions has been sent. Broken promise? Failed execution? Bad customer support infrastructure? Who knows, I no longer care.
I gave up on Intuit, went online to Amazon.com, applied for a refund, and got the appropriate paperwork within 4 minutes, start to finish. Now that’s a model of customer-centric execution.
I promise you, Mr. Cook, I will never ever again buy another copy of QuickBooks. When your company terminates support for my 2013 version, I will find another alternative. I can’t afford to do business with you any longer.
I earn my living in professional services, where time is money. Your company’s ineptitude no doubt wasted over a thousand dollars of my time in this sorry sequence of events. This is not the first time that upgrading to a new release of QuickBooks has cost me time, but it’s certainly been my worst experience.
For the sake of future customers and Intuit shareholders, I hope that my sad tale is not just business as usual among your employees.
Please — expand your employees’ understanding of “design for delight” to include the entire customer journey, not just the software usability experience. Given Intuit’s current practices, the customer’s support experience is close to intolerable.