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Steve Bennett
Attracting Intuit Promoters: Let's Find and Fix Policy Flaws
A well-intended policy can impede our efforts to attract promoters if it aggravates customers. It's everyone's job - including those on the front lines - to have courage to identify policy flaws and help fix things that don't work or make sense.

Not long ago, we introduced the net promoter concept the effort to serve customers so well that they go beyond using our products and actively endorse and recommend them to their friends, family and everyone they talk to. In last fall’s State of the Company meetings, it was apparent how quickly employees grasped and embraced this idea.

In addition, I was impressed by the knowledge of our people on the front lines, those who have day-to-day contact with customers and who have great insight into what’s going on. In the campaign to create promoters, these customer-facing employees are crucial to our success.

Despite our commitment to turn customers into advocates, we sometimes hurt ourselves by implementing well-intended but possibly ill-advised policies that create detractors rather than promoters.

Front-line employees are often the first to see this. They know from experience what works and what doesn’t. We need to depend on them to identify these problems and respond to them when they do. We can’t hide behind excuses like, “It’s not my job,” or “I’m just following rules.” Nor can we afford to overanalyze problems when a solution is obvious.

Have Courage to Speak Up

Standing up takes courage — the kind of courage discussed in my last column. Speaking up to identify problems. Asking tough questions. Admitting mistakes. Fixing them. All are required to increase our net promoter score.

Creating promoters also requires us to think and act smart, not merely implement policies. If policies are wrong or don’t make sense, have the courage to speak up. Tell your boss. Tell the person who’s running the business. If they don’t listen, tell me. That’s part of your job and what I hope you will do.

Start by bringing your concerns to the right people. Taking problems to folks who can’t solve them only makes things worse. So make sure you understand the nature of your problem when voicing your concern. Call attention to situations where we’ve gone over the line or are doing things that don’t make sense and aren’t right. That’s what we’re looking for.

Bring policy problems to business leaders. They’re expected to fix situations that annoy customers, such as an unfriendly refund or service policy. Take execution problems to senior management. They’re responsible for ensuring proper staffing levels, having the appropriate resources to do your job, or improving the service delivery of products. The first step in problem solving is starting at the right place.

I expect you to raise these issues, especially when they affect the overall customer experience. And as we create solutions, we must always balance the needs of customers  with shareholders. At times, this will lead to some tough calls and we’ll need to make tradeoffs. When making these calls we need to evaluate both sides and not let the pendulum swing too far in one direction. This is where business acumen and solid judgment come in.

At the same time, we ask for your patience as we work for a solution. We want to solve problems both quickly, and correctly.

Identifying and Fixing Problems

Looking around, we’ve seen several situations where employees used good judgment to speak up, identify problems and help us fix some of the missteps that could cost us promoters.

In Fredericksburg, for example, we’ve eliminated a lot of confusion caused by vague rules covering a discount program for first-time customers. The ambiguity annoyed customers, produced detractors, and wasted precious time.

We solved it by giving reps more authority and simple instructions: “Make decisions based on how you’d like to be treated if you were the customer.” It’s a first step and we’ve got more work to do, but we’re headed in the right direction.

In another case, our customer care policy irritated QuickBooks customers.

The policy was quite strict, limiting free customer inquiries to questions concerning first-time installation problems and known bugs. We charged customers for questions outside those rules, taking their credit card number no matter what, and again, annoying them in the process.

Today, we’ve loosened the rules. We answer a broader set of questions at no charge, and customer satisfaction is increasing. The change also delivers for our employees by reducing escalations and increasing satisfaction by enabling them to meet customers’ expectations.

And in our call centers, we’ve found a similar solution to questions about refunds.

Historically, we gave agents little latitude. They followed a burdensome, inefficient procedure that required several steps before a decision was made and customers were contacted.

Now, with additional training, agents are authorized to make on-the-spot decisions, satisfying customers and making them promoters.

These are all excellent examples of identifying and changing policies that sacrificed customer satisfaction in favor of what appeared to be business efficiency. In reality, however, what’s wrong for the customer is wrong for the business. By bringing these problems to the appropriate leader, employees helped solve problems and helped create Intuit promoters.

It’s a mistake to implement flawed policy. But to let it continue and to remain silent is even worse. Let’s be smart. Have the courage to speak up. That’s part of your job.

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