Tax season has arrived and it's all hands on deck for tax professionals. But answering questions over the phone or via email isn't enough. In today's digital-first and always-on world, companies must assist customers across a variety of channels and platforms.
Intuit is one such company that is taking a digital and design-driven approach to its products, such as its TurboTax software and services. 1to1 Media spoke with Stacie Herring, director of assisted experience at Intuit, about the company's new video chat feature and the value of a confident versus empathetic customer service agent.
1to1 Media: How have customer expectations of financial service companies changed over the years?
Stacie Herring: Consumers don't differentiate between the services they're getting from a financial institution versus what they expect from a retail store. And as their shopping behavior and experiences have changed where they're used to getting whatever they need as fast as possible, the financial services industry has to change as well. Everything has to be instant and convenient.
How do you gain insights into your customers' needs?
We use the phrase, "design for delight," and so we're always gathering our customers' feedback to make sure our products are meeting their needs. We reach out to customers who are advocates as well as detractors and we have a good outreach program to make sure we're listening to our agents who are on the frontline with our customers. We also do a lot of product prototyping at our lab.
What's an example of an insight that you discovered and acted on?
Empathy and confidence are two things that we're focusing on this year. A lot of companies approach the customer experience by empathizing with their customers. But as we looked at that approach in more detail and spoke with customers, we saw it was also about confidence. You can have a very empathetic agent but you don't leave the interaction feeling very confident about the brand or the product. We found that a confident agent is much more inspiring to our customers. Empathy is still important, but we also started to incorporate more confidence into our hiring profiles and the way that we're building agent training.
It also helps to make sure that our partners are aligned with our vision. For example, we ran a partner boot camp for our partners like TeleTech, where we brought everyone together and shared what's important about the product and our strategy. We also took the partners to see our end-to-end product experience which helped them feel like they were a part of the brand.
How do you help your customers feel empowered?
For us, we've tried to make care a part of the product. Just because you put a "contact us" button up, doesn't mean everyone will use it. But it makes people feel better knowing it's there. We want to make sure people know where to find help and that it's there for them if they need it. For example, this season, we've made the "contact us" sections or buttons more obvious on our various channels. The verbiage and tone that our agents use is also important. Things like telling customers, "You've got this" and providing very clear explanations can make a difference.
Given that consumers are increasingly digital-first, how are you incorporating digital experiences into your customer interactions?
We are doing something new that we're calling SmartLook. People like personal interactions and the convenience of digital and so we're trying to bring the human touch to digital interactions. SmartLook connects you with a video agent who can answer your questions. After a customer logs in on the web or on the Turbo Tax app, he can click "Contact" on the web or a question mark on the app to get connected with an agent. It's a one-way connection so only the customer can see the agent in the video chat, but the agent can see his screen and walk him through his question. So far we've gotten great feedback from our customers about it.
Do you have any advice for other companies on how to keep their customers engaged?
The spirit of innovation is important. There are always opportunities to learn and change. The companies that are great are the ones that are willing to try something new and also have a spirit of collaboration. When you have an opportunity to try new ideas and take risks, that's a really exciting place to work.