Driving Innovation Through Deep Customer Empathy: Intuit’s Inner Circle Program

By: Sherzad Rahmatian, Thai Nguyen, Monica Appelbe, Laura Messerschmitt

Forrester Groundswell 2011

Name of entry: Intuit’s Inner Circle Program

Name of company entering: Intuit

Category: Embracing

Intuit was founded with the mission of making tasks that are long and arduous easy, simple and automatic. This mission is guided by a deep understanding of our customer, their pains, and how they are doing things today. In return, we build solutions that help them achieve their goals while being more efficient and able to focus on the things that they love to do—whether it’s running the business or spending time with the people they love. In order to cultivate these relationships with customers, Intuit established the Inner Circle, a community of product enthusiasts who want to engage with Intuit on an ongoing basis, to provide feedback as we plan and build new solutions.

Inner Circle was established in 2008 to better serve the needs of QuickBooks customers by engaging a select few in feedback sessions, webinars and usability sessions. By engaging with product managers themselves, customers (include several accountants) could directly voice their opinions and questions to the key decision makers influencing the product. Additionally, they were given a first glimpse at new product features and announcements. The program has been a great success and direct influence of where Intuit takes its products. In 2011, twenty-four product enhancements were a direct result of feedback given by Inner Circle members.

After proving out the program over two years, Inner Circle was expanded to cover all Intuit products and is open to all customers who want to influence the course of Intuit’s product and business strategy. As members of the Inner Circle, customers:

  • Attend exclusive events on hot trends and new products.
  • Receive the inside scoop about what’s going on with small businesses and with Intuit.
  • Work alongside our product teams and other Inner Circle Insiders to identify and prioritize new features and product offerings that will help small businesses succeed.
  • Get tipped off to announcements before the general public.
  • Have their businesses spotlighted within the Inner Circle and on the Intuit Small Business Blog.

Incorporating online media has been an important way to build the relationships that we have with our customers. We’ve developed a presence on Twitter that allows us to keep Inner Circle members up to speed on important upcoming events and opportunities to provide feedback live.

Three years later, Inner Circle continues to enable Intuit to create and improve solutions by connecting with customers to understand to can serve them better. The program serves Intuit’s pillar of deep customer empathy and will continue be a driving force of our company’s innovative solutions.

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  1. [...] Get commitment from those products or services teams that they will act on the approved ideas. Ideally, you can agree on a schedule for implementing ideas. Have a software product that only updates once a year? Strive to implement a number of ideas into that product each year. Have a product or service that can be continually improved? Get commitment to implement a certain number of ideas spread throughout the year. Dell implements about 10 ideas per month and in 2011 Intuit implemented 24 ideas from Inner Circle feedback. [...]