Intuit – Victim of its own sucess?

Having been a faithful Quicken user since 1996, I’ve been using Intuit’s Turbotax product since its first release. Being able to easily transfer the financial data I was already tracking over the course of the year into my tax forms and then submit them electronically made tax day almost a non-event. However, in the past few years, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with Intuit’s insistence in flogging the golden goose.

First, the user interface of TurboTax changes every year. While the tax code may change with each season, there’s little reason not to give people a single, well thought out, wizard-driven format they can become comfortable with and expect to see consistently. Each year, I feel like I’m using a completely different product. If the design changes were more than just aesthetics for the sake of aesthetics, I’d be more apt to forgive. Please resist the urge to add rollovers only to justify a new "version" release.

TurboTax’s retail pricing, especially for the Business and Premier versions, is bordering on criminal. They need to take a page from Gillette’s playbook; give the razors away for near nothing and make money on the blades. Back in 2003, they even tried to add an online activation scheme which ended up being a debacle. Intuit should be encouraging customers to share their product with their friends and family, who still break out the ‘ol calculator and trusty number 2. Let your customer evangelize for you and be happy with your filing fee revenue. Need to keep profits up? Trim the marketing budget (word of mouth is free) and get rid of some designers (see point one).

Lastly, make sure it works. There’s no reason I should be downloading Turbotax product updates in April. Luckily, I procrastinate because, apparently, if I had filed early I would have missed these. Though I’m sure the IRS is very forgiving on miscalculations. Even then, I noticed a big glitch with my NYS tax forms where I couldn’t go backwards. Hitting back took me all the way to the first welcome screen for the State portion. Hopefully I got it right the first time.

Turbotax_error_3And that brings me to the final bump in the road. With the retail price and filling fees as they are, I don’t expect to see messages like this "heavy demand" apology from TurboTax. It’s really unacceptable. As a technologist, I never expect technology to work 100% of the time, but I do expect it to perform its intended core functions. In this case, the end user expectation is that they have paid for a service that should work whether they submit their 1040 on 1/1/2007 at 12 noon or 4/17/2007 at 11:59. Not that I would do that…but I should be able to if I want.

Update: 4/25/07

Commendably, Intuit stepped up and refunded the processing fee for customers affected by this issue.

Dear TurboTax Customer,

Your refund for the TurboTax products or services you purchased between
the hours of approximately 3 p.m. PT on Tuesday, April 17 and 4 a.m. PT
on the morning of Wednesday, April 18 will be completed by end of day
Thursday, April 26.

You will see this on your credit card statement. The credit will appear
on your statement as: "Intuit*TurboTax 800 446-8848" and may appear on
two separate lines.

We are sorry for any inconvenience we have caused you. We value your
business and look forward to serving you again in the future.


Bob Meighan
Bob Meighan
Vice President, TurboTax Customer Advocacy
Intuit, Inc.

07NTC Recap

First of all, thanks to everyone who made this year’s NTEN conference such a great experience. Thanks to the crew at for organizing everything. Thanks to the Salesforce Foundation and Exponent Partners for throwing a great latin-fest. Thanks to the guys at PicNet for having me over and their late night penguin deliveries. Thanks to Jennifer Bagnell Stuart at Innovation Network for featuring our Salesforce integration project in her article, "Can We Talk?  Innovative Responses to the Data Integration Challenge" published in the Journal of Information Technology and Social Change. (With so many techie heavy hitters at the conference, I was feeling a bit outmatched. Thanks for the boost in street cred, Jen.)
I enjoyed meeting all the 501c3 TechClub and NPSF people who I’ve only known by screenname. (ie Gokubi) Hopefully, with the formation of a Salesforce Non-profit usergroup in NYC, we’ll all get to do so more often.