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Monday, March 20, 2006

Speed Demons

A recent BusinessWeek article entitled Speed Demons, How smart companies are creating new products--and whole new businesses--almost overnight, really hits the nail on the head regarding the necessity of staying agile in today's business world. The following statement really hits close to home:

Everybody knows that bureaucracy means death to new ideas, yet most companies still insist on forcing innovative products and ventures through a gauntlet of presentations and reviews and refinements.

So true...


Break your unwritten rules. Every company has them. They're those mental crutches that say this is the way we do it because this is the way we've always done it. For routine matters, that's fine. But not when you're trying to create something new, and quickly.

I'd take this even further and say that you need to be willing to break your written rules, especially when they are clearly not working. So many large corporations find this difficult or impossible to do either because of politics or just laziness.

Hopefully some of these small, agile companies can continue to innovate as long as they can buck the disturbing trend of quickly creating a product in order to be acquired by one of these not-so-agile companies.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Intuit responds

Well, I never thought this would happen! My previous post related my experiences with Intuit customer support. This prompted a response from Bob Meighan, VP TurboTax apologizing for this and also setting me straight on the process by which the IRS processes refunds/payments and how TurboTax participates in that process.

He also let me know that there is an erroneous "...perception that Intuit knows when refunds will be deposited..." I understand that now and appreciate Mr Meighan's explanation. Mr. Meighan also implied that I'm not the first to be under this impression and so I hope a more detailed explanation of this process finds its way into the product and customer support training materials.

I've been using Intuit products (Quicken and TurboTax) for years. I'd like to thank Mr. Meighan for taking the time to respond to my issue and for providing me an opportunity to help make these products (and hopefully the customer support experience) better.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fun with phone support

First let me state from the outset that this issue ended up being my fault. But that's not going to stop me from ranting about the state of outsourced phone support...

I used TurboTax to do our taxes. This year, we owed money on both our state and federal returns. I used TurboTax's e-file feature to have the funds withdrawn directly from our bank account. I set the withdrawal date to March 7...or so I thought. In looking at my bank statement, I noticed that only the state funds had been withdrawn on the 7th. The federal funds had not.

So I used Intuit's "live" online chat feature to enquire as to the status of that payment. After 2 tries, I was able to convince the support person (assuming it was a real person), that I was not interested in checking the status of my refund. I was interested in checking the status of a payment. The support person then assured me that my return had been received and accepted by the IRS and I had nothing to worry about. I pointed out that I knew it had been accepted because TurboTax provided me with that status. What I wanted to know was why the amount I owed had not been paid on the date I specified. I was then told to call the support number.

I was on hold for a surprisingly short while after which I had to once again convince the support person that I was not expecting a refund. She then told me that they "did not have the resources" to check on the status of my payment. I then asked what I suppose to do about this and she told me that I should see the withdrawal in a few days and if not, I should call back and they'd take care of it. Of course, I couldn't let the illogic in that go unchallenged and asked how, if they didn't have the resources, she knew that the withdrawal would happen in a few days. And then if the withdrawal didn't happen, why they would have the resources to resolve this a few days from now, when they didn't seem to have the resources today. All she could do was repeat that they would be happy to resolve this at that time. Clearly, I wasn't going to get anywhere with this line of questioning so I just agreed to check my bank account in a few days.

Before I hung up, the support person asked, "Have we resolved your issue today sir?". I just hung up... Yes, that was very rude and if the support person happens to read my blog, I'd like her to know that I apologize...

So then on a hunch, I called the IRS e-file support number and in about 2 minutes I had accessed my e-file information via an automated response system. The nice automated voice reported that my return had been received and that funds were scheduled to be withdrawn from my account on April 7--not March 7! Hmmm... So I went back into TurboTax and lo and behold I must have accidently entered 4/7 instead of 3/7 when I e-filed my fed return. What a turkey.

Yes, this was my fault. But still, I was able to get information in 2 minutes from an automated service that I was not able to get from a live human being. TurboTax support should have at least been able to tell me that I had set the withdrawal date to April 7 instead of March 7. And maybe this is just an American thing (or maybe just a Brian thing), but the politeness with which they are unable to resolve customer issues is infuriating!

Yeah, I know. I'm far from the first person to complain about this sort of thing. But hey...that's what blogs are for ;-)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Consensus Web Filters

Great post by Kevin Kelly on his Cool Tools blog about Consensus Web Filters. This is the new breed of sites being created to aggregate and tag bookmarks to information elsewhere on the Web. There were a couple I'd already heard of such as Digg and del.ico.us. And also quite a few I had never heard of.

Very useful.

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