What Can A Tax Software Company Teach Product Managers About Customer Information Overload?

by drjim on April 8, 2013

Product managers need to make sure that product selection is not taxing on customers…

Product managers need to make sure that product selection is not taxing on customers…
Image Credit

Ugg, taxes! I don’t like them, you don’t like them, nobody likes them. One of the reasons that nobody likes taxes is that they are so very complicated – what counts as taxable income and what doesn’t? It turns out that the company Intuit realized that we don’t like taxes and they’ve made a lot of money with their TurboTax software that many of us in the USA use to prepare our taxes. There’s a lesson for us product managers to learn from the world of tax preparation software – make it easy to select your product and you’ll be very successful.

Finding Your Way

The more difficult the problem that your product addresses, the more complex it is going to be for your potential customers to determine if they want to buy it. This is almost a part of the standard product development definition. That’s why you need to create product information navigation tools that they can use to make their decision making process simpler.

Over at Intuit they accomplished this for their TurboTax product by creating the “TurboTax Live Community” where people who have either bought the software or who are considering buying it can come to get answer to their questions. This allows Intuit to provide their customers with the right information at exactly the right time.

Building Trust

Nobody is going to buy your product until they trust that it will solve their problems and they trust that you’ll stand behind your product if they have any problems with it. In order to have any chance of being successful and boosting your product manager resume you are going to have to get your customers to believe what you are telling them. This means that your potential customers really need to hear from other customers.

Intuit helps this to happen by hosting over 160,000 user generated reviews of their TurboTax product on its website. Not all of these reviews are positive – there are number of one star reviews. However, because these low rating reviews exist, a customer visiting the site will believe the other reviews. The more that potential customers see that people just like them are buying and using the product, the more likely they are to make a purchase.

Making A Decision

When all of the available information has been collected, it is time for your potential customers to weigh it and then make a decision. This can be the toughest part of the buying process. The more products, configurations, and options that you have, the more difficult it is for your customers to make a decision to buy.

Intuit attempts to solve this problem by providing a comparison chart of their products presented in a side-by-side fashion. This simplifies the process of making a comparison. They also allow customers to select boxes that indicate what features are important to them and it then helps them to make a decision about what product to buy.

What All Of This Means For You

Complex products create complex decisions for our customers. As product managers it is part of our product manager job description to take steps to simplify the process of evaluating and selecting our product as much as possible.

Intuit, the company that makes the TurboTax software, has done this very well. They’ve help their customers to navigate through all of the available product information. They’ve taken steps to allow other customer’s review of their product to act as social proof for potential customers. Finally, they’ve helped their customers to make decision by presenting their products in a way that makes side-by-side comparisons easy to do.

Complex products solve complex problems and so our customers truly do need our products. However, they are not going to buy them if they can’t figure out if our product is going to solve their problem. Take the time to understand how your customer is going to go about making their buying decision and then take steps to simplify this process for them.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: What do you think that you should do if someone posts a very bad review of your product on your web site?

Click here to get automatic updates when
The Accidental Product Manager Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Product Manager Newsletter are now available. It’s your product – it’s your career. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If there was a perfect world for us product managers to live in, what would it look like? Sure there would be white unicorns everywhere but what would our jobs be like? I’d guess that we’d know our customers much better than we know them today. In a perfect world, starting with the product development definition, product managers would be able to target their customers with the perfectly customized offer at exactly the right time across the right set of channels. Does this perfect world exist?

Be Sociable, Share!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

John Harris April 8, 2013 at 11:56 am

I wonder what Intuit’s lobbying efforts can teach product managers about market domination, protecting turf, putting revenue ahead of the customer’s best interest, etc.? http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20130403/06445022560/intuit-continues-to-make-sure-filing-taxes-is-complicated.shtml (this is just one article on the topic. Google the issue and you will find plenty more).

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson April 12, 2013 at 9:58 am

John: You bring up a good point. Intuit has been getting a lot of negative publicity lately — I wonder if this will open a door for a competitor?

Reply

Kent April 10, 2013 at 7:28 pm

My father often told me that everyone would benefit from working in sales for a year at some point in their career. Having taken his advice and starting my own career in sales, I have found that understanding decision making and building trust are two of many sales-related skills that are critical to creating and marketing products that sell.

Any ideas on how PMs can improve these skills without working directly in a sales role?

Reply

Dr. Jim Anderson April 12, 2013 at 10:01 am

Kent: Customer trust is earned in a lot of different ways. Your product collateral is a starting point, how you handle feature requests is another. Finally, how customers feel about your level of service after the sale can be a big driver of how likely they are to buy from you again…

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: