Intuit, long known for its community help forums for TurboTax, noticed that its small business clients were seeking help in a new place.
"There was a lot of conversation happening on non-owned channels," says Mark Obee, Group Manager of Social and Community Care for Intuit on the QuickBooks brand. "The accountants were out there having those conversations without us."
Non-owned channels included private Facebook and LinkedIn groups, which caused a dilemma for a big company like Intuit. Obee knew that these sorts of groups were private for a reason - they didn't want big brands infiltrating with unwanted marketing messages.
Obee and his team reached out to influencers within these groups and asked how they could help. His goal was to "participate in those conversations to drive better outcomes". He quickly honed in on the answer: "listen, engage, and answer questions" with "honesty and transparency" - and no marketing.
"We learned that coming in as a participant versus an advocate, we were able to actually gain the trust of the groups," Obee says. The Social Evangelism Program at Intuit's QuickBooks was born, and it has allowed the company to connect with some of its most engaged users and deliver feedback to the product and customer service teams.
Discussions certainly revolved around QuickBooks, but they also extended to general questions about running a small business. Unpaid users eagerly engage with answers to both, and the QuickBooks team jumps in when necessary. It's important to "meet [customers] where they want to have those conversations," says Obee. "They won't always come to owned channels."
The private groups have evolved into a complementary piece of the customer service ecosystem; QuickBooks still receives plenty of inquiries in social media, but they also use social channels to highlight the groups, leverage answers, and create additional engagement. Incidentally, QuickBooks is currently sporting a sub-10-minute response time in social media for customers who choose that channel for service.
"'What's in it for the customer' really is a big part of the Intuit way and making sure we put the customer benefit above everything else and that's what's really paid off," says Obee. "Our strategy is being open and transparent" in all channels.
When asked about the growing use of "chat bots" in both Facebook Messenger and Twitter direct messages, Obee says they are good for companies for which operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is not practical.
"It gives them the benefit of reaching those customers during those times that you just can't be there," he says, adding that with all new technology, companies need to ask: "What is the customer benefit? What are you trying to solve for with your customers?"
Obee was the guest for Episode 43 of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast, where he described the Intuit philosophy and the QuickBooks strategy in detail.
Here are some key points of the episode and where to find them:
0:52 A quick look at Intuit's products and Mark's background
2:53 Mark discusses the QuickBooks "Social Evangelism" Program
5:04 How the brand gains the trust of a private group
7:18 Intuit's culture of community-based solutions and how it's evolved
9:48 How communities affect customer service staffing needs
11:11 Comparing owned communities, private groups, and social media channels
15:07 Dan talks about re-using help content
16:25 How direct messaging is playing into the QuickBooks customer service strategy
19:35 Mark shares a memorable interaction with a customer
21:44 Mark's key learnings from his time working in social care
Intuit and QuickBooks were chosen for the podcast because of readers and listeners like you suggesting great brands who are changing the game in social media customer service. Please send a tweet to @dgingiss using hashtag #FOCS and we will try to get your favorite brand on a future episode! Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Soundcloud.