Live from #TurboTaxLifeLine 2015

This week I had an amazing opportunity to join the TurboTax social team in San Diego for what Intuit calls “LifeLine”…the final push before tax day where Intuit employees gathered to help answer the thousands (and thousands) of last minute questions from customers before the filing deadline. I was asked to blog live from the front lines, and my updates were posted on Insights (Intuit’s intranet) and sent out via SNAP (Intuit’s internal newsletter). I thought it was such a great experience that I had to share it here too…

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I started yesterday (Monday) morning at 5am with a text exchange with fellow colleague Madeline Reeves (who was also here at LifeLine today) about how hard it was to get up so early & commute down to San Diego today (her from Seattle, me from Palm Springs)…after spending the day with the LifeLine team, I realize just how worth it that early morning was.

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One of the highlights was sitting at the Social Team table with Jim McGinnis & Ken Wach – two Intuit VPs who surely could have said they had more important things to do than answer TurboTax customer questions…but there they were, sleeves rolled up, right with the rest of us. It was also humbling to see that in the midst of the numerous questions about why returns were $29.99 instead of free, or how they can get their money back for the duplicate TT purchase they made, there were questions that we were able to answer that somehow felt like we were making our customers’ life a little easier.

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As a remote employee, I miss most of the holiday parties, costume contests, and sadly, sometimes camaraderie…but today I felt like we all came together to Deliver Awesome to our customers.

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Wednesday, April 15, 1:37am

#TurboTaxLifeLine – Day 2

If Monday was a LONG day…the word for Tuesday was hectic!

Tuesdays in our AAG world are known as #TSheetsTuesday. One of our highest rated QuickBooks Online App partners, TSheets Time Tracking, has created a “can you top this” atmosphere where Intuit employees, partners, and ProAdvisors try to one-up each other each week with the best TSheets Tuesday photos featuring their trademark “supersoft Tshirts”. Yesterday, team AAG got to bring TSheets Tuesday to #TurboTaxLifeLine here in San Diego, and present Scott Cook with his first TSheets Tshirt.

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Since Starting at Intuit 18 months ago, I’ve repeatedly been impressed by our leadership team’s “do as I say AND as I do” attitude, which always inspires me. I mentioned Monday how much it meant to see Jim McGinnis & Ken Wach in the trenches with us. Yesterday the cafeteria was packed again with employees from all over the place, uniting for one common cause: to do the nation’s taxes. I was honored to have the chance to personally thank Scott for setting the example for us and showing us how we win together. Just like a proud dad, he beamed back at me and said “well, our customers need us this week more than ever” and off we went, back to the AnswerXchange queue to see if we could delight another TurboTax customer.

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In a company as big at Intuit – it’s so easy to feel like you’re such a tiny part of the big picture…but Tuesday we had this huge reminder that we’re all #OneIntuit.

Wednesday, April 15, 10:29am

Coffee!

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It’s officially TDay – the mood (and the music) is more tense today. Even the social table could be mistaken for the “anti-social table”. Lots of heads down. We’re in the home stretch, and the suggestion board sums up my thoughts quite nicely. I think the whole San Diego LifeLine crew is running on coffee and passion to deliver awesome to our customers – one more day, team!

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Thursday, April 16, 9:45am

Perspective. Exhaustion. Empathy. Gratitude.

I can sum up my lifeline experience in those four words.

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Coming from the QuickBooks world, I now have a new perspective on the role that our TurboTax care team plays – especially leading up to Tax Day. Having never been on the front line before, I had no idea the sheer volume, nor the vast array of topics that our customers struggle with to do their taxes. While some companies might feel that determining the depreciation schedule for chicken coops, whether someone should or shouldn’t be paying tax in Yonkers, or how to account for the $8,000 that a student earned from his father last Summer is not a software company’s problem, Intuit brought all hands on deck (including experts for each state), and did everything we could to help each and every one of them.

April 15 is sort of like the marathon finish line for most of my partners. They finally make it, but celebrating is the last thing on their mind – sleep is first. They’re exhausted. April 16 is a day of recovery for most tax accountants. With my partners, most of the last four weeks has sounded something like “That will be great, let’s talk after April 15”. This year, I finally understand (in a very small way) what that must feel like. We had agents chatting away until 9pm last night…it almost felt like a New Year’s Eve countdown…thank goodness it didn’t have to wait until midnight (everyone might have fallen asleep).

After this week, I have a new dose of empathy for my firms & what they go through. Yes, I only spent 3 days at LifeLine, but it makes me feel like I’ve lived in their shoes even if it’s for a short time. The pressure and the pace were just mini-windows into the end of tax season, and now I know exactly how my firms must feel.

Finally, I am so filled with gratitude to Intuit, and to the team who does this full time. I’m thankful that we have agents who sift through these questions and help these customers all day, every day. I’m grateful that our company chose to give the rest of us a chance to ride along for the week and see how it’s done. And I’m thrilled to have the chance to share it with all my colleagues and recommend LifeLine to anyone who has the opportunity to do it next year. I’ll happily save a seat for you.

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Going the Extra 1,000 Miles

With a quick glance at my Twitter feed, you’ll find out pretty quickly that I’m extremely passionate about customer service. I probably choose to exercise my Twitter voice a tad too often when I’m frustrated by any of my frequent vendors, or receive poor service in general…and I know I’ve already blogged about the topic here too. But it’s a two-way street – I expect and expect to provide others with exceptional experiences. It’s part of why I feel working at Intuit fits me so well – after all, our final core value is Deliver Awesome.

When I personally experience a disappointing customer experience, I often find that the way it’s handled is even more of what sticks out in my mind than the initial problem in general. For example, I was recently mischarged at CVS for a few items (nothing earth shattering, but it was more the principle of it), and hadn’t caught it until I was already home and on my way out of town. I brought in my receipt when I got back, and explained what happened. While the woman did refund my money (finally, after an argument about it), she made me feel so stupid and frustrated that while I got my $10, the experience was far more expensive & I left a frustrated customer really questioning whether I wanted to shop there going forward (after all, there’s a Walgreens down the street). Or on a recent flight delay, I finally argued United into Super-Shuttling me home instead of making me stay at LAX (25 minute flight from Palm Springs) overnight, but not after they gave me such an attitude that I actually Tweeted to American Airlines asking if they would match my United status.

I sometimes feel like a broken record talking about how proud I am to be wearing Intuit Blue and representing a company who puts Employees and Customers so high up on their priority list. This past month, however, I’ve been involved in a situation that takes that pride to the next level and beyond.

The scenario starts off with every employee’s worst nightmare – a partner, and their customer, having major problems and unable to get straight answers from support. To add insult to injury, there was a delay in getting an escalated support agent in touch with them. I’ll just come out and say it – it was bad. I was mortified that balls were dropped, and absolutely fell on my sword with my partner accepting full responsibility for the delay, and the poor experience.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, all of this culminated the Friday night before Christmas…but that’s actually where the story starts getting good. Around 5pm local time, I had a VP at Intuit on the phone, walking the halls of the office, recruiting an army to fix it.

I’d love to say it was an easy fix – and that by Monday morning that next week they were up and running, but that’s not how it went. If you fast forward – you’ll skip through multiple hospital visits (don’t ask), numerous long nights & weekends worked (including middle-of-the-night file imports), several holidays ignored to ensure deadlines were hit, and a plethora of other bumps in the road…all with one goal in mind: Deliver Awesome to this customer.

No, we couldn’t make up for the poor initial experience, nor could we snap our fingers and make this particular problem go away, but what we could do is provide our partner & customer with the determination to get them back up and running and not give up on them. After one of our numerous status calls, I wound up in a back & forth conversation with our Care Leader who’s been spearheading this operation – and I told him then how much I knew he’d done – and appreciated him & the team so much. I couldn’t help but feel, in the midst of this nightmare, so much pride to be on their team. We jokingly asked each other about a theme song for this entire project – his suggestion seemed too fitting to argue – he and the team have definitely gone the extra 500 miles – and 500 more!

What a Difference a Year Makes

The end of October marked one year since I started at Intuit. I remember walking into the room at #Solutions13 only 6 days on the job, and breathing a big sigh of relief…I felt like I had just come home.

As much as I felt at home, I realized how much had changed in the 15 months since I’d left the VSB Apps world to focus on internal accounting firm solutions. I mean, who the heck is TSheets and why is everyone wearing their shirts?

The sense of home is a bit ironic – for those who know me, I’m rarely home. Between extensive travel for work, and commuting between OC & Palm Springs – in 2014 “home” sort of became my suitcase and me, wherever that happens to be that night.

As I fast forward to today and look back on what 2014 brought professionally, I’m amazed to see in 14 short months not only that that I finally settled in, but grew the most amazing roots I’ve ever had professionally.

I’ve never been so proud to represent a company than I am working for Intuit. I’m surrounded by amazing, inspiring leaders who give me confidence that we’re well on our way to the next phase of Great. I’m every bit as grateful for teammates like Emily, Valerie, Woody, and the one & only Leary, who show me that they personally care about the success of our partners and customers too.

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I now know what TSheets is, and absolutely adore them…and I’m the proud owner of not just one – but two of the world’s softest TSheets TShirts. Kelly, Jen, Matt, Kelsie, and Victoria – you are all so amazing and make me thrilled to call you partners. Just so I don’t get accused of playing favorites (except it’s my blog, so I can), Jules, Chris & Team Tallie, Maddy & my pals at Avalara, and one of my newest friends, Caroline from Palo Alto Software (LivePlan) – are just a few more of this year’s highs – I can’t wait to continue bringing the QBO Ecosystem message to accounting firms everywhere.

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Spending nearly 90% of the year away from home this year was made immensely easier because of amazing work friends…who’ve now become friend-friends. Stacy, Richard, Mark, Jan, Gail, Shayna, Cathy, & Chelsey – I am so thankful that “work” includes you.

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On a personal note, it was a year of change too – Auntie Kim welcomed a new niece and nephew, and I said goodbye to my first grandparent…both have given me a new sense of urgency to capture every moment – even if it’s a 30 minute visit en-route to the airport, a 4-hour layover in Houston, or that late night phone call to tease Grandpa about his Tigers…you never know when you won’t have that chance again.

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Something tells me that more change is on the horizon this year – so I’ll anxiously await exciting new adventures, and embrace different challenges, and hey, maybe even take on a new last name…

Happy New Year – wishing you all the best in 2015!

16 Things I Learned on #QBConnectOrBust

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I’m in the car on my way to #Solutions14. Of course, there are no @Intuitaccts challenges, only two of us in the car, and it’s just about 4 hours to Vegas instead of 443 miles to San Jose…but before I close the book on #QBConnect as the last big conference, I had to recap what I learned during this journey.

  1. Hotel room keys typically work best when trying to enter the correct room (right, Jan?)
  2. There is exactly a right amount of cream that Kelly should put in her coffee – and Brian can tell her when “that’s enough”
  3. When Richard warns you that you’ll likely want to throw him out of the car during the drive – keep in mind, he might be so right it happens before you leave the parking lot
  4. 3 people can spend 4 hours putting together a 12+ hour playlist, and the most notable song of the trip may still have been sung to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus” accompanied by a kazoo
  5. After 4 hours, not even one of those 3 people will think to test the audio connection in the vehicle to ensure it is actually equipped to play from an MP3 player
  6. When you need tech support – you’re extra thankful you invited a millennial along for the ride, Madeline to the rescue!
  7. When half of the passengers in a car were born in 1983 or later, the question “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” will invoke Siri and Google maps for reference material (now we all know to ask Gail)
  8. Kazoos are not as easy to play as you may think
  9. It’s completely possible to convert 3 QuickBooks Desktop files to QuickBooks Online from the backseat of a car filled with 6 #QBConnect Attendees (in fact, a few of them might even help out a little) somewhere between Valencia and Fresno
  10. Writing “Honk if you love QuickBooks Online” on the back of a Ford Expedition gives the driver an excuse to cut off traffic whenever necessary to elicit additional honks/ “likes”
  11. It’s entirely possible to stretch a 6 hour 41 minute drive to 10 hours by stopping at 3 Starbucks, 2 McDonalds, 1 In-N-Out Burger, and a gas station (plus the emergency AV cord recon)
  12. Posing with David Leary’s head on a stick can double your social impressions
  13. The aftermath of 6 business professionals in an SUV for 10 hours resembles a typical college dorm room on a Sunday morning – one word: HazMat
  14. A great way to redeem yourself after almost being thrown out of the car 5 minutes into the trip is reminding Brian to check the gas gage at 4 miles till empty (can you say Thelma & Louise?)
  15. The best way to assure you’ll leave #QBConnect more exhausted than any other conference is to arrive there already wiped out from a day in the car
  16. If you ever want to get to know, love, and appreciate 6 of your “favorite industry colleagues”…call them up and invite them to take a ride to San Jose. You’ll remember it for a long long time – Do I have any takers for #QBConnectOrBust 2015?

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Win Together

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to take part in the first-ever Intuit Global Business Development Manager Summit in Mountain View. As I geared up for four days with my US and international counterparts, I admit, about all I could picture was long days and late nights – but what I wasn’t expecting was all the laughs, and the valuable lessons learned in those four days.

The beauty of this event being at Intuit HQ is that we were honored to receive visits from Intuit executives from our Founder, Scott Cook, to the head of Small Business Group, Dan Wernikoff, to our CEO, Brad Smith. Not to mention the weeklong commitments made by Jim McGinniss, Mark Dean, and Caroline Donahue, as well as Country Managers from our global regions.

Throughout the week, we discussed social selling and building personal brands, compared notes from the Canada, Australia, UK, and India teams, heard directly from a panel of accountants, and strategized on how to tackle the challenges that no doubt will face us this year. There was so much knowledge, perspective, inspiration, and energy flowing through the room all week. There’s no question that my favorite part was meeting and spending time with colleagues I didn’t even know I had…here are just a few of my favorite moments that I thought I’d share.

I admit I was a little star struck by Intuit’s Founder, Scott Cook. The inspirational story of Scott’s early Intuit years filled with uncertainties and struggles only make me prouder to be a part of the company he’s built – and I hope I continue to make him proud to say “To me, YOU are Intuit.”

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The UK BDM team, led by Nick Williams, wasted no time showing their true colors – by opening up their turn on stage with a karaoke-style parody of “I Get Knocked Down” entitled “We Win Together”. Video footage may or may not exist (sorry, Bounce Bounce).

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My new pals from down under lived up to the Aussie reputation. Meet Birthday-selfie-Geoff Craig, who managed to steal photos with every Intuit exec he could find on Thursday (what coincidentally was his special day).

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For comic relief – we had Nick Skiadopoulos from Australia…who had us in stitches from day one and by the time we left I had laughed so hard it hurt. Bonus points to him for hopping into the Twitterverse in style with this hilarious first tweet.

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Oh Canada! What a great group of BDMs including Angela, who showed up to the BDM Summit on her first day at Intuit, and our gracious photographer, Steve Beech. I had a blast chatting about social networks & online presence with these guys while we froze our tails off touring San Francisco.

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As if the week hadn’t been great enough already, we closed it down on the heels of his record-breaking earnings announcement, with a visit from our CEO, Brad Smith – who’s parting advice was to “Be the best you you can be”.

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I’m so thankful to be at a place in my career with a company who invests so greatly in us as employees. It’s no easy task bringing 60+ people from around the globe together – and coordinating another 25+ to present and ensure that we came away better BDM’s than we were when we got to Silicon Valley. I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting the famous “CD” before this past week, but flew home with a new sense of respect for the leading woman at Intuit. Once again, thank you, Caroline for spending the week with us.

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As you can see – it was quite an action packed week. I came home sleep deprived, under-caffeinated, and with a giant to-do list. But am I a better employee, and person, after last week? To quote Mark Dean – “Hell YEAH!”

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Game On!

One of the most heated battles being waged today in the accounting industry is over online accounting software – both for those already using it, and those users getting ready to make the switch.  New players are popping up, literally every month, claiming new features, more flexibility, and sporting fancy logos – and there’s about as much mudslinging and smear campaigning as an election November.

Over the past several years, working for companies that allowed me to “play well in the sandbox with everyone”, I’ve been able to make friends, form strategic alliances, and have come to respect so many of the individuals and companies in this arena. I’ve had a front row seat on the sidelines and have watched it all play out as this duel has heated up…until the other day when I got a call.

I’m proud to announce that I’ve been drafted! Effective this week, I’m suiting up to play for one of the largest accounting software companies in the world, Intuit. As a brand new QuickBooks Online is unveiled, so too is our brand new Dream Team, including my new colleagues, Ray Barlow and David Bergstein. Together, we’ll take on the challenge of helping CPAs bring their clients into the Cloud, and deliver the promise that you can never outgrow the new QBO.

 As if putting on an Intuit jersey isn’t satisfying enough by itself, the promise of teaming with industry legends like Darren Root, Doug Sleeter, reconnecting with some of my favorite partners like Bill.com, Avalara, and SmartVault, and working with newly formed connections like Richard Roppa and Stacy Kildal might just be the icing on the cake. The cherry on top is the opportunity to work even closer with one of the most influential people on my career, Scott Cytron.

This will definitely be a marathon and not a sprint, so I’m packing my stilettos, but lacing up my Nikes for the long haul. We’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves, and know that this will be an exciting journey. The key is that we’ll be here to help firms, accountants, and our customers through it each step of the way.

Ready, Set, GO!

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The Face of Change

This past Labor Day I was one of those people who got swept up in the excitement of watching a woman accomplish a 35-year dream in the making by completing a 110-mile swim across the Atlantic Ocean. As if I wasn’t already inspired enough (the athlete in me is always a sucker for a great beating the odds story), as the exhausted 64-year-old stood on the beach in Key West and declared “This may look like a solitary sport, but it’s a team”, I instantly grew an amazing amount of respect for Diana Nyad.

While it pales in comparison to swimming from Cuba to Florida, I am nonetheless honored and humbled to have had the privilege of joining two amazing women, Shayna Chapman and Michelle Golden, for the September CPA Practice Advisor magazine cover story: The Changing Face of Accounting & Technology. As the story (originally designed to look at the sole idea of three prominent female industry professionals – a CPA, a Consultant, and a Technology vendor – all striving to better the profession – which is something that 10 or 15 years ago would have been hard to find) began taking shape, it was amazing to see what we learned about each other, and about the evolution of dynamics between practitioners, consultants, and software companies. In the end, it was the theme of collaboration among CPAs, consultants and technology players that was highlighted as we see the rapid change in the interactions between these three distinct types of players. By working together for the greater good (serving small, mid-sized, and large businesses), we’re better able to grow as an industry and move the notorious slow-to-change accounting world forward.

Since the issue launched I’ve been approached by some of the most respected individuals in our industry, and while I’m completely flattered, It’s only right to point out that this story, and this cover would never have happened if it weren’t for the change makers who have lead the way for the past 10, 15, even 20 years. Rick Richardson has been preaching change and embracing technology since I was in Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Mark Koziel has been pushing the profession forward from within the AICPA in ways that very few of us will ever see. Doug Sleeter has devoted his career to serving the QuickBooks ProAdvisor community – and has recognized the need to embrace change within his own network too. And nobody more than Randy Johnston can be credited for leading accounting practitioners, consultants, and vendors forward and creating the driving force by which technology companies work for accountants instead of against them. So while we may be faces of change – we represent an entire team.

So while Shayna, Michelle and I soak up our 15 of minutes of fame, here’s to those who have been the face of change in our world for the past decade. Thanks for going before us and creating the path.  Thanks for giving us hope that a future generation will be blogging about the difference we made as the next generation of game changers grace the CPAPA cover 10 years from now. I wonder what shoes they’ll wear at their cover shoot?

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