Intuit CEO: In Business, Love Means Having to Say You’re Sorry by Brad Smith, via LinkedIn
The old adage – love means never having to say you’re sorry – never rang true for me. It doesn’t apply in my personal life, nor does it apply in business. If you disappoint the ones you care about – employees, customers, partners, shareholders – the right thing to do is to step up, own the mistake and apologize.
As a CEO, I wish I could say that I have little practice in this area, but that would be far from the truth. Companies, like humans, are a work in progress. Even with the best of intentions, we find ourselves in situations where we mess up, letting down the people who count on us.
The past two weeks have been a humbling refresher of this lesson for me and for our company. This year, we made a change to the CD/download version of our TurboTax desktop software. Our intention was to align our desktop, online and mobile versions to deliver faster innovation and improved experiences for all customers, but our execution left much to be desired. We didn’t communicate enough before implementing the change, and we were slow to react once we began hearing the much-deserved anger and disappointment from some of our customers. Simply stated, we messed up.
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We’re taking immediate action to make this right. Sasan Goodarzi, the leader of our TurboTax business shared this letter with affected customers.
This isn’t the first time we’ve made a mistake, and I wish I could promise that it will be our last. But I’m a realist, and I recognize that the pursuit of perfection doesn’t guarantee that outcome. What I can promise is that we won’t make the same mistake again. We have learned some important lessons that we have documented and shared across our company. My hope in sharing this with you is that we can pay it forward. As Mark Twain once famously stated, “A wise man learns from his own mistakes, but a genius learns from others.”
When changing a product that has served a customer well for many years, whether it is a change to the user interface, a feature, or even pricing:
Proactively engage in dialogue: Reach out and share why you feel the change is necessary, asking for their input on how best to manage the change. Seek feedback in areas you may not have considered.
Ease customers through a transition: Change is difficult for anyone, and having a bridging plan will help guide customers. For years, software companies and social media sites have learned this lesson many times over when changing the layout and design of their home pages and news feeds. They often offer a transition period between “classic” and “new,” helping loyal users transition over time. The same holds true for changing features, or even pricing. Always consider a transition plan that is best for the customer.
Finally, respond when you hear the questions, and don’t wait until you have all of the answers: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Once the change is implemented, listen for the feedback and move quickly to acknowledge you’ve heard it. Share what you’re doing to resolve and address any issues with a sense of urgency and commitment.
And above all else, if you mess up, don’t be afraid to say you’re sorry and make it right.
To all of our affected TurboTax desktop customers, I am sincerely sorry. We earned our way into this, now we’ll earn our way out.