Designing a Customer Driven Product



In a recent member post, Intuit – Focusing on What Doesn’t Make Sense, we told the incredible story of how Intuit’s first product, QuickBooks, gained market share against multiple competing products that were cheaper and had more features.

All companies claim to be customer driven, but few put it into action better than Intuit. Perhaps the best illustration of this is a brilliant strategy that Scott Cook put into place early on known as “Follow - Me - Homes”.

A follow me home is when a few Intuit employees visit a customer’s home or office (with permission) and observe how they use Intuit’s products. The employees are trained to observe and not ask questions until the end.

Setting up focus groups or labs to see how potential customers use products isn’t reality. Intuit wants to see how their products are actually being used. They want to see how many times a customer gets distracted, if they use mobile or desktop, if at any point there is confusion, etc. Real customer behavior gives them a complete picture faster.

Past Intuit CFO said, “Whether we are watching someone at their kitchen table doing their tax return, or watching someone do payroll or taxes in their office, follow me home is a critical way we learn about how our platforms are used".

Follow me homes originated when the company was receiving complaints that never appeared in focus groups to test the software.

Excerpt from Fortune Article:

Cook read a Wall Street Journal article about American homeowners suing a foreign automaker. The plaintiffs had rented rooms in their homes to students at nearby universities, only to find that the “students” were actually employees of the automaker whose purpose was to observe how Americans use their cars.

In this creepy tactic, Cook saw the kernel of a great idea. “We went to a local computer store, and every time they sold one of our products they included a note from us saying, ‘We’d like to come watch you take the shrink-wrap off the product’ ”—and then observe what follows. Thus was born the follow-me-home.

Today Intuit conducts some 10,000 hours of these visits annually. Intuit CEO Brad Smith himself does 60 to 100 hours a year. “What you get from a follow-me-home you can’t get from a data stream,” he says. “You’ve got to look somebody in the eye and feel the emotion.”