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Meet the speakers of Social Media & Community 2.0 Strategies: Ali McCourt, TurboTax Inner Circle

We’re pleased to announce d like to present you with the first of a series of speaker podcasts delivered by our outstanding Social Media & Community 2.0 Strategies speaker faculty.

Our first conversation is with Ali McCourt, who is the leader of the TurboTax Inner Circle.


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Can you tell us about the TurboTax Community?
Ali: I manage a community called The TurboTax Inner Circle. And essentially what it is is a volunteer army, a group of about 25,000 customers, and they participate with us by raising their hand and telling us that they want to help build better products and services. We work with them throughout the year to get those insights. So the goal for our community is two fold. On the product and marketing site, it’s really to obtain quick customer insight to help us drive enhancements and changes. On the customer side, it’s really building loyalty among those who want to engage with us. So it’s really great because as a result of interacting with them, and getting quick iterations on our product, obviously we get those benefits in that we get to push those to our product. And then on the customer loyalty side, we get to build this engaged group of evangelists who help spread word of mouth. And then they’re also leveraged for immediate feedback year round. We have great participation rates within our community.

How has it helped build a relationship with your customers? Has there been a financial benefit from creating this community?
Ali: Absolutely. Any time you really listen to customers and take their feedback to heart, and put it into your products, you’re going to see the financial benefits, because these are the people who buy your products. But chances are that more specifically within this community, I’ll give you an example. We launched a feature about a year and a half ago and we saw an immediate lift in revenue by $6 million. And since it’s been implemented, we’ve seen a lift of over $19 million in the last two years and that’s just with one feature. We do this year round, there’s upwards of 30 or 40 interactions per year that we have with this group. So financial upside is kind of a no brainer when you consider the cost of what it takes to listen to your customers.

Now for the first question, how does this help with engagement? I think this really helps us humanize our brand. So, this group of 25,000 customers sees me as TurboTax Ali. So now there’s a face and a persona with the brand versus “Oh, it’s Intuit,” or “Oh, it’s TurboTax.” They really have this special relationship with me and they know that they can come to myself or the community to get help or give feedback, to really know that they’re listened in their feedback and their time is taken to heart. So for us, I think that’s the biggest benefit. And that’s why we keep doing this, and it kind of creates this virtuous cycle of engagement. We’re able to close the loop with them and tell them where their feedback has been enacted. Pointing to it actually gets them more excited to get participating and giving us more ideas. I think this is the best way we’ve worked to create engagement.

You won a Groundswell Award for your work on this online community. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Ali: The Groundswell Award we won last year was for Company Transformation. So I have to give credit to my colleagues, so it wasn’t just the Inner Circle that won the award. It was our whole company. So QuickBooks community, who is another business division of our company, has their own community. The Inner Circle was also part of that, and then our TurboTax Live Community, which is a live question and answer based support site. This leverages the power of community in order to answer those questions.

What I think it really goes back to is that social is in Intuit’s DNA. Our founder Scott Cook is a huge advocate of listening to customers and building our products around their feedback and what they think would be easy to do. I think it’s really a part of our brand since we’ve been around in the last 25, 26 yeas. We think of it in three components. We’ve got the social media side, which is more marketing through Twitter, Facebook, contests, etc. Then we have the technology, which is the platform you build the components on. If you wanted to leverage social data, that’s where it falls into place. And then we have our communities, which is the Inner Circle and the live community side of things. The way we’ve broken this down into the different components has defiantly shown in winning the Groundswell award. It’s not just one silo in our company, it’s transparent throughout. No matter who you talk to, everyone is excited to talk to customers, and I think that’s kind of why we’ve been so successful.

To find out more about Ali McCourt's presentation and the rest of the Social Media Strategies and Community 2.0 event, download the brochure here.

Jenny Pereira

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