I love my smartphone because when I’m not behind my desk, I can still do almost everything associated with my job.

  • Check and reply to business emails quickly
  • Take business calls, forwarded from my main desk phone number
  • Manage user accounts and jobs
  • Admin our QuickBooks user forum
  • Moderate blog comments, and reply to them
  • Tweet, reply, retweet, follow — anything Twitter
  • Follow LinkedIn discussions I’m tracking
  • Gmail chat my family (ok, that’s not a business thing, but is really cool)
  • Listen to Pandora (ditto)

My current phone of choice? Verizon’s Droid Incredible. It has JavaScript and Flash support; there’s really no website I’ve browsed yet that hasn’t worked.

So if I’m on the road or even just checking email in a restaurant parking lot after lunch, I’m just as connected as I would be at my desk. That makes for better business communication, faster responses, and quicker customer service. Rocks.

I think the biggest competitive advantage small businesses can have is faster and more personal responses to opportunities and customers. And that’s a door that smartphones can open. Smartphones make it *much* easier to stay connected to your online network.

How about you? Is a smartphone an important part of your business life?

Posted in IT.

I’ve read a lot in the last few months about people having difficulties registering their install of QuickBooks. I’ve heard Intuit employees respond that improvements have been made.

So with some degree of optimism, I installed and registered a new license of QB Pro 2010 on a computer running Windows Vista.

Overall, I found that the process seems somewhat better than a lot of what I’ve read. But there is room for improvement. See my four suggestions at the bottom of this article.

I insert the QuickBooks install CD and it fires up. I put in my license code. I accept the default options for an express install. About 15 minutes later, it’s done! No problems so far. Do I want to run QuickBooks now? Sure! I’ve got a good working  QBW file. Let’s open it up.

Error -6000,-77. What!? I don’t recognize the -77 part right off, but 6000 errors often mean data damage. Sometimes they mean environmental issues. I know this data is clean. (I look it up, and a -6000 -77 error means there is a folder permissions problem where the data is. Not sure why that would apply here though.)

I close out QB and it closes cleanly now. I find my QBW file through Windows on My Computer and double-click it. Voila! It opens up just fine now. Now it wants me to register.

OK. I’ll be curious about this. There has been a kind of conspiracy theory on Twitter about the registration process. Some say that Intuit wants to upsell their users hard, so the online registration never works – it  always makes you register over the phone. Why? So you have to hear the sales spiels, you see. That’s what suspicious minds think, anyway.

I start the process of registering online. I already have an Intuit ID, so I log in. It wants more info about me. OK. I have to put in my billing information. Why? I am not going to buy anything. But the asterisks say it’s required info. so I enter it.

I’m in my account overview screen, but, uh, where did QuickBooks go? On my monitor, part of the information is off the screen, below the last field. Is there a submit button down there? This is not a scrolling or resizeable window. I have no idea where the focus of the window is right now. I dare not just press ENTER, fearing that I’ll then be signing up for all manner of optional services.

I monkey around with tabs and clicks, and somehow can now see the “Save” button. I save. Now what? I can’t see a “Return to QuickBooks” button, if there is one. There are no relevant navigation controls at all. The only thing remotely “exit-y” is “Sign Out”. I click that. Uh oh. The registration takes me down a dead-end street and drops me off. I see this screen:

What the heck? No navigation controls except links to Intuit corporate pages. I’m not in a browser window, although it kinda looks like one. Close Window control doesn’t respond. I’m tempted to Task Manager/End Task my way out of this but that definitely wouldn’t be right, and as far as I know, my company data is still open. It would be a sad thing to CTRL-ALT-DEL it into corruption.

I poke around. F2 brings up my QuickBooks Product Information. OK, QuickBooks is still alive in there… It says my product is still UNREGISTERED. Figures. I randomly hit ESC. Voila! Back in QuickBooks again. It says that the online registration failed and I have to register by phone.

Ah, so here we go. I call the 800 number. Please enter my phone number. I do, but it doesn’t like it. “You will now be connected with a registration representative to help you.”

You know those March-of-Dimes coin funnel things they have in grocery stores sometimes? I feel like a penny spiraling down the giant funnel of this registration process – my destination is inevitable. There is no way I’m going to avoid talking to a rep who is going to try to sell me a bunch of stuff.

So in less than a minute, a fellow named Brian comes on the line. He asks me a couple of questions. He gets my license codes. HE DOES NOT OFFER TO SELL ME ANYTHING. He gives me my validation code and has me press F2 again. REGISTERED.

Brian bids me good day. OK! All’s well that ends well.

I suggest that Intuit consider changing the following aspects of their product registration process:

  1. Launch a browser session to capture the information, rather than putting me in an ill-designed pseudo-browser with non-standard flow and controls.
  2. Don’t ask me for billing info. If I want to buy an optional service/app later, there is plenty of time to get my billing details later.
  3. Give me a nice, clear, “Return to QuickBooks” link somewhere, or other appropriate form controls. Don’t dump me in a blind alley. CTRL-ALT-DEL shouldn’t be coming into my head…
  4. If I registered, count it. In spite of the difficulties, I was able to save my information on the form. So why didn’t QuickBooks show that it was registered?

My first tech job long ago was doing software quality assurance, so it was kind of fun analyzing my experience with the QuickBooks registration process.

My final thought: Kudos to Intuit for listening to users’ complaints about over-marketing and toning that down. I am impressed that, though they are large, Intuit seems to respond to its users.

What are your thoughts on the current QuickBooks registration process? Was your experience like mine?

I just read a great article in Start Up Nation Online. It describes customer service in pretty stark terms: people notice either really good or really bad customer service.

A quick search of  tweets on “QuickBooks” from the last 24 hours shows the following:

  • installing quickbooks required me to call support to register the product. No web based reg? have to call? really? sheesh.
  • I want to integrate my bank transactions with Quickbooks Online Plus, no one at your bank’s 800 # has a clue, any help?
  • Is QuickBooks Online down for anyone else this morning? #needtopaypayrolltaxes

A tweet on the positive side: The QuickBooks Balance for those using online banking has been added back to the homepage per QB Online user requests. Yeah feedback! !

And another positive example: @RebeccaTervoCPA Just had a potential client call to say “My Quickbooks are a mess, and I need them fixed for the bank by next Thursday!” I’ll try my best:)

So it gets me thinking. What makes for a really great QuickBooks customer service or support experience? These tweets plus my own experience suggest these qualities:

  • Great communication: Listening to users and responding with action
  • Great empathy: Responding to the urgency of the problem.
  • Great competence: Dealing with someone who is an expert.
  • Great timeliness: Getting  a quick and effective solution to the problem.

What would make for a really bad software support experience?

  • Poor communications: Having difficulty finding out the status of what’s going on.
  • Poor relationship: Being treated primarily as an upsell prospect
  • Poor system: Being put on hold for a long time.

No support organization is perfect. It’s great that Twitter makes it easy to feel the pulse of the QuickBooks user; all of us who support QuickBooks can adjust and improve the way we serve end users.

When QuickbooksUsers.com helps someone with a software issue, we often send them a “How did we do?” questionnaire to get feedback. We use that feedback to tweak what we do. But maybe we have some blind spots. Let me know…

Do you have anything to add to the list of what makes great or awful service and support?