Love at First Use: Three Tips for Building Awesome Products

It’s said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Nowhere is this more true than in product development. You may have built a truly amazing product, full of wonderful features that deliver lasting value to customers, but if you don’t have an amazing first-use experience, it’s game over!

In today’s world, first impressions matter more than ever before. Prospects have little patience for friction or confusion. In a mobile-first world, potential customers will download and test-drive our app, and if it doesn’t deliver some benefit or WOW in its first impression … they press the app until it wiggles, hit the X, and go searching for a better solution.

This new reality has motivated us to take a fresh look at our first use experiences, and our observations have led to three guiding principles to successfully introduce customers to our products:

  • Time-To-Benefit: Make sure that the customer immediately sees how and why they would use the product. Resist the temptation to reveal all the great long-term benefits, but instead, focus on getting to real core customer value in a simple, fast and approachable manner.
  • Ease (Do It For Me): Only ask for the absolute minimum information to get started. Once you ask for it, don’t ask again. Every request for information introduces friction and can reduce conversion significantly.
  • Emotional Delight: Go beyond functionality and surprise your customers. Make the most important tasks easier than expected. Seek to create moments of “Wow!” that will generate positive word of mouth.

A great first use experience is the front door to powering growth for a new or existing product. Don’t let all the hard work that goes into creating a great product be sabotaged by not putting in the time and effort of designing a delightful gateway. None of us want to see the next thumb being placed on our wiggling app to delete it!

*This blog originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can follow Brad Smith on LinkedIn here.

Video: New Expectations for Customer Experience

CeCe Morken, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit Financial Services recently presented the opening keynote at the Barlow Research National Client conference. This is part three of the video series.

Serving Small Businesses: A Tough, but Important Nut for Bankers to Crack

Intuit Financial Services’ CeCe Morken explores how bankers can best serve small businesses, a critical customer segment for financial institutions.

Video: Banking Customers Are Changing: Are Bankers Prepared?

Intuit Financial Services’ CeCe Morken explores consumer trends and insights that will impact how financial institutions serve customers.

Video: Customer Insights with CeCe Morken, Intuit Financial Services

CeCe Morken, President and General Manager of Intuit Financial Services discusses how financial institutions can help better engage with customers and grow.

FI Spotlight: M&T Bank

Last month, M&T Bank launched new financial management and budgeting capabilities within online banking called FinanceWorks. For just $0.99 a month, the bank’s customers can manage all their financial transactions in one place, whether they’re executed on an M&T account or not. To provide further insight to members, M&T Bank also added a service which allows members to get their FICO credit score for a monthly fee. Mike Shryne, manager of alternative banking at M&T explains that the credit score is a true FICO score, giving members a snapshot of their “creditworthiness.” Shryne indicated that this added service was prompted by customers’ “heightened awareness of how important one’s credit score is to the ability to borrow, and also to monitor financial security in the age of identity theft.”  Since M&T updates FICO scores monthly, members can track their credit over time.

While some may be wary of the fees associated with these services, Shryne warns that these solutions prevent additional fees from untrustworthy third party sites.  Some “free” credit sites are misleading and end up charging expensive fees until you cancel the service, making a straight fee of $2.99 for “a straight service” a fair price.

You can read the full New York Times article here.


How are you helping your customers manage their credit and finances end to end? How important is it to give customers a one-stop dashboard of services and information? Tweet at @bankingdotcom or let us know in the comments below.

Social Media is Not the Next New Thing

There is nothing revolutionary or exciting about social media. Building customer relationships has been a bank’s job since the onset of the financial services industry. Over the past hundred years, banks have successfully adopted technologies from telegraphs to telephones, in an effort to better serve customers. Social media is just the latest step in this evolutionary path.

However, to successfully build relationships in social media, financial services firms must rethink a few paradigms of customer engagement. First, customers should not be required to come to the bank’s turf for help or information.  While traditional channels will continue to be important, customers want bankers to step outside their stores and join them in conversations on the sidewalks of the social web.

The first step into the fresh air of social media should be listening to customers to understand current conversations. Once topics and needs are understood, a bank can respond to customers, so long as value can be delivered through the engagement. If a customer requires a private environment to discuss their issue, they should be invited to step back inside a traditional channel where secure servicing can be delivered.

Second, social media breaks through the traditional silos of customer communications and mixes all messages, whether they originate from marketing, customer service or corporate communications in to a messy soup, side by side and often colored by customer commentary. Success in this new reality requires tight coordination between internal teams to ensure quick, consistent and coordinated communications.

Financial services firms may initially feel overwhelmed by the risks and options of social media. Success comes when they approach social media as they would any other program by requiring clear alignment to business priorities and customer needs, articulated success metrics and risk management planning. So long as they start with their customer, financial services firms are not breaking new ground by entering social media. They are simply doing what they have always done­—growing their business through strong customer relationships, with a little help from a new technology.

Kimarie Matthews is Vice President of Social Web for Wells Fargo’s Internet Services Group. For more than 10 years, Kimarie has been helping improve the customer experience in financial services by developing customer listening and satisfaction measurement programs that guide the business to better meet customer needs. She is now on the front lines of proactive customer support managing Wells Fargo’s Twitter channels (@ask_wellsfargo and @wachovia) and developing programs that extend Wells Fargo’s ability to support customers by leveraging social technologies.

Tell Your Customers: Get Rid Of Inventory!

Editor’s Note: Gene Marks is a small business management columnist, author, and speaker who also owns and operates The Marks Group PC, a highly successful 10-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses. The Marks Group PC, launched in 2004, has grown to help more than 500 companies and more than 2,000 individuals throughout the country. Gene writes weekly online columns for The New York Times and Forbes, as well as monthly and bi-weekly columns for Bloomberg Business Week and American City Business Journals. Intuit has, on several occasions, contracted Gene to provide marketing-related services.

“But I need to carry these items,” Sam whined to me one day. “What if a customer called and I didn’t have it in stock?”

Do you have customers who are distributors? Fine, then it’s their business to carry inventory. They’re the middle man. Inventory is their life. They’re being paid to make sure stuff is in stock so the manufacturer doesn’t have to.

But wait, you have customers who are not distributors? They manufacture? They provide services? Then you, as their banker, should say to this them: “What the HELL are you doing with extra inventory in your shop? Shame on you!”

Sam sells and services fire protection systems to restaurants and retail customers. He’s got inventory lying around all over the place. He’s got a warehouse with spare parts stacked up to the ceiling. He’s got a dozen trucks on the road with parts stuck in every crevice. Some of his techs keep materials in their own homes.

This surplus inventory is sucking out the cash. He’s leasing more warehouse space than he needs. He’s incurring utilities and other additional overhead costs. He’s losing production administering and accounting for missing parts. And he’s missing parts. Fifty bucks here, 50 bucks there. Sam’s company tosses out thousands of dollars each year on inventory mismanagement. It costs Sam MORE money just to keep a lot of this inventory then not.

“But,” he tells you, “what if a customer called and he didn’t have it in stock?”

Well, that depends on the customer! Sam wants to make sure he has stuff in-house so that if ANY customer calls he can get a replacement part right out to them. It’s not a great idea. If the customer is a high dollar, high turnover account then carrying inventory especially for them would make sense. But if it’s not, then other arrangements have to be made.

Tell him to dump that inventory. Sell it back to the manufacturer. Scrap it. Set it on fire. Whatever, just reduce it. Re-negotiate your lease for less space. Put a ping pong table in that newly created area so your people can have some fun on their lunch break. Or build a room there and move in your teenage son. There are a lot of great things you can do once you’ve relieved yourself of excess inventory.

It’s your job to help Sam re-think how he is servicing some of his customers. Can most parts be over-nighted from the manufacturer? If it’s going to be less expensive to pay that shipping cost, should he then carry the part in-house? Are the parts truly mission critical? Can they wait a day or two? Will Sam lose a significant amount of business because it takes an extra day to get that part in? Or is he losing more money on that account by keeping the part in stock?

By Gene Marks

How Much Did Your Customers Lose Today?

Editor’s Note: Gene Marks is a small business management columnist, author, and speaker who also owns and operates The Marks Group PC, a highly successful 10-person firm that provides technology and consulting services to small and medium sized businesses.  The Marks Group PC, launched in 2004, has grown to help more than 500 companies and more than 2,000 individuals throughout the country. Gene writes weekly online columns for The New York Times and Forbes, as well as monthly and bi-weekly columns for Bloomberg Business Week and American City Business Journals. Intuit has, on several occasions, contracted Gene to provide marketing-related services. Here, Gene offers advice to bankers on how to find ways to strengthen their relationships with their small business customers.


How Much Did Your Customers Lose Today?

Psst! Want to help your customers make an extra $5,000 – $10,000 next year?

It’s easy. It’s common sense. So naturally I rarely see business owners doing this. But if your customers are in the service, manufacturing or distribution business they could be letting some significant dollars slip away.

Here’s what you can tell them to do:

  • Take out their payroll register from last year (and try not to let them get to upset when they’re reminded how much they’re overpaying some people).  Add up all the hours spent last year by production and service employees.
  • Next, take out last year’s tax returns (and also try not to let them get too upset over how they’re overpaying) and add up all the overhead expenses incurred last year, like utilities, maintenance, office expenses, etc.
  • Now, have them divide the overhead expenses by hours to come up with an overhead rate per hour.

Finally: tell your customer to create a little spreadsheet. Have an admin person in their office find out the materials cost used and the time spent for each job that shipped the day before. This is not a tough assignment as long as the admin person knows how to use a phone. Have that person enter this information plus the selling price and shipping cost on a pre-designed spreadsheet that includes the overhead rate per hour. Let the spreadsheet calculate profit.

Tell your customer to get a copy of that spreadsheet every single day! Every….single….day! And start getting surprised.

Some jobs (or products, or classes, or services, or projects) that they thought were making money didn’t make as much. Other jobs may have been more profitable than they estimated. And many probably came in line with what they expected.

Now your customer can make some adjustments. Yell at some people. Stamp their feet. Throw something at a wall. Go back to their customers and re-quote future orders. Find new customers who would take more profitable jobs.

It’s not perfect. The numbers probably aren’t exact.  But it’s going to be pretty close. And it’s also not a six figure job costing system that some consultants would recommend.

Your customers may find themselves getting reacquainted with their production people and their customers. They may be relieved to get rid of those customers that they always suspected were unprofitable. You may find themselves taking advantage of some vendors that for years were taking advantage of them.

How did I come up with a $5,000-$10,000 savings? I figure if a company bills out half a million or a million a year, and they increase their job profits by just 1%…well there’s your answer.

By Gene Marks