Forum Followup: Intuit Learns a Lesson in People Power

By Jim Lynch  |  Posted 2003-06-04 Print this article Print

Angry customers force company to face harsh reality: DRM stinks!

When Intuit decided to add product activation and Macrovisions DRM software to its popular TurboTax software there was a huge outcry in our forums and all over the net. People were outraged that Intuit was inconveniencing them with product activation. The anger only grew when it was disclosed that the latest version of TurboTax also included the infamous C-Dilla DRM software. As word of Intuits actions spread, many of our readers shared ideas on how to get rid of C-Dilla and how to find alternative products to TurboTax. Two main alternatives kept coming up: TaxAct and TaxCut. A few other programs were mentioned, but most folks opted for one these two. After Intuit announced their policy change, the buzz in the forums was mixed. Some felt that Intuit has its work cut out for it. Forum member "Huw" (click here to read the message), for example, felt that "...a lot of people will take a long time to trust them again. I, for one would never get anything from them even were I in the market for their product, unless I had done a lot of research into what they were currently implementing in their software... "
For other readers, it would be the first time using either of the competitive tax software products, and most seemed to feel quite comfortable using them as replacements for TurboTax. And some have opted to stay with their replacement product and skip TurboTax altogether. Lichunan (click here to read the message) felt that "Having used TurboTax for the last 10 years, I switched to TaxCut this year because of the DRM. I actually really liked TaxCut. It was easy to use, fast, and a great pleasure to use, plus its cheaper. So, next year I might stick with TaxCut. "
Not everybody who tried new products thought it was all wine and roses. James Collins (click here to read the message) ran into some snags with TaxCut that has him considering all his options: "TurboTax did a great job over the years. Never really had any problems doing mine or my parents taxes with it. Also switched to TaxCut due to DRM. However, TaxCut was a bit buggy (popped up errors updating over the internet with my DSL connect, although it eventually updated). Also, they peeved me by selling my name off to their pet spammer company, even though I opted out. So for next year, I am thinking of checking out that other option people were using (TaxAct). " Few people had any real sympathy for Intuit in this situation. Most, like EricJ2 (click here to read the message), seemed to feel that Intuit had it coming to them: "Well, a 20% drop in sales, failure to hit "their numbers" to satisfy Wall Street Analysts - even after revising their numbers downward, a 30% loss in their stock value, AND two class action suits (one by users - the other by shareholders) and they finally see the light. Well, at least they came to the right decision. Im not impressed, Im surprised, albeit pleasantly. It just goes to show you that if you use a big enough 2 x 4 you CAN get someones attention." EricJ2 (click here to read the message) went on to say that he doubted Intuit could easily recover from such a horrific meltdown of customer confidence: "Unfortunately, I think they are now closing the barn door after the horse has run away. They didnt just shoot themselves in the foot, they blew their leg off all the way up to the knee. And they are still losing blood at a phenomenal rate. The damage has been done. The thing to watch now is whether or not they can recover. From the users perspective, the trust that existed with respect to Intuit products has been damaged, and it will take a long time to regain it. If they ever do regain it. " Some members vowed never to use Intuit products again. Saukriver (click here to read the message) made it clear that Intuis decision was too little, too late: "Too late for me, as I am never going back to TurboTax. I am a 20-year former customer who used to regularly recommend TurboTax to friends. Screw Intuit. " Tadster45 (click here to read the message) also expressed deep skepticism about moving back to Intuits products: "It will take an extreme effort on Intuits part to win me back to their TurboTax product. I moved to TaxCut and liked it a bunch. I did not have any difficulty with updating (other than being in the stone age with a SLOW dial-up connection.) I will probably even move from Quicken when my current version (without DRM) becomes un usable. " Forum members were also quick to make the point that Intuits DRM decisions held lessons for other companies, including a certain software giant. AtomicFreeBS (click here to read the message) took a jab at Microsoft: "Microsoft here we come. Dont think for once that Techs will recommend your Office Suites or OS with DRM. " DRM has even made some vow to move away from Microsofts operating systems. EdInBTR (click here to read the message) has stated that he wont be going back to Intuit and has also decided to dump Microsoft altogether: "Both Intuit and Micro$oft have gotten the last dollars from me that that they are going to get. I have been using TurboTax and Quicken from them for as long as I can remember, but no more. I have switched my operating systems over to Xandros Linux, and am in the process of switching from Quicken to GnuCash. Im not sure about the availability of tax preparation software under LInux, but I am sure it will happen. " EdInBTR also came up with the pithy and witty phrase: "Window$ free in 2003." In my own case, TaxCut seemed like the logical choice. I hadnt heard of the other program and the H&R brand name gave TaxCut a bit more credibility in my mind. So I did my taxes using TaxCut and I was quite pleased with the results. I wont bother with TurboTax next year though I might give TaxAct a look if its even cheaper than TaxCut. Id like to pay as little as possible to do my taxes. I heard from Nick Stam, ET Senior Tech Director, that he also switched to TaxCut and was quite happy, will stick with it for next year. As far as Intuit goes, it appears a large amount of damage was done to the companys reputation, and only time will tell if it can regain some of its lost customers. And there are likely many people at the corporate headquarters of H&R Block and TaxAct who are smiling happily at the very moment. And good for them – they made the right decisions as far as DRM goes and are reaping the benefits as new customers pile in to buy their products. People power can be a very expensive lesson for a company to learn. Intuit was one of the first companies to learn this as it relates to DRM, but I suspect it wont be the last. Are you listening Microsoft? You should be...
Jim manages the PC Magazine and ExtremeTech forums, and is responsible for building community in the forums on both sites. He started managing PC Mag's forum on ZiffNet on CompuServe many years ago. He then transferred the staff and expertise to the Web. He left ZDNet when it moved to San Francisco and came back to Ziff after the split from ZDNet, right before ExtremeTech launched. You can get more background at his personal site:

His favorite movies include Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Three Musketeers (1973 version), Dune (Sci Fi Channel version), and gobs of others. He can't live without his iPAQ Pocket PC—,he uses it at the gym and everywhere else—,and his DVD collection features more than 200 films. His favorite game is Tribes (PC), which is more than three years old but he still plays it all the time.

Jim likes interacting with the folks in the forum and the content. 'I Love both of 'em,' says Lynch. 'It's what makes the job fun and interesting.'

You're welcome to visit Jim's site for more information about him.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel