Building Service Design at Intuit

Creating change and culture shift

Project highlights
  • Design strategy
  • End-to-end product design
  • Hands-on prototyping and design technology

Challenge: With a growing online ecosystem of connected solutions, Intuit's offerings were becoming more interconnected and complex than ever before. The lines between hardward, software, and service were disappearing fast, and new approaches to customer experience had to be adopted.

Hypothesis: If a culture of service design and customer experience coordination could be demonstrated and fostered at Intuit, the expanding ecosystem of connected products and services would be end-to-end experiences that were frictionless, cohesive, and designed holistically from the customer's point of view.


I joined Intuit in 2014 as the company's first Principal Service Designer. Coming in as a product design veteran with 15 years experience at the time, shifting to the expansive world of service design was going to be a momentous challenge.

The angle coming in vs. the reality

I was hired in the design organization to work on a new team called "Care Experience Design" for the QuickBooks customer support group. The goal was to improve the customer support experiences as one of the first non-product applications of experience design.

This had 2 challenges:

  1. Customer pains that end up in support experiences typically are systemic and fixing them from within customer support isn't a solution, meaning while I was resourced to customer support, not all of my work had to do with customer support
  2. Any upstream fixing of customer pains would require me to move horizontally across the company and contribute design thinking and solutions to a variety of teams, constantly changing who I was working with

This meant I would become a roving, consulting service designer who travelled the land, partially working on my own teams direct projects, and partially working for other teams as a valued facilitator and leader of tactical workstreams focused on the end-to-end, surface-to-core blueprinting of complex customer experiences.

A history of impact

Throughout my time at Intuit, I have had the pleasure of growing the capacity in the following ways:

  • Creating internal training workshops to teach teams about service design methods
  • Added service blueprinting as a capability in Intuit's prestigious "Innovation Catalyst" program, an organization of several hundred design trainers and facilitators available to the employee base
  • Acting a host and teacher to the CEO of California BlueCross health insurance when Intuit's CEO needed someone to demonstrate how we're changing the face of customer experience design
  • Created and taught a workshop to the customer support staff at Intuit's Tucson, Arizona support center, the first of its kind brining design methods to the customer support agents
  • Representing Intuit at the 2016 O'Reilly Design Conference where I talked about how I was "Demystifying Service Design" for our company (watch a replay of the slides with my voice here)
  • Leading and facilitating dozens of service design and service blueprinting working sessions for hundreds of employees in product and service teams across the company

Overall, the impact to the organization has been vast, especially the notion of end-to-end, surface-to-core understanding of coordinated, interconnected customer and organization experiences that result in the final culmination of what we offer the people who we intend to serve.

Other interviews and articles

For more nuanced recollections over the years, here are some links to external articles or interviews on my work bringing service design to Intuit:

My role: Service design evangelist, teacher, and strategic coordinator
Team: Company-wide
Establishing the base

The first wins for service design at Intuit

There were two prominent wins at Intuit right at the start of my time there that solidified service design as a winning method.

QuickBooks Activation and Registration

The first real bite of work that service design tackled was the QuickBooks Desktop activation and registration customer pain issue. It was the number-one source of customer care contacts in the company, resulting in millions of contacts, mostly phone calls, per year. The financial toll to Intuit and emotional toll to customers was astronomical.

A very small team of representatives was gathered, with representation from:

  • Product design and service design
  • Customer support Tier 2
  • Customer account management
  • Voice of the customer leadership

Half of the people present had never done anything like this and did not work in product design. We holed-up in a room for 4 days and just figured out what a service design approach looked like as we tackled this massive customer and organizational pain.

Figuring out how we "do" service design in August of 2014
The first attempt at mapping things out - primitive and effective

The foundation of what would become the service design practice was laid down during these sessions, as was the evidence of its effectiveness. Out of these sessions, 21 upstream areas were identified that would reduce the customer pain that resulted in the customer support calls. Out of these, 17 were actioned that resulted in a significant reduction in care calls.

This was a massive win and led to the talk I gave a few months later at the Service Experience Conference (as seen in the next section).

QuickBooks Subscription and Billing

Shortly after this project, I was recruited to participate in applying the same methods, only more advanced, to a new project based on the effectiveness of the activation and registration project. This is one of my portfolio items where you can read about it and see the artifacts in detail in the QuickBooks Billing and Subscription example.

Expanding the capability

More of the shots of things

Sharing my journey at the Service Experience Conference

In 2014, I was invited by Adaptive Path to speak at the 2nd annual Service Experience Conference about this foray at building service design capability at Intuit

Using the metaphor of little space aliens trying to build a rocket ship, I talk about the successes, challenges, and progress made during that first pivotal year.

Watch the full video below (30m) and check out the brilliantly illustrated slides that artist David Hallangen did for me.

Extending the impact

In the years since joining Intuit, the impact of service design has been far reaching. While not a core competency or official job profile yet, people in design, product management, marketing, recruiting, and even business ops have adopted the practices.

Over the years, I have participated in many projects, events, and workshops where service design was at the core of the new methodology used to serve customers in an industry where the boundaries between hardware, software, product and service are blurred.

Reflections & learnings

I've been asked to join projects across Intuit, to teach entire groups and teams how to apply the methods and mindset, and have applied it throughout my work here. Yet, service design a a function has yet to take hold. Part of me wonders if a product-based technology business simply isn't ready to shift mindset. Or perhaps "service" design is a similar but different approach to holistic customer experience and product design.

I'm not sure. Either way, it has made a better professional out of me and took my mind and capabilities to places that it would not have gone, were it not for the rugged uphill climb that is/was being a service designer at Intuit. I break down some of the challenges I faced here in this article I wrote three years into the service design position.

All in all, I believe that service design is what is right for any industry that seeks to provide or perform in service of human needs. If you want to read about my thoughts on this, check out this article published in the Service Design Network's Touchpoint Journal on "Why Silicon Valley Needs Service Design."