It’s a common problem in business: You’ve got the next great idea, but you don’t want to alienate your loyal customer base.
It’s also one that Brad Smith, CEO of software company Intuit (think TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint) faces every day.
“I have this famous joke that I use,” Smith says. “Why was God able to create heaven and earth in seven days and seven nights?”
“Because he didn’t have installed customers and legacy technology to worry about.”
Joking aside, Smith says, it’s one of the most delicate, and fun, parts of developing new products.
“How do you actually move an existing group of customers from what they fell in love with to the next thing that could be great?” he says. “That takes a lot of finesse. For 30 years we’ve been trying to work our way through that, and every day it’s a big challenge but it’s a lot of excitement.”
One such challenge is the introduction of near field communication technology (NFC) for financial transactions. Why carry a wallet, when you can simply tap your cellphone to make a payment?
It’s a good bet that the technology will revolutionize our experiences at the register in years to come, but consumers still need to be persuaded to change their old habits and accept new methods. The difficulty, according to Smith, is that the new technology (say, swiping your phone against a sensor) differs only slightly from the physical movement of using a credit card or forking over some cash.
With so much similarity, consumers may not be prone to adopt the technology immediately. In Smith’s mind, the answer is to provide an incentive.
“These new wallets are pretty much asking you to do the same thing, and that’s not going to change your behavior,” he says. “I think the next step is what you can do with the actual data and information–give me a chance to save more money, let me know when someone has a promotion on something that I typically buy.”
Or maybe incentive isn’t the answer, and only time will tell the method that persuades consumers to make the shift.
“I think it’s the wild wild west right now,” Smith says. “There’s so many different ways of doing it, and the person who can nail getting the consumer excited about it, is the person who’s going to win.”