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Brian Crofts, IntuitIntuit CEO Brad Smith appeared this week to place the company's CPASelect program into the category of something that is useful, but which won't become a major tool. Smith said during the company's earnings webcast for the second quarter that its emphasis is on reducing the number of tax questions consumers have, more than on providing expert help

CPASelect completed its second tax season this year in what Smith described as a beta. The program gives TurboTax users the ability to get expert help if they find they need it while they are using the consumer tax preparation product. Smith said Intuit learned one major lesson from its experience with CPASelect

"We realized customers don't really want to have a question in the first place," he says. That shift in focus led to improvements in the application that led to a 24-percent reduction in the number of calls from customers.

There were 500 CPAs in the program, Smith said, and these processed four times the number of returns participants did during the 2013 season. Smith said members of CPASelect also have more satisfied customers than do the average CPA preparers. The Net Promoter Score for CPASelect members was 79 while the score for the average CPA is 58. NetPromoter measures customer satisfaction with a product or service by subtracting the number of customers that wouldn't recommend it from the numbers that would.

Smith emphasized Intuit's goal was to make it easier for customers to get support. That included providing "one universal place to get help." Customers can choose its Live Community program moderate forums or customer support. But while he promised, "We will have access to experts," Smith continued that "It won't be as human intensive as it was a couple of years ago.

Participants in CPASelect split fees with Intuit. Right now, the professionals get 75 percent of the gross revenue of the return. Intuit would eventually like to push the split more in its favor, according to Brian Crofts , the business leader of the program, in a separate interview conducted before Smith made his comments.

Crofts said there were 800 CPAs with profiles in the program—500 of those active—"with a few hundred on waiting list," Crofts said. "We don't want to go the route of the ProAdvisor program where there are thousands and thousands of accountants. Intuit hopes that by producing software that can important increasing amounts of data that does not need to be manually entered, it might move the split to as low as 50-50 for the CPAs. But under that vision, the CPA would "have a client ready to review versus one where they are just starting."

Crofts noted the past season saw greater integration with CPASelect and TurboTax. The results can be extremely worthwhile for CPAs. "We do have a good chunk of accountants that got over 200 to 300 new clients," he said.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Wednesday, 21 May 2014
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