Intuit Expert Platform Scheduler

The Intuit Expert Scheduling platform onboards and maintains the seasonal and contract workforce of tax experts and accountants that support TurboTax Live and QuickBooks Live. IEP is a dashboard of widgets that includes new hire forms, shift scheduling, notifications, appointment handling for QB clients, and more. IEP is a vast effort across multiple departments at Intuit, requiring collaboration among teams working in the enterprise, consumer, and small business spaces.

I designed the IEP Scheduling widget experience, starting from very basic, early stage thinking by a designer in the consumer group, alongside a review of existing scheduling apps in the marketplace. Intuit's needs were unique, necessitating checks for minimum and maximum daily and weekly hours, the accommodation of dynamic seasonal peaks requiring staffing changes, and a fluctuating pool of available hours when experts were setting up their base schedules.

1. Seasonal and contract workers supporting TurboTax Live and QuickBooks Live had, prior to this project, been onboarded via a manual process that involved new hires calling Intuit to speak with an agent who would ask them their desired shifts. “Base schedules,” or the general shifts that the expert would like to work for the season or contract were input into a third party scheduling system that would tell the agent whether or not the shifts were available. Shifts that matched requests were secured, while those that did not had to be manually edited by the agent alongside discussion with the expert over the phone to discover acceptable alternatives. Early stage thinking about base schedule creation included forking flows for shift selection (request shifts and see what matches, pick shifts each week, and a “help me choose” smart algorithm) and eventually, a shift picker that enabled agents to set up a schedule for a typical week.

2. Later thinking reduced the options in the shift selection fork to choosing new hours from scratch, importing a schedule from last year (for returning experts only), and a choice of “best hours.” Once the user made selections and continued, the system would search for available shifts matching the user’s requests. The availability of hours was dependent on when the expert created the schedule (early or late in the hiring process). Prime hours during the day could become scarce as new experts were onboarded, and so not all shifts requested could be accommodated for later hires. These designs show iterations of the shift selection fork as well as the initial calendar month view with messaging regarding unavailable shifts. Drilling down into week view enabled the user to see alternative shifts suggested by the system.

3. Due to the dynamic nature of the shift availability, we later decided that it would not be possible to show available hours in green during shift selection, for example, Mondays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. could be available for all Mondays except two specific Mondays. We decided to show a white or “blank” calendar representing a generic week. Users could also click and drag directly on the calendar for a more intuitive experience that would align with later views of their overall schedule.  We also did away with the idea of “best hours” selected by the system, as it would be difficult to determine what constituted “best” and it varied from expert to expert. In early research discussions with users, experts tended to know exactly what hours they wanted/needed to work and would likely have not used this feature even if we found a way to make it possible.

One of the larger changes to this iteration was the requirement that users create a different schedule for each of the “peaks” during tax season. These peaks are when the business traditionally sees a spike in call volume and more experts are needed to consult with TurboTax users. Minimum daily and weekly hours are typically greater during these peaks. The “countdown” timer was also added to this design. Initially it gave the user fifteen minutes to create and commit their schedule, although later it became a “time out” due to inactivity. This was necessary since the available pool of hours was constantly changing in real time as experts onboarded and selected shifts.

4. While experts could make tweaks to their shifts after they’d committed their base schedules, the timing of tweaks was significant. Prior to the user’s start date, they could delete existing shifts at will. After their start date, they would be required to “request time off” if they wanted to remove a shift. Removal of shifts was strictly controlled since it was important to prevent staffing shortages during peak tax season. Experts would request time off in the UI, and then the request would be routed to their managers for approval.

5. Similarly, time off and minimum hours were driven by staffing needs. During peak season, minimum daily and weekly requirements for experts would be different than during off peak and usually require the expert to work more hours. Experts had complained in the past that they were unaware of these changes and that the shift rules seemed arbitrary, so we looked into ways of making the changes more obvious on a weekly basis. In addition, there were periods where Intuit could become overstaffed, meaning that the call/chat volume to experts was lower than anticipated. In these cases, we needed to push “voluntary time off (VTO)” to experts’ schedules. VTO hours are full or partial shift blocks that an expert could take off without requiring manager approval. Intuit wanted to encourage experts to use this option since we were required to pay these experts for their time whether they were taking calls or not, however, we could not make it mandatory for them to take the time off.

6. The final designs with visual design applied show many nuances of the workflow that were challenging to design based on ops requirements, dynamic staffing, backend limitations, and user needs. An abbreviated “happy path” is shown below.

A. Upon first entry into the scheduling tool, the user is greeted with a splash screen detailing what to expect. While I would normally not want to include lots of text and instructions in UIs, this process was complicated enough to warrant some explanation. User testing revealed that experts did indeed read this text, and appreciated the level of detail, especially experts who had used the tool before and found it lacking in some details.

B. This series of screens shows the initial base schedule state, and portions of the click and drag behavior to create shifts. As hours are added, the counter under each day shows the total daily hours, and the total weekly hours is shown in the right gray area. If minimum or maximum rules are violated (not met or exceeded), an error icon appears on the appropriate tab.

C. Once the schedule was created, we’d take the user to month view where we’d message if any shifts were not available. Since this is actually the common case, it was considered the “happy path” even though there were exceptions. If we were not able to get all of a user’s requested shifts, it was likely the user would fall below weekly minimums, and these exceptions were shown in the left sidebar At-A-Glance or seasonal view. We also removed the ability to see shifts that the user requested but did not get, as it turned out after some research that this was not possible due to technical limitations.

D. Messaging exceptions was a huge part of the workflow for the scheduler, as a plethora of behind-the-scenes rules drove the overall system to ensure that Intuit was fully staffed (but not overstaffed) during the entire tax season. At the same time, it was important to not make these exceptions frustrating to the users or so difficult to manage that they could not proceed with the task of creating and maintaining a reasonable schedule. Past research indicated that a small percentage of experts would indeed resign if unable to obtain the hours they needed due to restrictions. Due to this, the UI always shows exceptions but does allow a degree of flexibility when the user commits their schedule. Even if all rule violations are not cleared, we allow the expert to proceed and save the shifts that meet requirements. It remains to be seen how much manual work in the future this will generate for managers who must remedy staffing deficits.

E. Once the user had created and committed their base schedule, they could come back either before or after their hire date to make single edits (tweaks) to their schedule. Note that as mentioned above, pre-hire versus post-hire editing came with time off implications. The designs below show the post-hire state of the schedule, as well as a few explorations for experts who might “crossover,” that is, they are supporting both TurboTax and QuickBooks. To date, this has not materialized, but might be a future scenario for the project. QuickBooks Live experts have access to appointments with clients with whom they have an established relationship, and those appointments are shown in the designs below. Note that the actual appointment editing and creation was done in a separate IEP widget.