You know what problem you solve for your customers, right? Of course you do! But think about it for a minute. Do you really understand their problems? Have you taken the time to be sure? I talked about discovering what customers want in a previous article (The Art Of Discovering Customers – Tech Juice Oct 2018) and understanding the problem is a key part of this process. After all if you develop a solution for a non-existent problem why would anyone be interested? That’s going nowhere.

In general to understand problems we need to discover four things:

  1. What Problem are we solving
  2. Why does it need solving
  3. How is it being solved already
  4. Who is that has the problem

First then what problem are we solving? This might seem obvious but it needs some careful thought. What most people come up with is not the problem but the reason it needs solving. Often this is because they focus on a part of the problem that’s broken rather than looking at the whole problem.

The question to ask is what is it that the customer is actually trying to achieve? This is what I call The Root Problem. Consider a service business that needs to generate more revenue; we might come up with an automation system to help them access more customers. However, it could actually be that they provide low value services and if you could enable them to increase their service value that would be a better solution.

Both solutions generate extra revenue so is the Root Problem an operational one, more volume, or a strategic one, higher value? That’s what we need to understand. Once we think we have the Root Problem we then need to identify the reasons why it needs solving. These reasons, and there maybe more than one, are important to know as these are the things we will fix. When our solution is applied they will disappear. In the example above the reason why it needs solving is the company needs more revenue.

One of the most important things to understand with any problem is how companies are trying to solve it already. What we have to understand here is the existing value chain, who does what and how is value added. If we understand the existing value chain we can see where we could fit in to change the dynamic and add value. Last we need to understand who has the problem. It might seem strange to do this last but until we understand the problem we can’t be sure who has it.

Often as we get an understanding, we discover that who we thought had the problem doesn’t but that it’s someone else. Then we need to re-focus on them. When we are sure we know who, we need to build a profile for them so we recognize them.The final issue companies have with understanding the problem is how to explain it to customers. Too often they cannot clearly explain how their solution affects the customer.

One way to do this is to explain what solving it will look like. A before and after story will enable customers to see how their life will be different with your solution. If you follow these guidelines in your company you can make sure you always understand your customer’s problems but don’t forget to listen to them. They will tell you all you need to know, if you let them.