Fall in love with your customers' pain points - not with your solutions!
It’s human nature to fall in love with your solutions... it’s also a common pitfall for business leaders, entrepreneurs and those responsible for improving customer experiences.
Because the implications of this mindset are significant. Remember New Coke? Qwikster, from Netflix? And what about Barnes and Noble’s Nook? In each case, well-intentioned leaders made a bet on a solution to a problem they didn’t fully understand.
Focus on facts
If even a small portion of their energy and resources had been spent on better understanding their customer’s pain points, it’s likely that none of these ‘innovations’ would have seen the light of day.
They were launched based on hypothesis (“If consumers are using tablets to read books, they’ll love one from a bookstore!”) rather than customer-derived facts (“I’m completely loyal to my iPad...”).
These are perfect examples of falling in love with the solution, but not fully understanding (much less falling in love with) your customer’s pain points. Few will care about your solution when it misses the mark, even if you’re trying to solve the right problem. Fewer still will care if you’re solving the wrong problem, or one that doesn’t exist.
Don’t jump to solutions
When it comes to addressing the issues at hand, jumping to solutions is never a good thing. How many times have you seen companies (maybe even yours...?) make ill-advised investments in technology, systems, products or services that in some cases actually make problems worse—by building solutions without a deep understanding of the problem being solved, or the root causes of those problems?
Rarely does a solution fail because it wasn’t built as designed or intended. They fail because we’ve failed to solve the right customer pain point. Once a hypothesis-based (vs. fact-based) solution is decided on, the ramifications amplify across and throughout the product, service, customer or experience lifecycle.
Resources are usually spent fixing the solution...and rarely does that involve revisiting or better understanding the original problem it was trying to solve.
Experiment, fail, learn, succeed
In the world of design thinking (or as we like to call it, ‘customer thinking’), this is akin to running experiments that validate what you expect to happen. Consider what happens when you show a website or user interface prototype to a customer and ask how they like it, they’ll give you honest and direct feedback: don’t like the color, the menu is confusing, can you make the font bigger?
What they can’t tell you is how well this solves their problem. If you use time with customers to first discover the problem, then come back and test (or experiment with) multiple solutions, you’ll learn a number of important things. You’ll learn if you’re solving the right problem, for one thing. And you’ll learn which are the best solutions.
In a corporate environment, the pressure to come to the table with fully formed solutions - and to do so quickly - is high. Initial solution ideas can be arrived at without much (or any) customer feedback, and by the time they reach an executive audience, the solution is under far more scrutiny than the problem it should be trying to solve.
Understand your customers’ jobs - and make them easier to do
In other words, start with the problem.
Your customers have specific goals they’re trying to accomplish when they interact with you. They desire specific results and outcomes, and often face barriers as they attempt to accomplish their goals.
Knowing what job they are trying to complete, and how we’re impeding them, comes directly from conversations with, observations of, and empathy for your customers. And that—understanding your customer’s goals and pain points—is what leads to customer understanding.
- Understanding problems comes from deeply understanding customers.
- The right solutions only result from solving the right problems.
- Don’t fall in love with (or jump to) solutions until you understand the problem to solve.
- To succeed, test multiple solutions—and don’t be afraid to fail fast, and often.
The biggest lesson is this: Don’t fall in love with your solution. Deeply understand and empathise with your customers, and what they are trying to accomplish. This empathy can - and should lead to a love for the problem they need solved.
And when that occurs, you’ll develop solutions your customers will actually love, because they will be solving real problems. And that’s when the magic happens. Because when your customers succeed, you succeed too.
About Michael Hinshaw
Michael Hinshaw is President / CEO of McorpCX, a customer experience research, brand and strategy consultancy based in the San Francisco area. An innovative executive, consultant and educator, he has over 20 years’ experience in marketing, brand and management consulting. His perspectives on creativity and business performance measurement have been honed through the lenses of brand, touchpoint and customer experience mapping. For more information, view his blog on Customer Experience, or follow Michael on Twitter.