As a consultant, I’ve had the chance to work with some of the world’s biggest businesses and organizations to help guide innovation initiatives and business strategies. What continues to surprise me is how often leaders lack a clear understanding of what problems their customers are actually facing before developing new products and services to meet their needs.
Problem Statements determine why customers buy, and if you don’t have a clear vision of what matters to your target audience, you’ll never be able to develop solutions that truly resonate with their needs.
What is a Customer Problem Statement, and what are best practices, tools and templates for teams and organizations?
A Customer Problem Statement is a detailed description of an issue that needs to be addressed by a problem-solving team. It is written to focus the team at the beginning, keep the team on track during the innovation project, and to confirm that the team delivered an appropriate solution that addresses a real customer need at the end of the project.
The Customer Problem Statement is a critical component of a project’s statement of purpose. It helps all members of the team understand why they are working on the project and helps provide clarity on the reasons behind the project. With a Customer Problem Statement as the backbone of a project, team members will be less likely to understand the problem differently, and will be more likely to strive for a common solution.
There are many different versions of the Customer Problem Statement tools out there. I helped create the one we use at upBOARD, and that we make freely available as a download. It’s simple and is based on best practices I’ve gathered in the 3 decades I’ve spent as a strategic business consultant and includes the following process:
- Describe the current conditions of a customer’s situation
- Explain the current problem from the customer’s perspective
- Explain the financial or other intangible costs of the problem
- Provide backup evidence
- Propose a solution
- Explain the benefits of the solution
- Summarize the problem and ideal solution
Having a robust, yet simple, Customer Problem Statement template is critical. That’s the only way you’ll know how best to engage with and develop relevant products suitable to your target market.
About the Author
Soren Kaplan is the bestselling and award winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an Affiliate at the Center for Effective Organizations at USC’s Marshall School of Business, a columnist for Inc. Magazine, a globally recognized keynote speaker, and the Founder of Praxie. Business Insider and the Thinkers50 have named him one of the world’s top management thought leaders and consultants.