Problem Zoom

Zoom in on your customer’s problem to uncover their desired outcomes, pains and problems

Grab the tool to dissect your customer's problem so you can create a successful solution

I know we CAN build it. But, SHOULD we?

It’s not uncommon to hear this question after a product has failed to gain market traction. Teams who are initially excited by their solution are left wondering why feature after feature failed to engage target users. The pattern can continue for several release cycles before the team comes to a key realization:

They don’t understand the problems their customers have.

The Problem Zoom is designed to help teams avoid these scenarios. Since you’ve already identified the unique attributes and desires of your target customer using the Customer Zoom tool and by going through empathy work, you are now ready to think deeply about your customers’ key problems.

By understanding customers’ most pressing problems, you can validate if the issue is real, solvable, and held deeply enough to be worth solving.

Instead of addressing many problems all at once, the Problem Zoom helps you identify the single- most crucial benefit your solution will provide in order to help your customer achieve the desired outcome. By the end of this exercise, you will know exactly what you need to validate as you build your solution.

Let’s get started!

The Problem Zoom tool is a three-step process that we encourage you to complete rapidly as a team:

  1. Brainstorm and select desired outcome.  What is your customer trying to accomplish?
  2. Brainstorm and select pains and problems.  What barriers does your customer face attempting to achieve the desired outcome?
  3. Identify your solution’s promise and aspirational benefit.  What are you promising to achieve for your customer, and what impact will that have on the customer?  

At this point, don’t overthink it.  Just get started. Repeat the process as often as necessary to narrow in on a specific benefit you hope to deliver for your target customer.

Ready to dive in?

The Setup: Close your eyes. Recall a recent empathy interview with your target customer that was particularly insightful. Imagine that you possess a magic wand and can solve your customer’s biggest, most painful problem. What problem would your customer ask you to solve? What did they say about that problem? What did they feel when they were experiencing pain? What were their strongest reactions?

Example: We’ll highlight an example from an enterprise team creating a new product for the automotive market.

Note: As always, we’ll be doing this work using sticky notes and a Sharpie.

Step 1a: Refer to your Customer Zoom tool as you brainstorm what your customer is trying to accomplish. Is there a financial impact they wish to achieve? Are you going to increase savings? Improve productivity? Save them time so they can be with their spouse and kids? Make sure your answers define significant and specific outcomes.

Task: Brainstorm at least 10 outcomes. (10 minutes)

Example: Save significant money on a new car, purchase a car quickly so he can spend more time with his children, transport his grandkids safely, take long road trips with his wife, re-live his youth, etc.  

Step 1b: Review your list of outcomes and select the top three most desired by your customer. Again, imagine you have a magic wand and can make these outcomes a reality for your customer.

Task: Select your top three outcomes and stick them on your Problem Zoom worksheet.

Example: Save money on a new car, spend more time with kids taking trips, avoid dealer haggling.

Step 2a: Brainstorm the pains and problems that your customer experiences when trying to achieve his goals. What are the barriers preventing them from reaching the outcomes previously discussed? What is getting in the way of them achieving their aspirations? Come up with as many barriers as you can and consider how they affect the customer’s desired outcomes.

Task: Brainstorm at least 10 pains and problems.  (10 minutes)

Example: New cars are expensive, car shopping is time-consuming, his current car breaks down frequently and needs a lot of repairs, haggling with dealers is a hassle, etc.

Step 2b: Review your list of pains and problems and select the top three most painful in the eyes of your customer. Remember, these should relate to the outcomes that your customer is trying to achieve.

Task: Select your top three pains and problems, and stick them on your Problem Zoom worksheet.

Example: New cars are expensive, car shopping is time-consuming, haggling with dealers is a hassle.  his grandkids feel unsafe in his car.

Step 3: Identify the promise you will make to your customer by solving their problem and the aspiration you hope to help them achieve by doing so. Your promise is a utilitarian benefit they can hang their hat on — something you can tangibly point to and say, “I will solve this problem, with this functionality.” It’s the direct answer to how you plan to address the pains and problems preventing your customers from achieving their desired outcomes. The aspirational component represents the impact you hope to have on your customer’s life by solving the problem. You can’t promise this will come true, but you can say, “I hope that by solving problem X with product Y, we will help you achieve aspiration Z.”

Task: State your promise and customer aspiration in a statement and stick it on your Problem Zoom worksheet. (5 minutes)

Example: We promise to reduce the time, money, and stress involved with buying your dream car, so family trips are more enjoyable, enhancing your quality time spent with family.

Congratulations! Your team should now have a clear understanding of your customer’s deepest desires and the pains and problems holding them back. This will give you a foundation for addressing the strongest needs of your customer with a potential solution. Use the Problem Zoom to continually guide the brainstorming and vetting process for potential solutions.

As you move forward with your proposed solution to this problem, continually refer to the Problem Zoom to stay focused on why you are building the product you have chosen.

Grab the tool to dissect your customer's problem so you can create a successful solution