[Book review] Startup Science - Customer Problem Fit

[Book review] Startup Science - Customer Problem Fit

The past blogs are here. These will help you understand better if you read them below first.
  1. [Book review] Startup Science - What is Startup Science?
  2. [Book review] Startup Science - Idea Verification

In this blog, I summarize about Customer Problem Fit. What we have to do in Customer Problem Fit stage are:
  1. Make the problem hypothesis
  2. List up preconditions or root causes of an issue
  3. Verify issues and preconditions

The most important question we need to ask ourselves here is
Problems exist originally for customers that we assumed?
So the goal of this stage is to fulfill:
  • Visualize and languageize "how myself recognize an issue"
  • Verify issues and solutions before building MVP

Make persona based on Plan A

Persona is the method to be able to focus on people/issues for product design. Using this method, we can focus on customers' feeling and behavior who have issues.

When we make a persona, we need to assume them below:
  • Age, name, occupation, gender, hobby, place to live
  • Characteristics
  • What kind of works they do
  • To what they feel the issue
  • What they want to achieve
  • Characteristic of behavior, IT literacy

Also, better to add context such as specific time, place, event and so on (they often have issues if less supply against demand). Here's the sample of the persona and I assume the customer of the delivery service of dishes using organic foods.
A sample of the persona

Furthermore, we try to write an empathy map and approach the figure. 
  • What do you think and feel? What do you want?
  • What are you listening to? What does the influential person say?
  • What are you looking at?
  • What are you saying?
  • Pain, stress
  • Desire, what you need
A sample of empathy map

Make the issue hypothesis with the customer story

After we make a persona, in order to focus on people more, we make a customer story. Here's the sample and how to make it.

  1. Check lean canvas and customer persona, and set the context story (= preconditions)
  2. Separate Step, Touchpoints, Behaviour, Thought, Emotion and Current issues
  3. Clarify "what kind of objectives does this persona want to achieve? How about its reason?".
  4. List up the Steps that this persona experiences.
  5. List up the detailed Behaviours this persona experiences.
  6. List up the Thoughts behind these Behaviours.
  7. List up people, shops, websites, applications, devices (especially mobile) and so on for each step as Touchpoints.
  8. Express ups and downs of emotions of this persona for each step as Emotion (clarify the points of pains or that they get angry deeply)
  9. List up the Current issues from a bird's eye view of the story

When we make it, we use stickers but we need to notice some points.
  • Write down keywords about your idea right after you occurred it
  • Explain each sticker
  • Put stickers so that all participants can see, put, point out, move and so on
  • Don't need to make a perfect one
  • Focus on finding pains of customers (this is not the silver bullet)
  • "Feel" users

List up preconditions using a Javelin board

Javelin board is the tool to verify issues and solutions through dialogues with actual customers with making customers, issues, preconditions, and solutions one set.

A sample of Javelin board
  1. Brainstorming the customer based on persona, empathy map and journey map. Move the most likely customer to the right part.
  2. Brainstorming what kind of issues the selected customer has and move it to the right part.
  3. Brainstorming the most effective solution for the selected issue and move it to the right part.
  4. Brainstorming preconditions to fulfill the selected issue and mapping on the axis of impact and obvious/unknown. Then choose the most effective and unknown one (this should be the "issue to be verified" because an idea can't hold unless this precondition fulfills).
  5. Decide the way to verify the selected precondition and verification criteria.

Verify issues and preconditions

Find evangelist users

Evangelist users (early adopter) has these characteristics:
  • Have ensured the budget or possible to have it
  • Have a minimum solution collecting some products
  • Looking for the solutions aggressively
  • Recognise issues
  • Investigating issues

How to find evangelist users

  • Have your friends introduce
  • Search by related words using the advanced search of Twitter
  • Make or Ask on FB group
  • Use online user interview service
  • Participate in related events, conferences or exhibits
  • Find from the colleagues (especially effective for B2B)
  • Invite your friends or friends of your friends who are familiar with this industry for lunch

Arrange customer interview to verify issues and preconditions

Here are 5 important points for a good interview. We should interview with at least 5 persons.

Know about them (confirm if they can be the evangelist users or not)

  • In order to resolve the current issues, what kind of alternatives do you use? (HOW)
  • What kind of points are you dissatisfied with the alternative? (WHAT)
    • *If they are satisfied with this alternative solution, it's very high possibility that its idea can't be a solution.
  • How much budget can you ensure if you can resolve this issue? (HOW MUCH)

Become "a disciple" (Focus on listening and asking, see the example of questions below)

  • Take advantage of the flow of context questions
  • Beg for teaching -> Ask deeply and deeply -> Confirm -> Find questions in the conversation -> Beg for teaching -> ...
  • Ask an open question and keep silent for 60 seconds
  • "I see, it's very interesting. Can I have more detail?"
  • Focus on "now"
  • Ask as concrete questions as possible
  • Ask about process instead of the result to let them talk the story
  • Ask about issues instead of solutions
  • NEVER ask "why don't you do *** to resolve it?"

Pay attention to their nonverbal communication

  • The behavior patterns of a person who can be a customer
    • Ask us many questions
    • Aggressive attitude
    • Show the attitude that they can pay to resolve issues
  • The behavior patterns of a person who can NOT be a customer
    • Don't concentrate
    • Talk topics which don't relate to issues
  • Negative body language
    => Let's quit the interview quickly

A founder themselves should be in charge of an interviewer

It's the precondition to produce the good service that a founder themselves has the deep understanding of the pain or needs in the viewpoint of customers.

Analyse their answers

  • Summarise data systematically using KJ method
  • See the example of the output by KJ method below

=> After an interview, summarise & analyze the result of the interview.

Example of problem questions

  • How do you do [tasks or operations] now? When? For what?  Where? With who? What do you use with?
  • Can you share with us the workflow of [tasks or operations]? Can you reproduce it if possible?
  • How long have you continued its [tasks or operations]?
  • Do you have some issues, something boring or inefficient, or something that you are not satisfied with you do its [tasks or operations]?
  • Do you have any original way of your style to do its [tasks or operations]?
  • Who are related to its [tasks or operations] (if you have)?
  • Why do you feel pain on its [tasks or operations]?
  • How do you handle its [tasks or operations] to complete? Please tell me tricks, tools, apps, alternatives and so on if you have.
  • Can you tell me the concrete steps of the solution for it?
  • How much time and money do you spend, what point is the most troublesome or inconvenient?

Checkpoints of problem questions

  • Who did you interview with? Who are the stakeholders? (Types of companies, industry, roles, and they were evangelist users or not?)
  • What kind of issues did they have?
  • These were the issues that are manifested? Or potential issues that they've not languageized yet?
  • How much pain did they feel?
  • Can we quantify the pain? (with cost, time and so on)
  • How deep was the pain that a customer has? (How did they express the pain?)
  • Did you analyze the results of the interview with a customer? (Using KJ method and Javelin board)
  • What kind of alternatives did a customer use?
  • What was not enough with its alternative?
  • Do you think you need to brush up problem hypothesis more?
NOTICE so that we do NOT interpret the verification results to suit our own hypothesis. 

Example of the output by KJ method

We can find many articles to show the way of KJ method so I exclude the explanation here. Here's the sample of the final output by KJ method. This shows the relationship of each group of the responses from customers.

Observe customers deeply

Carry out the job shadowing of customers who seem to have issues.
  • Don't they have any tasks which they spend a long time?
  • Don't they repeat something similar?
  • Don't they choose not an optimum solution?
  • Don't they have frustration?
  • Don't they have steps that they have to remember unnecessarily?
  • Don't they use the other stuff like memo, Excel, sticker and so on?

Complete Javelin board

  • Write down the results of interviews on "Result" area on Javelin board
  • Also, write down what you learned on "Leaning" area. We should recognize that it's also the learning that we proved the hypothesis was incorrect.
  • Based on Result and Leaning, list up Customer, Issue, and Solution again with brainstorming.
  • Verify "the most uncertain preconditions" through interviews. If you repeat this cycle 5 - 6 times, the accuracy of the verification can get enough.
  • Through several interviews, you will have a more clear persona. At that time, try to ask them to be "customer advisor" (may have to pay or give the right to try the initial product or something).

Exit conditions of Customer-problem-fit

  • Proved that issues actually exist
    • Customers have enough pain so far?
    • Languageizationed issues which even customers didn't find?
  • Clarified the customer image (persona and customer story) who have issues
    • Clarify mental conditions of customers for B2C
    • Clarify organization structure for B2B
  • At least 2/3 founders should grasp issues as "my issue

In this blog, I described Customer-Problem-Fit. In the next blog, I describe the next phase, Problem-Solution-Fix phase. See you next!
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About Tomohide Kakeya

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