In our last message, we talked about some positive steps to take you into the new year. The first one was Focus on identifying and understanding your client's problems and providing solutions.
1. Identify the problem. This is critical: you must try to solve the right problem. Don't try to solve a problem the customer sees as low priority or unimportant. Identify the right problem by asking the right questions and observing. What’s leading the customer to feel there is a problem? Is it something specific or is it an intuitive sense that things aren't as they should be? Can the customer define the problem? If the customer can not define the problem, provide them with known considerations. If the client does not accept the considerations, perhaps the client is not a good fit.
2. Analyze the problem. After you have identified the client's problem(s), then determine how often does the problem occur? How severe is it? Are there any special circumstances that are present when it occurs? What might be the causes of the problem? Can you rule out any causes? How long has it been going on? Has it gotten worse? How is the problem affecting other processes or people? If the problem is persistent and the client is unwilling to accept your analysis, perhaps this is not the best client fit.
3. Identify decision criteria. How will you and the client make decisions. When it is time to decide? How will you weigh the criteria? Can you identify (in writing) the steps that can be used? If the client is reluctant to make decisions (for whatever reason) then perhaps this is not the best fit.
4. Develop multiple solutions. Assuming you have worked with the client to identify problems, analyze problems and ready to make decisions on solving the problems, be sure to look beyond singular solutions. Don't stop at the first possible solution. It may be good, but various other ones may exist. Evaluate alternative scenarios. As objectively as possible, assess the pros and cons of each. It's not necessary to take your client through the evaluation process; presenting outcomes should be sufficient to confirm the decision criteria has been satisfied.
5. Choose the optimal solution. Use the criteria you developed in the third step of this problem-solving process to choose the best solution. Develop a base of support that will ensure you can implement the solution. Prepare for contingencies.
When you solve problems systematically, you save time, achieve better solutions, and increase your credibility with the client. The perceived value of what you've done will be validated by the outcome.
When you can solve problems the customer is facing more expeditiously than someone else, the customer will appreciate the time saved.
Problem solving will certainly go beyond those addressed by this five-step process. Once you have the problem identified, you can sometimes rely on a known solution or a combination of known solutions.
At other times, no ready solution is apparent. In this case, you may need to do a business case analysis to determine if it will be profitable for your company to develop a solution. This includes what might include going into confidentiality as well asking what might be difficult questions of the client.
If you can see the benefit of this short flow, but you still can't put it all together for your clients, we can help you put a plan together to identify problems and develop solutions for your business clients.