How Humans Solve Problems, and Why it Affects Your Business Strategy
Problem Solving is one of the core higher functions that makes us human. Used in its most fundamental sense, a problem is a question to be considered, solved, or answered. Since almost every product and service purchase begins with some form of a problem or query, I want to take a minute to spell out exactly how most of us approach a question, or problem, that we may have.
When considering a question that we want solved or answered, we either look for the answer ourselves, or ask someone else.
I’ll LOOK FOR THE ANSWER MYSELF
The first thing many of us do when looking for an answer to a question is to search online, or “Google it.” When doing so, we may either check out a website that we find in organic search, or click on a paid advertisement.
If on a mobile device, as many of us are, we still may use Internet search, although we may do this by verbally “asking” the Internet a question with voice search technologies like Apple's Siri or Google's Voice. Though we are talking instead of typing, this is essentially another form of “Googling it.” Mobile apps are proliferating in part to help streamline this process.
Even if we see an ad on TV or hear one on the radio, many of us will invariably look online for more information, or “Google it.”
When someone recommends a product or service, or thing to do or check out, we often turn to online search. In doing so, we may be looking for more information, for a way to buy something, or for someone’s opinion. We might jump on an online forum and ask a question. Regardless of particulars, many of these actions will begin with an Internet search engine query, i.e. by “Googling it.”
I’LL ASK SOMEONE ELSE
Sometimes, we'd rather turn to others to help solve problems or answer questions. We do this by way of a personal conversation, a phone call, an email, or an interaction on social media.
If we are not able to stand in the same room as someone, we often call them on the phone to ask a question. If it’s a personal connection, we may text them; most businesses don’t make it easy for us to text them with a question. In the business world, it seems like texts are being used more as passive promotional tools more than anything else.
Increasingly, many of us are using social media to reach out to a friend, family member or colleague with a query. This may take the form of a tweet on Twitter, a direct message on Facebook, or an instant message on Google+ (which we use in our office to communicate in real time without having to move and interrupt each other’s workflow). Over time, more of us will use video chat technologies like Google Hangouts to remotely communicate face-to-face.
Similarly, we may email a personal connection or a business to ask a question or resolve an issue. Emails are great for business communication, but they do not usually provide immediate feedback, which, thanks to technology and the Internet, most of us are getting accustomed to receiving. Email is useful and even preferred for less urgent needs and communications; perhaps that is why it is still such a popular medium in business.
So let’s review. Aside from having a face-to-face conversation (which is often not an option), almost all of us will invariably use one of the following media when tackling a problem:
Online Search Engine
WHY BUSINESSES SHOULD CARE
If your business is built on selling either a product or service to human beings, this information is highly-relevant. Why? Because your target audience, prospects, and customers - everyone you do business with - are using one or many of these media when problem solving. Though people may try to solve numerous problems in a given day, it’s a virtual guarantee they will use at least one of these media when doing so.
If this is true, (and I see no reason why it is not) you need to really think about how this new reality relates to your business. Are you communicating the right message to the right people at the right time? If so, what is your company doing to make sure you are found by prospects and customers wrestling with a problem you can help them resolve? If you are not, how do you get started? Further, are you measuring their success/failure?
In order to properly analyze these questions, you need to review each initiative in its entirety.
A good place to start is at the beginning. What problems are the people your brand is targeting trying to resolve? How are they going about doing so? How exactly are you doing to help resolve them?
Once you've reviewed this, you can move to process. Process is all about efficiency and optimization. You can’t win over every customer; the best you can do is to position yourself to lose as few as possible.
Think holistically. What are your most important business goals, and how can you align organizational processes to realize these goals first? This will also help you prioritize implementation. Recognize that you can’t do it all, at least not right away.
Think about how you can incorporate as many of the above problem-solving media (search, social, email, mobile) into your future plans. Once again, prioritize based on immediate relevance, but take the long view. How do these media fit into your future vision? Are some more relevant, others less? Why?
Finally, recognize that the only constant is change. In today’s hyper-paced business environment, paradigms are made and broken in an instant. Stay mentally flexible, agile.
Be your own case study.