How to tackle customer behavior?

With or without the Problem-Solution fit canvas.

Time is a scarce resource, it costs people money and makes them feel bad for not spending it right. It is also your indicator of what is worthy of attention from your customer’s perspective. Behavior, its intensity and reasons behind it indicate personal importance. The task of an entrepreneur is to match behavior to the problems from the scope that he wants to solve (jobs-to-be-done), identify which problem has the most of customer energy invested in it and why. People who already do something on the topic, investing time in it, are your early adopters.

Externally observable behavior

Think about any externally observable behavior that your customers have in relation to the subject. Are they using tools or, software, do they read specific blogs or attend topical events? Maybe they are loyal to a specific brand / product / artist or have a habit that you can spot right on the street? How can you recognize them? The more you know, — the more cues to familiar channels and methods you have, which makes your cheat sheet.

List related behavior, related channels, triggers and common methods to get a better understanding of what your customers know and use right now. To be able to improve something for people, you need to learn what their current perceived “baseline” is.

The main questions to answer are:
- What do your customers do directly or indirectly related to the problem and the subject? Why? What is important to them? (Mental model + behavioral baseline)

- How often do they do it (for example, last week)? When was the last time this happened? What was the hardest? What did they do about it? How did they deal with it? What was the outcome? (Past behavior)

- What triggered them to act? Why? How did they feel about it? (Triggers to act)

There are three behavioral categories, which emerged during my research on Problem-Solution fit. The technique is to identify them and recognize the sequence of events: a change of context or a trigger can boost the awareness, thus pushing a person to act and solve the problem. This is where it all starts. Frequent behavior is often accompanied with low awareness level, so it should be addressed differently. You need to remind people about the problem, show a comparison of time/money/effort spent or use a strong emotional trigger. In general, you need to be in their way so you are noticed and so that they can try your solution and stay your customer (as long as your solution noticeably improves current baseline).

3 behavioral categories:

1. Change of context: when a change in personal state creates a problem and urgency in the customer’s eyes.
In such scenarios, a person needs to adapt to a new context and situation, and, as a result, he/she (your potential customer) is actively searching for a solution with an intent to solve the problem.

The customer is trying to keep SoT (state of things) and SoM (state of mind) undisturbed, without any negative change. He is afraid of possible setbacks under new conditions that might lead to unsatisfying outcomes.

So was there a set of conditions (change of timing, location, context in general) under which this behavior occurred? Let’s check a few examples.

a) Christopher started to use a language learning app every day. 
Context, change of state: he has recently relocated abroad and he doesn’t speak the local language, therefore he wants to learn it quickly.
What do you need to do? Address the situation and help to get the job done.

b) Jessica is actively browsing restaurant reviews, looking for local places to visit, using Google maps and other apps.
Context, change of state: she is visiting Barcelona this week.
What do you need to do? Address the situation and help to get the job done.

c) Anna and Dave are searching online, making a list and preparing everything that might be needed for a baby.
Context, change of state: Anna and Dave are expecting their first child.
What do you need to do? Address the situation and help to get the job done.

2. Intensified / triggered: when there was an external factor (trigger) that caused a boost in problem awareness, and resulted in a behavior. This trigger could be replicated or visually demonstrated again to catch customer’s attention.

Customers are interested in a solution, but aren’t sure which one yet (they show interest). Your goal is to help your customers orientate. Intensified behavior is caused by an external trigger, that boosted urgency and awareness. These people often are completely new to the topic on which they experience a problem. Your job is to figure out what caused the disturbance in SoT/SoM in the first place, guide them through the options and help to get their job done.

a) Andrew started to consider installing solar panels after his neighbor did it.

Who pulled the trigger? Neighbor set the new baseline, introducing a problem for Andrew, who is now feeling the pressure.

What do you need to do? Educate and guide during the process of getting a job done.

b) The winter was cold, therefore, Dave and Sandra started to look for solutions to insulate their house better.

Who pulled the trigger? Weather conditions influenced Dave and Sandra’s state introducing a problem.

What do you need to do? Educate and guide during the process of getting a job done.

c) Fuel prices are shooting up, therefore Bart started to consider buying a new car, hybrid or electric.

Who pulled the trigger? Fuel prices and his own spending influenced Bart’s SoT/SoM and introduced a problem.

What do you need to do? Educate and guide during the process of getting a job done.

d) B2B: recent changes in how business administration is required to be done mean that Daniel’s small business needs to restructure their contracts, therefore Daniel is looking for an optimal solution or a consultant to help him.

Who pulled the trigger? Updates from the government caused a change in Daniel’s state of mind and his state of business, introducing a problem.

What do you need to do? Educate and guide in the process of getting a job done.

3. Frequent (daily, weekly, biweekly) behavior that turns into a habit or frequent annoyance.

This type has customers’ time invested in it: frequent behaviors get so familiar to people that it could form a baseline or a habit, which is harder to change, but is easier to tap into (integrate into common mediums). Your approach is to upgrade customer experience and offer a better, different way of doing what they already do (same done differently), or introduce a new product using already familiar methods and mediums (new done in a familiar way). They will engage with an alternative solution as long as you are on their path, when they need it, with the right trigger.

Examples below illustrate people who have figured out a solution that works for them or perceive their habit in response to a frequent annoyance as the new norm, but if you offer a better alternative they might be interested in switching (hypothesis you need to test). Your job here is to challenge the existing way of solving the problem and eliminating the annoyance.

a) Every day while Lisa is on the train, returning from work, she browses recipes on Pinterest for her dinner inspiration. It is a frequent behavior that turned into a habit. 
What do you need to do? Provide her with a better solution, upgrading her current experience.

b) Serge plays video games until 2am and is running late the next morning, so he skips breakfast and instead picks up coffee-to-go at the train station. It is a frequent annoyance turned into an unhealthy habit. 
What do you need to do? Provide him with a better solution, be on his way, level up current experience.

c) Bob and Emma always argue about what to cook for dinner and this turns into a daily argument, which influences their mood for the rest of the evening. It is a frequent annoyance turned into a daily problem, where both of them are tired of it and are open for an alternative. 
What do you need to do? Provide them with a better, easier solution, upgrade current experience, eliminating the annoyance (of having too much choice and having to think about it).

This type of behavior probably makes you wonder how often should a person experience an annoyance before it becomes more beneficial to just look for a better solution and be done with it? Early adopters will be actively looking for alternatives, late majority will stay being annoyed until someone demonstrates or promotes a better method.

Directly and indirectly related behavior suggests to you how any problem should be solved. It suggests to you which experiences and methods are already familiar to your customer. Help people to adopt your product: design a solution with references to what your customers know, use, like, respect or have sympathy for already.

Finding Problem-Solution fit is like playing Tetris. To recognize a matching solution is only half of the job, the other half is to fit it to the customer state and make it agreeable (adoptable).

I hope that this summary helps you to get a better understanding of customer behavior, because getting good at recognizing it results in a continuous source of insights.

To get started, you can download and try the Problem-Solution fit canvas at If you have any questions, feedback, ideas and thoughts to discuss or know some interesting challenges which we can crack together, send me an email at


Daria Nepriakhina,
Creator of Problem-Solution fit canvas

Edited by amazing
Dora Coventry