Design for Delight: How To Fall In Love With Your Customer’s Problems (And Not The Solution)

The idea of falling in love with your customer’s problem, not the solution, may sound foreign, or even seem backwards. You want to build an app that is customer-focused though, correct? If so, I’d like to make the case for focusing on your customer’s problems. Here at Intuit, this focus is a foundational belief and a major factor in our continuing innovation as a leading technology company. We’ve named this concept Design for Delight, or D4D for short, and our founder, Scott Cook, calls it our “#1 secret weapon.” 

Design for Delight: Intuit’s Secret Weapon

Intuit’s products were built to provide individuals and businesses with solutions that make their lives easier. With 9,000 employees, 21 locations around the world, and 50 million customers (and counting), I’d like to wager that what started as a humble focus has been proven true over the test of time and our exponential growth. With D4D (a not-so-secret secret) our developers, accountants, and small business owners can take the same methodology that Intuit started out using, and use it as a base for their own businesses. We all have customer problems we are trying to solve, afterall.

So, let’s get started. What exactly is D4D?

D4D is a three-pronged concept that focuses on how we can “Delight” our customers. This is a simple but effective method for exceeding customer expectations and delivering value to their business (one way to measure value propositions is through the Net Promoter Score®, or NPS). The three principles that make up the triangle of Delight include Deep Customer Empathy, Go Broad to Go Narrow, and Rapid Experiments with Customers.

Design for Delight

1. Deep Customer Empathy

At the very heart of Design for Delight is the customer. Who are they? What problem (or problems) are they facing in their businesses? How do they react to their problem or problems? Observing customers within their real environment offers both surprises and insight into pain points.

What we’ve found is that getting to the root of their problem, and the emotion connected with it, provides a starting point as well as becomes the driver of our innovation. Aligning our teams here at Intuit around a very specific problem—and not a single solution—is when the creative juices flow.

The first step is creating a Customer Problem Statement. This statement consists of the following components:

  •  I am: (A narrow description of the customer that highlights their motivations, attributes and/or characteristics)
  •  I am trying to: (Desired outcome)
  •  But: (Problem or barrier)
  •  Because: (Root cause)
  • Which makes me feel: (Emotion)

After the Customer Problem Statement is complete, the next step is to go to the other end of the spectrum and define the “Ideal State.” This is a description of a future state where an important customer problem or opportunity has been solved to such an amazing degree that the outcome seems almost impossible.

An Ideal State Statement includes:

  • In a perfect world: (Bold statement of the future state that is borderline unachievable—think of perfect outcomes, not perfect solutions)
  • The biggest benefit to me is: (Most important improvement in the customer’s life when the idea state is achieved)
  • Which makes me feel: (Emotion)

Clearly defining your customer’s problem and their Ideal State gives you the beginning and the end of an impactful journey.

2. Go Broad to Go Narrow

In traditional problem solving, people often fall in love with either the first solution or their own solution. This singular mindset makes a cohesive team and collaborative problem solving almost impossible. However, when people focus on the customer and their specific problem, everyone works together to solve it.

Now that the team is working together, the process begins by throwing out multiple ideas, or by going broad. It’s important that the team is facilitated by someone who pushes boundaries and won’t accept mediocrity.

A robust brainstorming session produces many bold solutions. Go into any conference room here at Intuit, and you’ll find post-it notes, markers, and a whiteboard ready for rapid, idea-formulating sessions. Once you have a number of ideas, grid them, and sort and whittle them down (going narrow) until you find the solution that delivers the greatest customer benefit.

From there, you move on to testing.

3. Rapid Experiments with Customers

Testing the solution on actual users leads to better decisions. Their reaction to your solution to their problem provides the data you need to move forward—or to step back.

To test, you need to have a hypothesis: “If we do this, then we will see this result measured by.”

The Hypothesis Statement includes:

  •  If we: (Describe how the experiment will work)
  • Then: (What is the outcome you expect from your experiment)
  • Which we will measure by: (How you will know if it was successful)
  •  Success for this metric will be: (The minimum percentage or number needed for success)

You’re trying to determine what the customer wants. If you test the hypothesis and the results are positive, then you can push reveal. If the test results are negative, then you go back to the board. It’s not a failure, it’s more input.

An example of a company that utilized Rapid Experiments with Customers is Zappos. The Zappos team made a big leap assumption that people would buy shoes online. To test their hypothesis, they posted a picture of shoes on a website. If someone wanted to order the shoes, the person would call to order, and a Zappos employee would run over to a local department store (no joke!) to buy the shoes. Instead of building a website and stocking inventory first, they decided to validate their hypothesis that people would buy shoes online.

It worked (obviously).

At Intuit, we leverage a few different types of hypothesis experiments that come in handy, especially during different stages of development. They include:

  • Fast Cycle Sketch Test: Observe testers using a sketch or paper prototype
  • Fake-o Test: Part of the experience is fake or manual
  • Concierge Test: Find a way to deliver the experience manually
  • Technical Test: Prove the technology can work
  •  Fully Built A/B Test in Production

These tests can be handy for your app and business as well. Keep in mind, you should figure out the minimum experiment you can run to get the data you need. Define your hypothesis first, run your experiment with real customers through the design and development process, and make sure you test after launching to ensure your software evolves.

Design for Delight: Takeaway

We believe that when you incorporate D4D into your company, you will save yourself wasted R&D building something no one wants to use or something that is being used in a way you didn’t think it would. Up to 50% of startups fail because they create a solution no one wants. Don’t let that be you. 

Ingrain the concept of Design for Delight (falling in love with the customer problem and not the solution, defining your Ideal State, and testing your way through to solve that problem) within the fabric of your company. Every employee has a customer. Human Resources’ customers are the employees. A manager’s customer is his or her direct reports. Every person in your company can use D4D.

Ultimately, innovation never ends. And staying rooted in the problem without falling in love with the solution is the key. This is the route to happy customers.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on Design for Delight, we’d love to hear them! And don’t forget to check out the Intuit Developer Blog to find out what’s happening in the community, such as the deprecating of the Legacy QBMS Payments API and the new Developer Portal.






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