5 Tips for Identifying Customer Pain Points
Customer Journey #1 – 5 Tips for Identifying Customer Pain Points
Customers buy products to solve a problem. They only buy a drill because they need to make holes.
Having a deep understanding of your customer pain points, or problems, will help your business deliver better solutions than your competitors. It’s all too easy to assume your product solves every customers problem perfectly or that the product you built 5 years ago is still relevant today. Competitors may be eyeing your customers. Disruptive alternatives may have found a game changing solution by knowing more about the problem.
This article is intended to help business leaders to identify, understand and solve their customer problems as the basis for building and delivering better and lasting solutions.
Tip 1: Identify Key Pain Points
Many inspirational business ideas have come from founders who have experienced a particular problem first hand and then developed an innovative solution.
However, for many business leaders, spending time with customers is key. Not just an occasional call, but experiencing real world environment with its time pressures, incomplete information, disjointed processes and cultural nuances. Put yourself in their shoes. Live the problem.
Encourage sales, account management and customer service people to engage in continuous dialogue with prospects and customers. Ensure your customer facing teams ask open-ended questions to elicit high calibre, qualitative responses and develop a deep empathy with the problem the customer is facing. If they can articulate a range of potential solutions and become more of a trusted advisor they have the potential to solve a more valuable problem for the customer.
Open-ended questions create an opportunity for learning and with active listening, businesses can identify solutions that maximise benefits to customers. Customers often know what the ‘ideal’ solution looks like and are happy to share or even evaluate potential solutions. By socialising potential solutions with sufficient people, companies will be able to design the right solution to meet enough customer demand to support sustained, profitable growth.
Find out how your prospects or customers would go about solving the problem. Who would they talk to? Which websites or blog posts have authority? How much would they spend to solve the problem in question? Who else do they know that has experienced the same issue? How did they solve the problem? What happens if the problem isn’t solved?
Further sources of information are industry focussed social media, chat forums, keyword search data, analyst blogs and white papers from industry leaders. Focus on customer pain points – not macro ‘ industry’ challenges. Consume the information and find the common threads that support (or challenge) your understanding of customer pain points and document your findings.
Tip 2: Categorise the pain points
In simple terms, pain points are problems that a customer wants or needs to solve. They can be diverse in nature, range from occasional low impact through to significant with major implications if not solved.
The same pain points may also effect different people in various ways. In many cases, a specific pain will have impact across multiple categories. Whilst the customer pain point might be expressed in different ways, understanding what causes the pain is likely to be more common across more potential customers.
For most business environments, pain points can be categorised into:
- Financial– the current cost the problem is excessive, and the business is looking to reduce or eliminate this cost. Years back, companies spent thousands of pounds sending executives to face to face meetings and incurring costs of travel and accommodation (as well as travel time). This financial problem has been largely solved through online conferencing.
- Time– the current pain point takes too long to address or too many people are experiencing the problem resulting in a cumulative inefficiency. Think how much time you would waste with financial forecasting if you didn’t have spreadsheets?
- Risk– the business is exposed to unacceptable risks, which need to be mitigated. Businesses that import goods from across the world are exposed to all sorts of risk – crop failure due to extreme weather, political instability, transport problems, customs issues and currency variations. These are all significant pain points which importers seek to address.
- Process– having a dis-jointed process can result in financial, time and risk but is worthy of being categorised separately as more and more B2B solutions are focussed in this area. Consider the processes involved in manufacturing a product and how much investment goes into automating the end to end processes. These are tangible problems which producers spend to solve.
- Emotional– smart business leaders need to consider the impact of business problems on their people. A problem with consistently late deliveries is not purely a process, financial or efficiency issue – it could place employees who have to deal with unhappy customers under severe distress, resulting in high staff turn-over and poor morale.
Tip 3: Assess the impact
Problems range from a minor inconvenience to business critical. Some pain points are occasional and short term, where-as others are systemic, long term problems to be addressed. In business environments, the impact of a specific problem may only be experienced by a very small number of employees performing a specific role, by teams driving the same goal, by every person within an organisation or even across an industry.
These impacts can be assessed by combining the qualitative insights captured by customer facing teams and quantitative measurement.
Quantitative assessment of problems is based on fact and figures. Sample sizes should be large enough to identify consistency and the scope of any research activity to capture all employees impacted, including management, decision makers, junior employees, suppliers and anyone involved in the process. Whilst it is is imperative to build a rationale business case, figures can often mask a real ‘gut feel’ opportunity to solve a significant pain point for customers.
Too many corporates rely on statistical evidence gathered by middle managers – leaving great opportunities for entrepreneurs who really ‘get’ the customer.
Armed with both qualitative insights and quantitative research, business leaders can start to map out and test hypotheses and innovative ideas. However, it is imperative that assumptions are not set in stone and are continually tested. People change, disruptive alternatives come and go, more nimble competitors provide solutions and business environments change. A continual process of learning, assessment and refinement will help ensure solutions maximise returns for product and service companies over the longer term.
Once you have a product or service available for customers, much deeper and more value insights can be gained. Customer feedback is gold-dust and should inform R&D, product development, choice of distribution channel(s), service levels, pricing, sales methods and marketing communications. Increasingly products are able to share usage data with product designers, marketers and analysts – thereby informing better solutions in future.
Customer feedback, such as case studies, online ratings, testimonials and references also provides much higher levels of re-assurance for new customers. Rather than solely extol the virtues of your product, powerful customer success stories start with the original situation – what was it that the customer was trying to address. How did they address the problem (why did they chose your solution) and what were the results?
Building a feedback loop ensures your entire organisation is focussed on continually solving your customer’s pain points will align your team to build a better solution.
Tip 4: Is the problem worth solving?
There are plenty of great products in need of a problem to solve. By gaining a deep understanding of your customers problems, assessing the impact on the customer and related stakeholders, you will be able to identify whether or not the problem can be solved. And if it can – can you provide a product or service that provides sufficient value that enough customers will pay you to profitably deliver the solution.
Are there enough people experiencing the same problem? Are they prepared to pay to address this need? If so how much? If its a recurring problem – will they pay a recurring payment?
Tip 5: Start solving customer pain points today before someone else does
Only by really understanding the nature of customer pain, can you seek to understand the impact of the problem on the customer.
However, there is a danger that companies lose these deep insights as they grow or simply become complacent with time.
What was a real pain point for a customer six months ago – may have been solved by a nimbler competitor or innovative solution.
So here are 5 questions to share with your team today.
- Describe the process inefficiencies or problem the customer is facing?
- How big a problem is it?
- How often does the customer face this problem?
- Can you quantify the pain that the customer experiences?
- Are the prepared to pay to solve the problem?
Good luck and please share your experiences.
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