Photo by Ali Yahya. Find more like this on Unsplash

What is a pain point?

Learn how to identify and describe the issues your customers face.

By Narrandum team
10 October 2020

We've previously written on our blog about the fundamentals of every good story. No matter what the setting, no matter who the protagonists are, what propels any story forward is always the same: the hero faces a series of challenges, and through overcoming them (or failing to do so), change happens.

This principle applies to customer journey mapping too. By making sure that your customer journeys feature the issues and difficulties your customers face in real life, you can improve customer experience and stand out from the competition. Identifying, understanding and solving your customers' problems is how you show them that you care, which makes them more loyal and more likely to recommend you to others.

In the service design business, the name we use for these challenges is one you might recognise from the world of advertising and marketing: pain points.

Another word that turns up a lot when we're talking about pain points is friction. What we mean by this is anything which slows a customer down, or makes their path less smooth.

So if you would like to know more about what pain points are, and how to incorporate them into your customer journeys, read on.

Definition of a customer pain point

Pain points are concrete - they should relate to real things or events. A task that can't be done, a resource which can't be obtained, a need that isn't met. The effect of the pain point should be recorded separate from the pain point itself, so that you can measure that effect when you address the pain point.Of course, a pain point may cause a customer to feel a certain way, and that's why Narrandum allows you to define your characters' emotions too.

Pain points are specific - If customers are reporting complex problems, try to ask them questions which will allow you to break these down into multiple discrete issues. Not only will it be easier to find solutions this way, it will also be easier to track and measure the success of your efforts.

Pain point categories

Financial - Your customer is spending more money than they would like to, or they don't have the budget to afford what they really need or want.

Time - The way they do things at the moment takes too long, or other demands on their time mean they're too busy to do the things they would like to do, in the way they would like to do them.

Quality - Whether it's the standards of the choices available, or the results of a process, your customer just isn't satisfied with what they can get.

Emotional - The current state is causing negative feelings in your customer - frustration, irritation, fatigue, sickness, anxiety, etc.

How to identify pain points

In short: learn about your customers!

Service designers usually talk about user research of two different kinds: quantitative research, which is about gathering and analysing data to spot trends; and qualitative research, which is more about observing and interviewing individual customers. To find your pain points, you will need to use qualitative methods.

Getting into detail about these qualitative user research methods is beyond the scope of this article, but very simply, it comes down to asking open-ended questions and drilling down on the answers. Doing this allows you to understand the reasons behind observed customer behaviours, which in turn allows you to address their causes.

Besides the customers themselves, another rich source of knowledge about pain points is the people who have to directly deal with them – so if you have customer support staff, or in-store customer service, you should think about interviewing them too. The big advantage of doing this is that you are less in danger of falling into the trap of prioritising the needs of a vocal minority – from having to deal with many individuals, your staff will be able to give you a more balanced perspective.

How to address pain points

The million dollar question! Again, this article is not the appropriate place for a comprehensive guide to resolving customer pain points, but we have a couple of tips nonetheless.

Prioritise - Always seek to maximise customer value. There will always be problems to solve, but the order in which you tackle them shouldn't be decided by who asked first, or who shouts the loudest, or who has the most authority. Value should be your sole guide. This means focusing on what will provide the most improvement for the least effort.

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of what pain points are, how you can identify them, and how you can describe them. We have many articles like this one in preparation, so do come back soon for more.

Thanks for reading.

We hope you enjoyed the post. We love helping people to understand their customers better, and producing articles like this is part of how we do it.

But of course, these posts are just the sideshow. The really interesting part is the app itself. So while you're here, why not sign up and try Narrandum for free?