Any business trying to scale in today’s hyper-connected world will find it difficult to achieve sustainable growth if they don’t keep the voice of their customers at the forefront.
If you’re in the dark about how your customers feel about your product or the issues they’re facing, it’s going to be difficult to retain customers and deliver products that have a meaningful impact on their lives. Customer pain points refer to specific problems your customer may face, leading to a bad experience with your company. Being blind to customer pain points impacts the whole business, from customer experience and support to marketing and sales.
All too often, it’s only a small percentage of customers who take surveys, and their experiences have to be pretty extreme to fill out a survey in the first place.
While it’s tempting to focus on the squeaky wheels as a litmus test, businesses truly need to listen to their entire customer base across every touchpoint in order to have a solid understanding of the pain points their customers are experiencing.
This guide will help you understand common customer pain points by sharing how to identify pain points, pain point examples, and how to solve them.
What are customer pain points?
Customer pain points are specific problems that your customers (or prospective customers) are experiencing. They’re the sneaky little pinches that happen during a customer’s journey that sour their relationship with your business.
Left unaddressed, these pain points might become a reason why your customer might not recommend you. Worse, they may fester to the point to which your customers actively seek out alternative solutions or speak out about their negative experiences with your brand.
Which department should solve customer pain points?
Every department feels the impact of customer pain points differently and needs to address them in their own way. The pain points that customers face are not just support problems; they have serious implications for retention, engineering, sales and marketing.
Anything that impacts the customer’s journey or experience impacts the reputation of the business in the marketplace. While the pain points may be similar, the responses and methods each business unit uses to address them are different.
That said, not all pain points are created equally and not all customers will feel the pain in the same way. There are also plenty of instances in a customer’s lifetime when they won’t even be able to articulate the pain that they’re experiencing or understand the root cause of their frustration.
What are pain points in marketing?
When it comes to marketing, understanding your prospect’s pain points means knowing how to position your product or service in the market.
It’s on marketing and sales teams to use customer insights and market research to understand the specific pain points prospective customers are feeling and use that quantitative and qualitative research to inform their marketing strategy.
Insight into customer pain points means that marketing teams can increase customer and revenue growth by pairing data-driven insights with customer feedback to optimize their messaging strategy.
What are examples of pain points?
No two pain points are the same and they’re not going to be felt the same way by different customers. There are, however, four common pain point categories:
- Financial pain points
- Productivity pain points
- Process pain points
- Support pain points
1. Financial pain points
Financial pain points are pretty straightforward. Essentially, the customer is spending too much money on a particular service or product. Some common examples of financial pain points include:
- Expensive subscription plans
- Steep membership fees
- Low-quality products that need to be replaced frequently
- Fees added on during the checkout process
- Lack of clarity about the final price
- Fees that jump drastically after a time period
Example of a financial pain point
Consider streaming services as an example. If a major streaming service announces a rate increase, its users will feel financial pain; however, not every customer will feel the hit in the same way.
Some customers will barely register the shift. Some will consider downgrading or canceling their subscription, causing avoidable customer churn. Others may be spurred to research competitor offerings and cancel their subscription.
In an increasingly saturated streaming market, it becomes more likely that unhappy customers will reevaluate and switch platforms.
A real-life example of a financial pain point is when back in 2010, help desk software company Zendesk raised their prices with no warning for new and existing customers. Some Zendesk customers faced monthly fee increases upward of 300%, resulting in floods of negative emails and tweets from irate customers who had been loyal to the company since its early startup days. 48 hours later, Zendesk announced they would be grandfathering original pricing for all existing customers.
How to address this financial pain point
Let’s look again at our hypothetical example. Firstly, the streaming business should know with some degree of certainty the size of each of the customer segments mentioned above. Without a sense of how many customers will feel the full strain of a pricing change, making that sort of decision is very risky.
Secondly, the streaming service needs to be aware of user sentiment about their offering. If the provider has exceptional exclusive programming that their customers love, there might be some assurance that a price increase will be accepted. If they’ve recently removed a lot of popular programming, however, the fee increase might be enough of an added pain point that it breaks the camel’s back.
Similarly, if customers are generally somewhat dissatisfied but the streaming provider is unaware, a price change could be disastrous for revenue and user retention.
This situation is just as applicable for subscription boxes, SaaS solutions and other businesses in saturated markets.
2. Productivity pain points
Productivity pain points are all about issues with efficiency. You may have heard these pain points referred to as ‘friction.’ Friction can exist anywhere. Whether it’s in the sales process, onboarding, or using an app interface, the end result is the same: inefficiencies and customer pain.
Anything that adds redundancy and makes buying, support, or usage less efficient will cause frustration.
There are two lenses to examine this type of customer pain point through:
- If your product is marketed as a productivity tool, but it isn’t fulfilling that promise, users will experience frustration.
- There are instances where it’s just plain difficult to interact with a company or buy a product. From engineering to sales, a goal should be to make it as easy as possible to buy and use what you’re selling.
A good starting point is to ask if you’re making the customer’s life any easier.
Example of a productivity pain point
An international wine school has a series of online courses and virtual masterclasses in wine. In order to register for a class, users are asked to go through three different pages of registration and provide information including their mailing address, even though the classes are completely virtual and they won’t be mailed anything.
Of the users who begin the registration process, only 20% finish because it’s so labor intensive to sign up for the online wine classes.
How to solve this productivity pain point
Once the pain point has been identified and the school understands that their inefficient and arduous registration process is resulting in lost enrolment, they can take steps to address the issue.
In this case, the school would reduce the amount of information it collects at sign-up to only the most important things like the student’s name, email address and credit card information.
They could also make the registration form available on the course landing page, or immediately after the initial registration button click, reducing the friction of clicking through multiple pages.
3. Process pain points
Process pain points are problems wherein you create friction for customers due to redundant or sub-par processes. Any scenario where there are unnecessary extra steps toward the customer’s goal would be considered a process pain point. Everyone can think of a time when bureaucracy prevailed and unnecessary forms were required or information from a document needed to be uploaded and entered into a system manually. These issues boil down to problems with processes, which in turn create productivity pain when they get in the way of efficiency.
There are two frames for this:
- Your processes aren’t great.
- Your customers want to improve their own internal processes.
When it’s the first scenario, there are potentially some quick wins to be had with improving your own processes. For instance, how much effort or digging does a customer have to do to find information on your website? Is it impossible to find product specs without doing an hour-long demo?
This is a similar type of friction to productivity issues. If your sales process is inconvenient and difficult, it might be a red flag for prospects that interacting with your company is going to be arduous. The same applies to complex implementation processes. If it takes ten months to deploy your solution, that implementation process can become a major process pain point and ultimate deterrent from using your solution.
The second frame applies more to the solution that you are selling. This is important for sales and product teams in order to be able to sell effectively and create a product or solution that helps to improve the customer’s internal process. When it comes to customers experiencing process pain points within their organization, businesses that can remove redundancies will find that their product will be much appreciated.
Example of a process pain point
As an example of this type of customer pain point, let’s consider the redundancy and time wasted by administrative staff spending hours on manual correspondence to book meetings.
Let’s say that a meeting scheduling software provides a solution that removes the friction of sending multiple emails back and forth. By effectively smoothing out that process for a customer, the solution could soon become indispensable within the customer’s organization for having addressed this issue.
The meeting scheduling software, however, might have many steps that require those booking meetings to go through before they can confirm a time slot. If that were the case, the business may only be replacing one of their customer’s pain points with another and will need to examine their own processes as well.
How to address this process pain point
The software solution provider would need to identify the pain point within their own solution and make the necessary changes to their product. They could use a variety of methods including behavioral research and customer feedback surveys to identify then solve this specific pain point.
4. Support pain points
Support pain points are issues where customers aren’t receiving the help they need. If a customer can’t find an answer to a pressing question, what’s stopping them from finding a company that cares about helping them out?
Common support pain points
- Can’t find or access customer support.
- Is your support info buried on your website?
- During onboarding, were customers introduced to a dedicated support contact?
- Unhelpful support agents
- Are your support teams trained and empowered to be helpful or is there a never-ending chain of escalation that needs to be followed in order to get anything done?
- Inconvenient communications channels
- How long are your support line’s hold times?
- Do you know how your customers prefer to communicate with you?
- Do you have support available by phone, email, or chatbots?
- Inability to self-service
- Do you have up-to-date and accurate knowledge hubs?
- Are the answers to frequently asked questions readily available to customers who prefer self-service support?
Example of a support pain point
A SaaS solution has a support ticket routing system that lets customers self-select their issue; however, the customers don’t always understand the issue they’re experiencing. They often nominate the wrong routing or lack the specificity to send them to the correct specialized agent. This leads to them being rerouted and escalated, delaying the time it takes to resolve their issue.
How to address this support pain point
In this instance, the organization would be able to improve customer satisfaction and support experience and metrics by using machine learning to categorize tickets properly and manage the support workflows.
By using the wealth of data the company already has and the indicators from the customer’s behavior, AI can help the company’s support team save time and make decisions faster.
How do I find customer pain points?
Now that you know what you’re looking for, you need to know how to find it. How do you uncover customer pain points if your customers aren’t explicitly reporting them to you?
If you can’t see the fire, you have to smell for the smoke instead. And just because you see smoke in one room, doesn’t mean that’s the source of the fire.
Get customer feedback
As a starting point, open the channels of communication with your customers. Request customer feedback through surveys and net promoter scores. The trick with customer feedback surveys is to ask the right questions and leave space for customers to flag issues you may not expect.
Customer feedback is a great starting point, and conventional wisdom will often tell you to listen to your customer. While it’s important to have open communication with your customers and they’re often well-meaning in their feedback, the truth is that they don’t always know what they’re talking about.
They may suggest features or solutions that don’t actually address their real issue. When engaging with customer feedback, you’re better off listening to the pain rather than the solution. The pain will tell you where the problem lies and help you identify genuine customer pain points.
Talk to your sales team
A resource at your fingertips that you’d be remiss to ignore is your sales team. By conducting qualitative sales research, you can get a sense of the market expectations in your industry. Your sales team will have keen insight into the pain points that are driving prospects to market. Thanks to their near-constant interaction with prospects, they’ll also be able to tell you about the customer journey and experience with your business as well as competitors.
This insight can help guide solution-based selling activities for sales and marketing, improve sales processes and the customer journey, and even help guide some elements of the product roadmap.
Examine behavioral data
Behavioral data, much loved by product teams around the world, provides great insight into the paths and actions that customers take within a product. It’s helpful for showing the most popular features and segmenting users based on their actions.
It can tell you a lot about what has already happened, but it isn’t predictive. Behavioral data won’t tell you what your customer wants to do or is going to do. It isn’t able to interpret intention. So if users are repeatedly checking back and forth between two reports, the assumption may be that they find those two reports valuable when in fact they need to parse two different data sets because there’s no report that does what they really need in one place. Maybe they just wanted to refresh the data, and the report isn’t actually all that popular at all.
In that case, the pain point could be either a missing report or a lag in data refreshing, but the behavioral data will only tell you that there’s lots of traffic to that report so it must be popular.
Leverage AI and machine learning to get the full picture
Feedback and qualitative insights from your sales and support teams are helpful for identifying pain points, but they don’t paint the whole picture. Rather, they’re great smoke alarms.
Support may feel like they’re able to distill and distinguish customer feedback to make informed decisions and product recommendations from thousands of customers, but they aren’t. There’s too much data and too little objectivity from within to make those decisions, and buying into the myth that they can is harmful.
Similarly, behavioral data can’t give you the insight you need to know that a critical feature is missing from your product or service and that customer frustration is bubbling under the surface.
To really understand what customers are saying, how they’re saying it and why it matters, you need to be able to analyze thousands of conversations and touchpoints to find trends and make predictions. That’s a lot to ask of a human handling support tickets.
Using AI and machine learning to identify customer pain points, companies can move beyond relying on squeaky wheels and gut instinct in order to address pain points across their product. Instead of looking for data based on assumptions, using AI means saying goodbye to confirmation bias and uncovering invaluable insights.
Turn customer pain points into actionable opportunities to improve customer experiences. Book a demo today to see AI in action.