Customer Pain Points: Types, How to Identify and Address Them
For 11 years, since the time of its initial creation, Twitter had a 140-character limit. But in 2017, the platform surprised everyone by increasing the limit to 280 characters. They justified the change with the desire to make Twitter more accessible for languages that naturally use more characters to express the same thought.
Twitter’s research showed that tweets in Japanese rarely hit the 140-character limit compared to English or Spanish
True, having to compress your thought into 140 characters has been restricting. But this challenge was nothing compared to a different feature that Twitter residents have been begging the company for years. An Edit button. Noticing a typo or a mistake and having to delete the whole tweet to fix it has been an actual pain. The severity of the situation is highlighted by the fact that this was the first thing Elon Musk asked his followers about after becoming the company’s biggest shareholder in April 2022. (FYI: 73.6 percent said that they wanted an edit feature).
Unfortunately, your product might not have such an outspoken customer base. Faced with inconveniences, they may simply stop using it, switch for a competitor, or suffer and curse you whenever something bugs them. How do you discover the pain points your users are experiencing and how do you prepare tangible solutions?
What are customer pain points and why do you need to know them?
In business, a pain point is a persistent problem a customer experiences in your market. This can include something trivial like constantly forgetting to buy cat litter to not being able to track a purchase or lacking a crucial feature on the platform they’re using. And when there’s a problem, there’s an unmet need that your product can satisfy.
There are two situations where you need to identify customer pain points.
Case 1. Conducting product discovery
When you’re developing a product, you want to make sure there are people who will buy it for the price they can afford. The process of learning about the market and the customers is called product discovery.
Learn all you need to know about product discovery in our video series
Before you start to develop anything, you want to run research, talk with potential customers, and analyze competitors. Identifying pain points is the part of this process. Here, pain points are unresolved challenges that people either didn’t find a solution to yet. As you start noticing these challenges in your research, you can consider how your future product could reduce them using the “how might we?” method. For example, “How might we help people always get cat litter on time?” or “How might we help people spend less time planning trips?”
Ultimately, pain points and the whole product discovery process will help you deliver product/market fit and craft a unique value proposition that will draw new clients in.
Case 2. Dealing with your product’s pain points
A person won’t be paying for a product if they don’t feel that it’s relieving them of their frustration. But often, they don’t want or don’t know how to ask the company to help them with it. So, to prevent people from leaving, you must regularly review your customers’ pain points and offer solutions to them.
We will further talk about how to approach pain point analysis and review and to relieve pain points altogether. But first, let’s identify what types of pain points people often have.
Customer pain point types
There are so many things that make people’s lives harder. We can group them into at least four types.
A quick overview of customer pain points types
Productivity pain points
What’s the problem? When a customer spends too much time and resources getting the job done, their productivity dips and it leads to frustration.
- Legacy software constantly lagging and taking too long to perform simple functions.
- Spending an hour at the bank to do some simple paperwork.
- Having to reply to tons of emails every day.
What does the customer want? A solution that appeals to productivity has two types of customers:
- someone who wants to be more productive and learn ways to optimize their life and
- someone who wants to eliminate current blockage in productivity.
How do you reduce the pain point? You can appeal to a customer experiencing productivity pain points by explaining how your product will save them time and effort. Think of any home appliance commercial that promises to make cleaning faster and easier.
Version release notes by Confluence Cloud
There are a few ways to solve productivity pain points:
- Eliminate points of friction by offering features that automate parts of work or simplify the workflow
- Promise better performance by using modern technology and speed optimization practices
- Provide features that eliminate distractions and offer a more comfortable user experience
Financial pain points
What’s the problem? A person is suffering from a financial pain point when they’re spending too much on a product or a service.
- Getting the price of a subscription service suddenly increased.
- Not understanding the product’s cost structure or not getting a clear breakdown of all the fees.
- Needing to repurchase the product often.
What does the customer want? A user doesn’t always want to pay less – they want the price to justify the value they’re receiving. So they need to know and have the evidence that the price they’re paying is perfectly good.
How do you reduce the pain point? Your product can resolve the financial pain point in two ways:
- Being cheaper than competitors for the same quality. Here, you want to communicate that by getting your product, they will eliminate their financial struggles, but the lower price won’t change how much value they will receive.
- Providing or emphasizing larger value. If you’re selling an expensive product, explain how much they’re getting by paying more.
Just like many subscription services, Netflix visualizes the difference in their pricing plans by comparing features
Process pain points
What’s the problem? Process problems are similar to productivity pain points, but here, the issue is not in how efficiently people work, but in how well operations and processes go. This pain point is also more relevant to B2B rather than B2C clients.
- Different departments are siloed and don’t exchange valuable data
- There’s no customer retention strategy so the company keeps losing clients
- Poor social media presence means that no one ever knows about product updates
What does the customer want? Often, this is not the pain point that customers know about or understand how to fix – you might need to highlight it for them. Usually, that’s because the company is using an outdated or inefficient way to do things.
How do you reduce the pain point? Your job is to present how your solution will solve their problems by helping streamline processes. For example, showing a hotel how they can save time and resources by using a property management system. Or explaining how AI-powered fraud detection keeps them more secure than a rule-based one.
Support pain points
What’s the problem? As the name suggests, customers get frustrated when their struggles are left without reaction, help, or guidance.
- Not having training or onboarding when starting to use a product for the first time.
- Experiencing poor customer support when dealing with crashes or bugs.
- Not finding instruction for doing cancellations and returns.
What does the customer want? In troublesome situations, people need reassurance that someone’s working on their problem and an understanding of when it will be taken care of. Users hate to not get a response within 24 hours, feeling abandoned or not valued as clients.
How do you reduce the pain point? There are many ways to support a customer: an FAQ section, a live chat, and a personal manager who’s always available. You should start by anticipating all types of questions and concerns people might be having. Read our best tips for creating a help center that will eliminate the support pain point.
How to identify customer pain points
As already mentioned, knowing your customers’ pain points can be very useful. But the methods to identifying them will depend on your goals. If you’re just launching a product, your competitors will be your best source of information. But if you want to understand your existing audience better, you will analyze the experience of your customers. Make sure to check out our article for different UX research methods that would be helpful here.
Conduct competitor research
Your competitors are already reducing some pain points, but likely, not all, and not for the same quality/price you’ll be offering. Here are some tips on how to gather the info.
Read reviews. In B2B, sites like Capterra and G2 host tons of product reviews, both positive and negative. In the B2C sphere, people share their reviews everywhere, from social media to specialized groups and forums. After reading a few and making notes, you will likely notice a pattern and a few distinctive pain points that haven’t been solved by many competitors.
Reviews for SAP Concur on Capterra
Become a customer. Play out a few situations with your competitors’ products and notice difficulties that will occur. For instance, try to find an answer to a common question in their help section or contact a customer support agent. Or purchase something from their online store and see how simple the process is.
Review their marketing materials. As you remember, your UVP and sales pitch must directly target customer pain points. See how other market players communicate their value to customers: the language and keywords, the tone of voice, and even channels they’re using.
Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) is a technique helping to define customer needs. It involves viewing products and services as tools that people use to get a job done. People are always looking for tools that would allow them to get the entire job done or to do that more cheaply. A deep understanding of what is exactly a customer’s “job” would help you see what misses from the market/product, or what needs are unmet.
You can come up with JTBD using templates of various designs, but it all comes down to considering what outcomes customers are really trying to achieve. As Henry Ford once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” JTBD allow you not to fall into this trap.
An example of the jobs-to-be-done canvas
Gather current customer feedback
When it comes to your actual customers, you have different ways to obtain information directly from them.
Social listening. Social listening is continuously monitoring social media to find what’s being said about the company, typically with the use of specialized instruments. Such tools scour the web for keywords containing your company or product name, features, and anything that you’d like to keep an eye on. Hootsuite, BuzzSumo, and Mention have social listening functionality that will locate your brand mentions on the web, but you will have to manually look through and filter them.
Searching the brand’s name on social media will reveal helpful results
Sentiment analysis. This is a more automated way to analyze company reviews. Sentiment analysis uses machine learning to extract emotional tone behind text, and pinpoint what people enjoyed or dislike the most and why. On the most basic level, the system will automatically classify which feedback is positive and which is not. But you can go even further by evaluating what made the person feel dissatisfied with the product. See the example below from our ML-powered hotel review tool, where dozens of reviews are grouped not only by sentiment (positive, neutral, and negative) but also by amenities that were enjoyed or not.
The interface of Choicy, AltexSoft’s sentiment analysis tool
Sales and customer service insights. Your sales and customer support personnel have the closest connection with your potential and current users. Unfortunately, their observations are not often documented and shared with other departments. Ask your reps to log into different conversation details that might be valuable such as why a person turned down the sales offer, if they compared your product to a different one, and any pain points they shared during the conversation. Train your staff to answer these questions regularly.
How to address pain points
Before, we talked about how to make pain point discoveries. But what to do when you have a list of them in your hands? How to make sure these discoveries make it into production and eliminate the pain point altogether?
Step 1. Document and prioritize
Online reviews, social media, sales team insights, direct feedback – you will be receiving pain point information from many sources. Pull all of them into a single document and start classifying. We recommend the following categories.
Type. Whether it’s a productivity, financial, process, or support problem, finding a solution will likely involve different staff members and resources. For example, to address the pricing, you’ll likely have to review your business model, and addressing the process pain points will surely involve UX designers.
Priority. Salesblink lists five stages of customer pain points:
- Level 1 – customer is disappointed but is still fine using the product as it is.
- Level 2 – customer is sad but will keep using the product.
- Level 3 – customer is visibly unhappy and can make a switch.
- Level 4 – customer is already searching for a product to replace yours.
- Level 5 – customer has lost hope of finding a solution to their problem.
Number of complaints. Sometimes, the problem exists for just one person, so it makes sense to solve it individually rather than spending months building a whole new feature. At the same time, a level 2 pain point voiced by a dozen of people may drive away potential clients and should be dealt with sooner. Also, make sure to quote clients so that the team working on improvements could empathize with actual humans who they are helping.
When the report is ready, think if some pain points can be solved at the same time and group them further. For instance, if some people mentioned the the confusing booking process while others talked that booking took too long, both these pain points can potentially be reduced at the same time by changing the booking flow.
Step 2. Set up meetings/brainstorming sessions
Problem-solving is a group task. Consider which employees might contribute most to the conversation about specific pain points and hold a few meetings or brainstorming sessions to think about solutions. Most likely, your people will need to perform additional research to understand how other companies address these issues or pull out tools that will provide more data about user interactions with the product. After a series of conversations, you need to leave with the following deliverables.
List of tasks. You can’t address every single pain point, not at the same time at least. So you’ll have to choose the ones that require your immediate attention and/or those that can be fixed fairly easily.
Assigned duties. Someone from the corresponding team must see to the task completion.
Deadlines. Working with pain points is rarely in someone’s strategy or yearly plan, so people will likely prioritize their goals over small improvements. Make sure to give them deadlines so they don’t forget.
After that, every team will be having their own sessions to move the talk to its completion.
Step 3. Organize a focus group
With a focus group, you’ll be able to understand if the pain point is in any way reduced by the solution you’ve created. Apart from other types of user interviews, where you want to hear people’s overall thoughts, here, you want to discuss the effect of improvements and identify if their experience still has the same pain points. Rather than leading a live conversation, prepare a list of questions around the feedback you received before and see if responses match.
Step 4. Gather more feedback
After the improvements are live, make sure you tell customers about them. Talk about updates on social media, in your newsletter, in app notifications, etc. If the change was quite big, consider if you should update your marketing materials and the sales pitch, and include new features in any product descriptions.
After a few weeks, go online and to your sales/customer support reps for updates. Are there any more mentions of previous pain points? Was your solution helpful? Is the booking process now described as fast and easy?
For the lack of textual feedback, compare product metrics from before the update and now.
Step 5. Make pain points analysis regular
While your sales and customer support staff should still be noting any negative feedback, you most likely won’t be able to conduct pain points reviews all the time since it often takes a lot of planning to make product changes. Schedule to do the aforementioned steps every few months. Most likely, you won’t need to regularly introduce massive updates.
Fostering customer feedback
Of course, not all of us offer products like Spotify or Salesforce that people constantly talk about and review. Quite often, you need to reach customers to make sure they enjoy your solution and if not, prevent them from making a switch. Having a community that willingly responds to surveys and has long chats with your account managers is not easy, but possible. Here are a few tips.
Introduce a loyalty program. The loyalty program is not only about making your customers loyal, it’s also about creating an atmosphere of an exclusive club. When users get access to certain perks, they feel more special, like they matter. In this cozy environment, they are much more likely to hope that you will help them with their pain points rather than making a switch. By the way, the same goes for paid tiers in subscription services. As soon as a person converts to a paid user, they feel more entitled to share their opinions with you.
Use social media zealously. On Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok, you can connect with customers on a deep, emotional level, either in comments or in direct messages. With that level of relationship, you can make users come to you with their frustrations. Or even interact with those who have pain points with competitive products.
An example of a customer sharing their pain point on Canva’s TikTok page
Be responsive and personal. Always react to your customers’ emails, comments, and messages. Make sure to show them that there’s a real person on the other side of the screen, so when they struggle with something, their first instinct is to share it with you.