Prioritising Customer Pain Points

Every weekend I visit the South Melbourne Market on our weekly pilgrimage to the local coffee roaster. Their blend of Brazilian and New Guinean beans have become somewhat of a staple.

As the hoards flock to pick up their fresh produce, French pastries, and a takeaway paella, the car parks inevitably fill.

It always surprises me how patience goes out the window in the car park. Frustrated drivers seem to lose common sense.

This weekend as I sat looking at the brake lights of the car in front of me, I reflected how everyone’s frustration threshold is different. The retiree who grabbed a casual lunch sits patiently whilst the cars in front of them clear. A parent with a screaming toddler pulls out their hair in despair.

For consumers, the same thresholds are true for pain, and delight.

Your customer may be comfortable accepting a pain that has been present for weeks, months, or even years. At some point, a trigger will cause this pain to become unbearable as it switches to an urgent, unworkable need.

We need to not only understand our customer’s pains, but also the point at which they become unbearable. A customer pain can range from a slight bump through to agonies, such as stubbing a toe, or a tear-inducing paper cut.

Gains equally vary for each customer context. A free yoghurt handed out at the train station on my way to work is irrelevant to me if I am lactose intolerant.

We need to be careful that we don’t stop at simply identifying pains & gains without seeing the bigger picture. Halving average call centre waiting times from 30 minutes to 15 is a great result. But it is still a diminished experience if your customer’s tolerance for waiting is only 10 minutes.

Next time you spend time with customers, ask them to be specific. Get them to prioritise their pains and gains in the order of preference, and then find the point at which a bearable pain becomes unbearable.

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