Customer pain points: what they are, how to find them and what to do with them

Posted by Jared Cornell on 21 May, 2019
View comments Marketing
Identifying and resolving customer pain points are key to a thriving business.

Finding customer pain points.

A pain point in the business context is basically a problem that a customer is facing, and which can or should be solved.

In the words of bestselling author Seth Godin: "Don't find customers for your product. Find products for your customers."

Although very simple, this turns out to be the basic philosophy of any successful business idea. According to Statista, the top reason at 42% for startups failing is the product or service not serving a market need in the first place.

The concept of pain points focuses on the customer instead of the company or its products. There is growing attention to pain points today because the solution to a pain point is a company’s potential USP.

Let’s take an example.

Mark is a cyclist. Mark rides long distances and keeps a water bottle with him. However, he feels he cannot carry sufficient water in the given bottle and he hates making a stop every time he wants to drink water.

Stacy is a smart employee in a sports goods company. Stacy comes to know about Mark's (and hundreds of others') problems. She designs a backpack with a built-in water-bag that has a pipe. Mark can now carry more water and does not need to stop for a sip.


Although both are fictional characters (with certain real counterparts somewhere), Mark's problems can be called pain points and Stacy's idea is a solution that solves one or all of the problems. However, all cases may not be similar to Mark's and may need a systematic approach to identify, as well as to address customer pain points.

This article looks at the ways to identify pain points and what to do about them once you have them.

How to identify pain points

There are a number of approaches that can help your organization understand customer pain points. Here are six ways that can help you identify them efficiently.

1. Talk to your sales & service team

The point where the company and users of its product or service come into contact is the sales team; that is where the maximum communication occurs. Nobody knows better than the salesperson why the customers are buying or not buying something. The reasons for not buying may be the pain points in plain sight.

Further down the line, your service team can provide insights on pain points in the usage of a product, as they’ll be the ones dealing with customer queries and complaints.

2.  Ask for feedback

Every time a customer who has made a purchase communicates with a representative of your company, ask for a minute or two or their time to provide some feedback.

This can be in the form of a quick and easy to complete questionnaire, or a rating form.

Ratings forms are often used in customer service chat software.  Once a chat is completed, the customer is asked to rate their experience with the operator and give any comments they have. That’s a great way to get feedback in real time.

3.  Look at online reviews

Google and social media sites have become the place for many customers to vent their anger about a product or service. It’s worth paying attention to these reviews, as these can provide valuable insights.  

Customers tend to go online when they have complaints, but this is actually what we’re looking for, as it will help to identify frustrating pain points in your niche.

4. Surveys

Surveys are a great way to collect user information. Some companies offer incentives in the form of gift cards or discounts for a review or feedback. These can be effective in encouraging reviews any outlay can be seen as an investment into discovering pain points.

Don’t forget, questions with paragraph or line style of answer (unlike multiple choice or yes/no) always provide qualitatively better results as the customer can go into more detail.  Make the survey quick and easy to complete so your user doesn’t lose heart and give up halfway.

There are a multitude of survey maker tools, including many that offer free plans and which allow you to compile the information you’ve collected into useful visualizations to help you better analyze the results.

5. Don’t forget the competition

Don’t focus exclusively on the customers. You should keep a careful eye on the marketing strategy and sales slogans of competitors and make sure you’re up to date with developments in your industry.  Any innovation in the product/service list is a possible indicator of a pain point you may have missed.

6. Question every assumption you have

Probably the most common mistake many companies make is to assume they already know the pain point(s) and are working on them. Alongside great success stories of new launches, lie plenty of failures. Simply assuming you know about a pain point and have the solution without careful examination, may turn out to be a recipe for disaster.

Be careful not to confuse a pain point with a prospective solution. 'Not having a car’ is not an actual pain point, whereas 'difficulty in getting from point A to point B' is. If you focus on the lack of a car, you will end up solving the problem for a car, while someone else may have a better solution to the actual problem.

Focus on the root of the problem. Get the problem statement right.

What to do with your pain points

Now you’ve identified your pain points, what can you do with them?

Pain points can broadly be categorised into 'general' and 'company-specific'. 'Difficulty in moving from point A to B' is a general pain point. 'Electric cars are costlier than they should be' is a company-specific pain point. General pain points are good news, company-specific - not always.

Some pain points are more straightforward to tackle than others.

Is it financial?  Is your product more expensive than comparable ones from your competitors?

Re-examine your costs and see if there’s a way to make savings you can pass on to the customer.

You may want to introduce a wider range of price options to suit varying budgets.

If your product is superior, spend resources on explaining to your potential customers why yours offers better value or quality. Invest in ads online or on social media, publish testimonials from satisfied customers on your website. What makes your product worth that extra money?

Is it service related? Are your processes for communicating with your customers efficient and easy to use?  Customers want to be heard and know that their concerns are being addressed, so they should find it easy to contact you.

You may need to expand your methods of communicating with customers. Do you have an online chat service? Do you have enough online resources such as guides or forums for customers to be able to find solutions, and are they able to contact you easily if they still need to?

Issues with the product or service you’re providing can be complex and will likely need more time and attention. Maybe your product isn’t quite addressing the pain points and needs tweaking, or maybe your processes are too cumbersome for users.

Sometimes it can be useful to ask your customers and you can even have an online or face-to-face session.  They may not have a solution every time, but as they’re the ones facing the problem they’re likely to have thought through the angles.

Getting as much feedback from your customers as possible will be invaluable in pinning down the pain points. This knowledge will then allow you to focus in on the best strategy for improvement and growth.  

Pain points are both opportunities to succeed and indicators of failure and we ignore them at our peril.  Spending time investigating and pinning down your customer pain points is an investment which will help you to improve and refine your offering, and keep you ahead of your competitors.

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