8 Smart Tactics for Understanding Customer Pain Points
November 5, 2019

8 Smart Tactics for Understanding Customer Pain Points

by Brian de Haaff

Have you heard of the Wong-Baker FACES® scale? You may not know the name but I bet you would recognize it immediately. This numerical and visual pain rating scale shows several cartoon faces in increasing amounts of pain — from smiling (zero) to crying (10). No matter how young a patient is or what language they speak, they can use the scale to communicate their current level of suffering.

The first step to alleviating any pain is to understand its severity and document it.

This is not just for the realm of medical professionals. It is also true for product managers. And for you, the challenge is trying to make the rest of the team grasp your customers’ pain. Let’s assume that you already know what your users struggle with and why. You have created a customer lifecycle funnel and mapped the known pain points against it. This is an excellent start — but you cannot address all your customers’ problems on your own. You need to help everyone else on the team understand too.

When everyone deeply grasps the intricacies of the user experience, you can work together to more effectively anticipate customers’ needs and provide solutions. 

Doing this requires that you cultivate a human-centric approach to your process — to think beyond demographics and data points to get to the heart of the actual people who will use your product. This is something our team at Aha! continually strives to do. When we hold workshops at our biannual onsites, I am always impressed by how our functional leads find novel ways to communicate complex concepts, educate the company, and even have some fun in the process. Here are a few creative and practical ways to get the team involved in understanding customer pain:

Interview customers

Creative: Home visits The best way to learn about customers is to actually watch them using your product. So why not pay a home visit? Intuit is well-known for its Follow Me Home program — employees get permission to visit a customer’s home or office and observe them using Intuit software. This gives the team valuable insights into the user experience that they can pass back to development.

Practical: Meeting drop-in In-person visits are not always possible. But you can still schedule time to talk live on a video meeting. You can also have colleagues join customer calls to listen directly to challenges and feedback. We do this at Aha! — to stay close to customers, various teams will attend a scheduled help call or customer check-in. We just acknowledge upfront that our colleagues are joining and explain how it helps us serve customers better.

Create personas

Creative: Throw a persona party Get the rest of the team invested in your customers by having a “party” for your personas. After assigning each teammate a different persona to research, gather so everyone can share their learnings. You can celebrate each persona’s unique characteristics by giving them a real name (rather than “Consumer A” or calling them by the functionality they need). To improve the team’s recall, try using alliteration to connect the name to the use case. For example, you might use “Product Manager Paula” or “Technical Writer Tom.”

Practical: Link personas to features Once you have documented these fictional representations of customers, it helps to map personas to the actual work you are doing. We do this in our own software — linking personas to specific features or activities. As designers work on a new feature, for example, they can quickly recenter their thinking around the person this will benefit in a tangible way.

Know the needs

Creative: Play a matching game Host a quiz show to get the entire team thinking about customer needs in a new way. You can ask questions about customers’ struggles and reward the teammates who can answer with the corresponding features. An interactive learning session like this is a memorable way to help everyone master the pain points and recall exactly how the product solves them.

Practical: Tag features Tag each feature to describe what the customer wants or summarize the benefits. For example, you could add phrases like “beautiful visualizations” or “custom reporting” so everyone from product to engineering to marketing knows exactly why it will benefit customers.

Score the pain

Creative: Make your own pain scale Your very own version of the Wong-Baker scale? Document the struggles your customer is experiencing and assign a number or visual to each. This helps the product team and developers prioritize features based on what will most improve the user journey — and deliver this new functionality on time.

Practical: Add to your feature score Use the scale you defined to add a customer pain metric to your feature scoring. The whole team can then envision what pain levels are like now — and how they may change over time. This is a data-driven way to understand challenges and create uniformity across features.

Encouraging everyone to understand what your customer is experiencing can help you create a solution that is lasting and true.

Building a product that truly serves customers is not an easy task. But it is necessary to provide real value. Remember that the user journey should not be theoretical. The team should use your product as often as possible to really empathize. This is how you relieve your customers’ pain — and transform those tears and frowns into a crowd of smiling faces.

What methods do you use to visualize and internally share customer pain points?

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Brian de Haaff

Brian de Haaff

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 product development software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability and The Startup Adventure newsletter. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the journey of pursuing a meaningful life.

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