Why Great Businesses Diagnose Pain Points Like a Doctor

Customer Experience Map

In many cases, a customer journey map begins with a rough paper or poster version. Image via Flickr user Jonny Goldstein.

Customer experience and journey mapping are among the topics my Customer Relationship Management students find most intriguing. Prior to the course, many students have never contemplated that proactive companies breakdown their buying path and evaluate it to find enhancement opportunities.

Understanding CX and the Customer Journey

Customer experience (CX) and customer journey are often used interchangeably. In general, both terms address what a customer goes through across all touch points or interactions with a business. I prefer to think of the experience as the sentiment a customer develops based on all interactions with the business, and the journey is the typical path a buyer goes through from initial research through post-purchase evaluation.

Optimizing the total customer experience is a primary objective with CRM. The goal is to continue to find ways to amplify the positive engagement for a typical customer to garner loyalty and lifetime customer value.

Finding the Pain Points and Opportunity Points

Top companies employing CRM strategies build journey maps that outline the process and activities that customers go through. The specific layout of the map varies by industry, company, customer type and touch point. However, the premise is to understand the typical path of a customer so you can detect any roadblocks or opportunities to enhance positive feelings.

Pain points are a particularly important element of the journey map. These are interactions, activities or steps that cause customers frustration, tension, confusion or uncertainty. At the extreme, they are the factors that drive a customer away from your company. At the super extreme, these pain points cause people to share their experience in social media or on blogs.

Diagnosing the Pain

When you have headaches, stomach pains, a fever or other physical or mental ailments, you might call the doctor. The receptionist asks, “What are we seeing you for.” You might respond with, “I’ve been experience recurring headaches for a month.”

At the doctor’s office, the trained medical professional’s job is to diagnose the source issue causing your problem. Ibuprofin or Tylenol provide pain relief, but they don’t necessarily get to the heart of the problem with more involved medical conditions. Through examination and testing, a doctor hopefully detects the root issue, such as sinus problems, extreme stress or a condition that triggers the headaches. Only then can he recommend the most effective remedy or resolution.

In the same way, a journey map or customer experience map, combined with thorough market research, allows a business to diagnose the sources of pain that inhibit an optimized customer experience, cause attrition, prevent referrals and block profitable lifetime customer value. Any time you remove a major obstacle to a clear and positive path for your customers, you strengthen your experience and your brand.

Common Customer Pain Points

The specific factors that cause pain for customers varies by environment. However, there are some common sources in most or all industries, including:

  • Product or service failures: The solution simply is defective or doesn’t fulfill commitments
  • Lack of positive image: A variety of factors such as poor store atmosphere, rude or disinterested employees, and cluttered store
  • Cumbersome or confusing communication or instructions
  • Redundancies or bureaucracies that cause delays
  • Slow response times
  • Lack of satisfaction assurances
  • Lack of empathy

The problem with not mapping the buyer journey and focusing on an optimized experience is that you tend to take things for granted. Some providers assume a quality product is all customers care about. Others simply assume incorrectly that customers are happy when they don’t complain. The truth is about 90 percent of time, dissatisfied customers don’t complain. But, they also don’t normally come back.


As you consider the experience of your customers, it is vital to include them in your research. Breaking up the journey into different parts or stages allows you to find pain points specific to certain areas. Consider the medical analogy and how important it is to you that a doctor accurately diagnoses your problem and provides the correct remedy.

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Neil Kokemuller

Neil Kokemuller has been a Professor of Marketing at Des Moines Area Community College since 2004. Prior to teaching, he worked as a marketing specialist and retail manager. He holds an MBA from Iowa State University

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