Understand the types of pain B2B customers experience at every stage, and how this analysis is a critical step in journey mapping to ultimately retain customers.
In a crowded B2B market where many product offerings are commoditized, a company’s customer experience is often its only differentiator. Any negative feeling or unpleasant interaction between your customers and your company increases the likelihood that these customers may not want to continue doing business with you. This pain is the friction or obstacles customers hit during their journey with your product or service.
The best way to do this customer pain point analysis is through journey mapping. The best customer journey maps don’t just track the steps customers take at each stage. They also call out how painful those steps are for customers to take.
To improve customer experience, it’s important to conduct this pain point analysis. The first step in that process in understanding the types of pain B2B customers experience and how this pain changes loyalty to your brand.
Types of Customer Pain Points
1. Minor, One-time
This is like stubbing your toe. A sharp sudden, unexpected pain that customers typically endure if it’s resolved quickly. A one-time shipping delay or an interaction with your team that was awkward or unusual. The pain is felt, and then it’s gone; the customer quickly moves on. When journey mapping, this is pain that may come up from detailed customer feedback – an anecdote unsupported by empirical data but fits an existing internal narrative about what needs to be resolved. Ask yourself what evidence you have that your most valuable customers have this experience.
2. Major, One-time
Think of something sudden and extremely painful – like breaking an arm. The pain in this case is so extreme, you’re going to see a doctor quickly. In the case of customer pain, they’ll quickly seek resolution. As an example, think of the product arriving damaged or a delivery delay where the impact has a cascading effect on manufacturing schedules.
3. Minor, Chronic
These are those aches and pains that are noticeable, but don’t have us rushing to the doctor for help. Seasonal allergies or the knee that always hurts after a long walk. It’s manageable in your mind. But over time that knee pain might get worse or overcompensating might lead to other injuries. That’s like the minor annoyance that might not cause customers to leave right away, but builds frustration overtime. A clunky ordering process or manual billing processes that creates time and attention burden. Particularly with long-term customers, it’s easy to take these things for granted. If those chronic issues stay hidden until they worsen, they’re likely to cause customer churn. You’re vulnerable when a competitor promises to fix the problem or offers a better experience.
4. Major, Chronic Customer Pain Point
These are the significant risks to your business that cause the biggest problems. Think of chronic back pain or an injury that keeps someone you know from doing what they want. It’s frustrating, depressing, and makes the person experiencing it seek a solution. Customers immediately look for relief when they feel this pain. Angry customers boiling over as they wait on hold for hours to billing issues or befuddled buyers who can’t figure out complex online ordering and discover there’s no way to talk to a real person to resolve it.
To find what the type of B2B pain your customers are experiencing, start looking at data from customer surveys. Look for data that doesn’t make sense: if customer satisfaction is high, why is there so much turnover?
To Properly Diagnose Customer Pain, Go Beyond the Survey
If possible, talk to customers directly and have them tell you about the most painful part of doing business with your company. You can start with conducting a survey, but we find the most telling way is to get a group of customers together and take them through the journey mapping process.
Surveys are great for understanding the severity of known problems—issues that customers have clearly articulated in the past. Surveys need to understand how widespread or how the issue has changed after solutions have been put in place.
If the problems are unknown, a customer journey workshop with customers results in deeper conversations and vulnerability from customers a survey can’t achieve. Asking them to work through their journey and design solutions gives you an authentic view of what your customer experience is really like.
When we conducted journey mapping with customers from a retirement benefits provider in four different cities, company officials went in expecting to hear requests for mobile phone apps and improvements to online benefits statements. Instead, customers said their real pain in making benefits decisions was navigating the fear and anxiety that comes with thinking about retirement and getting older. They assumed customers wanted technical solution when what they really needed was more resources and personal interaction with people who could help them make better decisions.
Tip: Don’t think of the journey map as a product. When collaborating with customers, have them select the most challenging pain point and work together to design an ideal solution. It will bring new insights to the problem you’re trying to solve.
Learn more about journey mapping in our Cx playbook, “The B2B Journey Mapping Playbook.”