Customer Delight is Elusive – Focus on Customer Pain

Jen van der MeerBusiness Model Practice

Last week it was one of those rare perfect sunny days in New York City, and I found myself looking up at the sky as I crossed West 4th Street. I was soon to be punished for my reverie. While enjoying the sun, my glasses had slipped out of my pocket and onto the middle of the street, but I hadn’t noticed this yet.

Once I arrived at my destination a few yards away, I had that phantom limb panic. Where are my glasses? (If you’ve ever misplaced your phone – you know the feeling). As I retraced my steps, I found the remains of my Warby Parker frames and lenses strewn about, run over by a car, and unrepairable.

I was in the midst of a pain point. An ouchy, panicky pain point. How awesome for Warby Parker! Curious to see how Warby Parker dealt with broken  glasses – keep reading – but first…

What’s a pain point?

An emotional experience your customer is having

The pain is clearly identifiable in a customer journey

The pain is common to many customers, and customers use similar words to describe this pain

The pain is real, clear, and present, and she’s hunting for a solution, now

In innovation circles, pain points are what we seek when we introduce a completely novel solution – because it is typically only at that moment of clear and conscious pain that a customer will consider an alternative.

Clay Christensen, father of disruption theory, introduced this idea in his 2003 book Innovator’s Solution. The secret to successful a successful innovation: don’t sell products and services to customers, but help people address their jobs-to-be-done. Once you look at the competitive solutions, analyze the pain points. Have any pain points been overlooked? Great! Now you know where to invest in emphasizing your distinctive strengths.

Before you move forward though, make sure the pain is clear, and present, and actually felt by the customer, versus something you think is painful. In my glasses story – you might have been in empathetic pain the moment my glasses fell out of my pocket. But I didn’t feel the pain until I had that phantom limb feeling, and then saw them on the street.

The distinction is critical – often when we build solutions, we try to solve problems that the customer doesn’t even know they have, rather than solve for the pain that customers are feeling. The only way to truly understand a customer’s pain is to talk to them, ideally when they are in pain, so that you can work through an ideal solution.

So here’s what happened. With poor eyesight, I used my friend Siri to find the 1-800 number and call Warby Parker. A kind man answered the phone. At that moment, I would have just re-ordered my glasses, but he pointed out that I was in a 30 day window, a no-questions-asked return policy. He would be sending me my new glasses for free, as long as I agreed to return what was left of the frames.

“Really? Really? But they were run over by a car!” I said.

“It’s ok. It’s a no-questions-asked return policy. We’ll send a label via email. Just send us the frames back when you get your new ones. We also expedite these to you. You’ll get them in 3-5 business days.”

That, my friends, is how you design for customer delight. Find the pain point, and solve the pain beyond all manner of recognition. I can say, in that moment, I actually wept a teeny bit out of a feeling connection, feeling cared for. I had already decided that I loved the Warby Parker experience, but now, I love the company.

In that moment, Warby Parker became better than the retail, in store, in person alternative. If I had purchased my frames at one of the stores like LensCrafters and Pearle Vision owned by Luxottica, the world leader in eye frames with over 80% market share, it would have been a different story. The 1-800 number would not have resolved the problem. I’d have to go the the store. I’d have to wait the typical number of weeks to have my lenses re-cut. In short, my pain would have been amplified at my most crucial moment of pain by the world leading solution in the market today.

When I received my new glasses two business days later, I danced a small jig, in public. I’m a practical curmudgeonly New Yorker type. But there they were again, exceeding expectations.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is considered a key performance metric by e-commerce experts – the number one survey response you should track and optimize for throughout the customer journey. You know NPS: How likely are you to refer Warby Parker to a friend or colleague, on a scale of 0 to 10? If you score above an 8, you’re likely going to be ok.

Warby Parker, you get a 10.

To be sure, Warby Parker probably took a hit on my unit economics that day:  two pairs of glasses, in a short time frame, plus shipping costs and the customer service costs – I bet their margins were unfavorably reduced. But in exchange, I commit my lifetime value allegiance to Warby Parker, since it’s clear I’m not going anywhere else. I’ll also be back soon to get those prescription sunglasses. And of course, I will be telling this story to everyone I know and meet – and hope those turn into referrals for my favorite company.

What’s the lesson for your business? Talk to customers. Map your customer journey. Map their pain, described in their words. Move beyond observations and assumptions you may have about their pain, and talk to them about the role of the product, service, or experience in their lives. To affect your profit and value, look beyond the consideration and purchase funnel to the aftercare, use, and repeat purchase. Most critically, take risks in the short term for payoff in the long term and you may well be rewarded in repeat purchase and referral.


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