Pains and Gains: Understanding Your Customer Needs

19 min read

Experience Design

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The value proposition of any successful business is deeply tied to the pains and gains of the business’s specific customer segment. Market research should reveal what you can do to make the customer happy through pain relief and real gains.

As innovation teams do their work, they should revisit these pains and gains. In fact, no innovation should go far into development unless it directly addresses either new pains and gains revealed through understanding the customer more deeply or doing a better job of delivering on the pains and gains you already have recognized.

By addressing significant pains and providing valuable gains, you can create a compelling value proposition that meets the needs and expectations of your customers. Our Customer experience strategy services help businesses delve deep into understanding the nuanced needs, pain points, and desires of the target audience. By systematically addressing significant customer pains, businesses can create tailored solutions that directly alleviate challenges and frustrations.

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In this article, we consider how pains and gains for a segment of the value proposition canvas and why addressing your customers’ specific needs is so crucial to successful innovation. If you hope to make your innovation a real game changer, you need to have a deeper understanding of your customers’ key jobs and how you can help them complete them more successfully.

Value Proposition Canvas
The UNITE Value Proposition Canvas
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Based on the work of Peter Thomson which is based on the work of Steve Blank, Clayton Christensen, Seith Godin, Yves Pigneur and Alex Osterwalder and the original Value Proposition Canvas

Customer Pains and Gains Meaning and Definition

It’s a mistake to look at the terms pains and gains and assume they are the opposite of each other. While they are related, they are not two different sides of the same coin.

So What are Customer Pain Points?

Customer pains or “fears”, many times called pain points, are persistent struggles and challenges customers face in their lives or in their business. From a business perspective, customer pains are an inconvenience on a customer’s way to completing their value proposition. Customer pain may come from services they can’t manage themselves, poor availability of resources, undesired costs, maintenance worries, or any number of other concerns that distract them from their main goals, pains and gains value propositions, or core key activities.

Customer pain “fears” may also include negative emotions, either of the company’s people or with their own clients. If you can offer a way to relieve that pain, you have a potentially successful enterprise.

What are Customer Gain Points?

Customer gains help people save time, save money, finish their jobs to be done, feel good, or otherwise receive the benefits they desire. Customer gain points are not necessarily the alleviation of pains, so pains and gains should not be strictly connected.

A customer expects services or products, but when you truly meet their wants and needs, you’ve made a connection that goes beyond a mere transaction. Understanding your customers’ pains and gains, and building them into your own value proposition, is an excellent way to move your business toward success. It takes some time, however, and you’ll need to explore each specific customer segment you wish to serve.

If you have a partial understanding of your customers through market research, completing a value proposition canvas can help you act upon what you know. Our book How to Create Innovationprovides useful frameworks for evaluating your overall business plan and value proposition. You can the book available on this website.

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Customer Pains and Gains Examples

Understanding and addressing these customer pains while giving significant gains is essential for businesses to create products and services that truly meet the needs and desires of their target audience. This customer-centric approach contributes to enhanced satisfaction and loyalty.

1. Healthcare: Telemedicine App

  • Customer Pain Points:
    • Long waiting times for appointments.
    • Difficulty accessing healthcare services remotely.
    • Limited communication with healthcare providers.
    • Example: Waiting for medical appointments can be frustrating, especially during emergencies.
  • Customer Gain Points:
    • Convenient and quick access to medical consultations.
    • Reduced travel time and associated costs.
    • Enhanced communication with healthcare professionals through virtual platforms.
    • Example: Telemedicine apps like Amwell offer on-demand virtual consultations, reducing waiting times and providing quick access to healthcare professionals.

2. E-commerce: Online Grocery Shopping

  • Customer Pain Points:
    • Inconvenience of physical grocery store visits.
    • Uncertainty about product availability.
    • Time-consuming checkout processes.
    • Example: Traditional grocery shopping may involve long queues and time-consuming trips to the store.
  • Customer Gain Points:
    • Seamless and convenient shopping experience.
    • Access to a wide range of products.
    • Time-saving through online checkout and home delivery.
    • Example: Services like Instacart allow customers to order groceries online, providing convenience, a wide product selection, and home delivery.

3. Finance: Mobile Banking App

  • Customer Pain Points:
    • Complex and time-consuming traditional banking processes.
    • Limited real-time visibility into financial transactions.
    • Security concerns with traditional banking methods.
    • Example: Traditional banking processes may involve paperwork and limited access to real-time financial information.
  • Customer Gain Points:
    • Simplified and quick banking transactions.
    • Real-time tracking of expenditures.
    • Enhanced security features in mobile banking apps.
    • Example: Mobile banking apps like Chime offer simplified transactions, real-time tracking, and enhanced security features.

4. Transportation: Ride-Sharing Service

  • Customer Pain Points:
    • Difficulty finding transportation during peak hours.
    • Uncertainty about arrival times and routes.
    • Safety concerns with traditional taxi services.
    • Example: Hailing a taxi on the street can be challenging, especially during peak hours.
  • Customer Gain Points:
    • Convenient and on-demand transportation.
    • Real-time tracking and estimated arrival times.
    • Enhanced safety features and driver accountability.
    • Example: Ride-sharing services like Uber provide convenient, on-demand transportation with real-time tracking and safety features.

5. Technology: Smartphone

  • Customer Pain Points:
    • Limited communication options with traditional phones.
    • Cumbersome access to information.
    • Short battery life and frequent device malfunctions.
    • Example: Traditional phones lack the versatility and features of modern smartphones.
  • Customer Gain Points:
    • Seamless communication through calls, messages, and internet.
    • Access to a vast array of information and services.
    • Extended battery life and reliable performance.
    • Example: Smartphones like the iPhone offer seamless communication, access to a vast array of apps, and reliable performance.

6. Education: E-Learning Platform

  • Customer Pain Points:
    • The inflexibility of traditional classroom schedules.
    • Limited access to diverse educational resources.
    • Lack of personalized learning experiences.
    • Example: Traditional classrooms may have rigid schedules and limited access to diverse learning materials.
  • Customer Gain Points:
    • Flexibility with any time, anywhere learning.
    • Access to a wide range of multimedia educational content.
    • Personalized learning paths based on individual progress.
    • Example: E-learning platforms like Coursera offer flexible learning, access to a wide range of courses, and personalized learning experiences.

Customer Pains and Gains as Part of Your Main Jobs to be Done

No business exists in a vacuum, with Jobs to be Done, you will be able to understand what pain your customers are really struggling with. We are seeking to understand an important but unmet user need, not ideas about solutions for customers we do not know yet.

In an independent study of different innovation methods, Strategyn, one of the companies which has developed and led the Jobs-to-be-Done approach, found that the success rate of their JTBD innovation approach was 86% compared to the average success rate of traditional innovation methods, which was 17%. The relative success of JTBD should not come as a surprise; a targeted innovation approach naturally outperforms most ideation/luck-based methods.

Jobs to be Done Customer's Job Statement
The UNITE Jobs to Be Done Customer’s Job Statement
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Source: Helge Tennø.

But the process requires rigour. There is no point in going through all the hoops if we only end up making unproven, potentially biased assumptions about the customer based on our own gut feelings. This is why we recommend setting aside the necessary investments to include the customers in your work in a qualitative and quantitative way.

Adding Gain Creators to the Value Proposition Canvas

Value Proposition Canvas
The UNITE Value Proposition Canvas
Designed by: Digital Leadership AG – Based on the work of Peter Thomson which is based on the work of Steve Blank, Clayton Christensen, Seith Godin, Yves Pigneur and Alex Osterwalder and the original Value Proposition Canvas

Adding Gain Creators to the Value Proposition Canvas involves identifying and articulating the specific elements or features that create value and positive outcomes for customers. Gain Creators represent the ways in which a product or service enhances the customer’s situation, addressing their needs and desires. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how businesses can add Gain Creators to the Value Proposition Canvas:

1. Understand Customer Jobs and Pains:

  • Before adding Gain Creators, businesses need a clear understanding of customer jobs and pains. These are the foundational elements of the Value Proposition Canvas.

2. Identify Positive Outcomes:

  • Consider the positive outcomes or benefits that customers seek when trying to get a job done or address a pain point. These outcomes represent the gains.

3. Specify Features and Elements:

  • Break down the positive outcomes into specific features or elements that contribute to creating value for customers. These could be product attributes, service enhancements, or unique capabilities.

4. Relate Gains to Customer Jobs:

  • Connect each Gain Creator to the specific customer jobs identified in the canvas. Clarify how each gain directly addresses or fulfills a particular job that customers are trying to accomplish.

5. Use Clear and Concise Language:

  • Express each Gain Creator using clear and concise language. Clearly communicate how the feature or element contributes to the customer’s positive outcomes and enhances their experience.

6. Consider Emotional and Functional Gains:

  • Gains can be both functional and emotional. Functional gains are related to the performance and features of the product, while emotional gains tap into the customer’s feelings and aspirations. Consider both aspects when adding Gain Creators.

7. Prioritize Gains:

  • Prioritize the Gain Creators based on their significance and impact on customer satisfaction. Some gains may be critical, while others may be supplementary.

8. Validate with Customer Feedback:

  • Validate Gain Creators through customer feedback and insights. Ensure that the identified gains truly resonate with customers and align with their expectations.

9. Integrate with Pain Relievers:

  • Ensure that Gain Creators complement Pain Relievers on the Value Proposition Canvas. The combination of addressing pains and providing gains creates a holistic and compelling value proposition.

10. Visual Representation:

  • Use the right side of the Value Proposition Canvas to visually represent the Gain Creators. This side is dedicated to illustrating how the product or service creates value for customers.


Let’s consider a fitness app:

  • Pain Point: Customers struggle to stay motivated in their fitness routines.
  • Gain Creator: Introduce a gamification feature that rewards users for completing fitness challenges, enhancing motivation and making the experience enjoyable.

Adding Gain Creators to the Value Proposition Canvas enhances the overall understanding of how a product or service delivers value to customers. It ensures that businesses focus not only on addressing pains but also on creating positive outcomes that resonate with their target audience.

How can JTBD, Pains and Gains Inform Your Value Proposition?

The #1 problem when it comes to innovation is that we tend to analyze and understand the world entirely from the business’s own perspective. We lack the framework and mental models to include the customer in our conversations and decision-making. This cannot work and we see it in the numbers: most innovation projects fail.

The Jobs to be Done Approach offers two key insights:

  1.  A mental model and a structured approach to understanding the needs of your customers (looking good instead of weight management, good entertainment instead of TV, leisure instead of a sailboat, etc.) and which criteria they use to measure the outcome.
  2.  A methodology to identify the most important but underserved customer needs in a quantifiable and verifiable way. Basically, it helps you understand what outcomes customers truly value, but are not yet able to achieve.

Thereby JTBD gives you a verifiable and precise understanding of where you can innovate to solve a big unmet need and your progress towards a successful outcome.

How to Identify Your Customers’ Pains “Fears”

The emotional drivers of decision-making are things that we want to be, do or have. Our emotional jobs are usually conscious (but aspirational) thoughts about how we would like to improve our lives. They sometimes seem like daydreams, but they can be powerful motivators of action. In this case, our desires are more abstract. I may need a car to get from point A to point B, but I want a BMW to demonstrate my success, social standing, or sense of taste. So, also consider emotional needs, such as self-actualization, social exchange/personal recognition and security/risk reduction.

Although fear is a type of emotion, it so powerfully affects decision-making, that it is worthwhile to consider it separately. The dark side of making a decision is that it often carries the fear of giving up optionality. There is also fear of making a mistake, fear of missing out, fear of loss, and dozens of other related fears. Fears can be a strong driver of purchasing behaviour and can be the hidden source of wants and needs.

Customer pains and “fears” are often the secret reasons that no one is buying your widget. For any product, there is a secret “switching pain.” Even if your product is better than the competition, it might not be a big enough improvement to overcome the inertia of the status quo.\

Identifying your Customer’s Jobs to be Done

If we as marketers, decision-makers or product developers want to improve business results, we have to understand the jobs that arise in the lives of our customers, for which they hire certain solutions. Understanding who these people are is the wrong unit of analysis. What we really want to know is what they are trying to get done. Unsurprisingly, the underlying theory behind this is called Jobs to be Done (JTBD). At the centre of the theory is the “job:” a “job” is the fundamental problem a customer needs to resolve in a given situation.

The question JTBD asks is, why do your customers buy things from you? Do you think it is because you have the product with the highest specifications? Because you are the cheapest? Or is it due to your fantastic marketing department?

We focus on the “job” a user has to accomplish, instead of whatever artificial market segment they belong to.

Your value proposition design journey must include these jobs to be done if you hope to be successful. A business cannot exist simply because its founder thinks he or she has a good idea. Someone else must find that idea useful, and be willing to pay for it.

We use the proposition canvas to help guide proposition design. We find it’s beneficial to sketch out how we understand customer jobs and how our work fits into what customers need. We’re looking for synergy between how and what we do in business and what the people of our target market need done.

Above all else, remember that your market segment is made of people, people with concerns and needs and worries. Your key takeaway today should be that your efforts will only bear fruit by satisfying people.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What do you know about the people who are within your selected customer segments? Have you built a customer profile?
  2. What is the specific customer job you are completing?
  3. Does your value proposition connect directly to customers’ pains and gains?
  4. Have you built your value proposition design with customer value in mind?
  5. How can you clearly articulate your value proposition so that it addresses specific pains and gains your customer’s experience or value?

The UNITE Business Model Framework: A Framework for Innovation Success

Business Model framework
THE UNITE Business Model Framework
Designed By: Digital Leadership AG

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