Three levels of customer experience pain points

Junior Researcher

Customer experience pain points are particular issues that customers have at various stages during their experience.

In order to gain a full understanding of the various nuances in challenges and frustrations within different customer touch-points, these pain points fall into three levels. These levels are interaction-level, journey-level, and relationship-level. These three levels typically encompass pain points related to finance, process, product and support.


The three levels of customer experience pain points


Customer pain points at the interaction level are related to interactions with the products of an organisation and its employees. A key example of an interaction-level pain point is a customer not having an issue dealt with in a timely manner because they are directed to multiple departments who might not be equipped with the resources or knowledge to rectify it. As a result, this confuses the customer and ultimately wastes their time. Interaction-level pain points are identified through conducting user research methodologies, such as usability testing. To explore these pain points in greater depth, or to understand pain-points that are not necessarily digital, it would be useful to follow up with customers during in-depth interviews.

Some key questions associated with interaction-level pain points include:

  • How frequently does this pain point occur?
  • How does the pain point impact the customer?
  • How likely is the customer to experience this pain point again in the future?


These questions help researchers to prioritise pain point resolution according to severity levels.



Journey-level pain points refer to friction and frustration encountered by customers when they are attempting to get from point A to B. Examples of pain points relating to customer journeys include customer support wait times, slow communication, and long durations between critical points of the customer journey


Example: Harry placed an order for a pair of shoes to be delivered on 19th March and was told that he would receive his order confirmation within 2 hours of his purchase. He did not receive confirmation until 20th March. Despite the order confirmation stating that the order will be delivered within 3-5 business days, Harry’s order arrived 8 business days later. Harry’s new shoes were in the wrong size so he requested a refund. It took 2 days for Harry to receive an email with the QR code for him to return the order. 


Pain points at the journey-level are usually detected through methods such as diary and field studies, interviews, and customer-journey mapping. A customer journey map is a visual storyline of the interactions a customer has with a product or service. This process enables the researcher to gather multiple data points across the customer’s journey to become familiar with the different interactions a customer might have along the way and eventually evaluate how the experience can be enhanced and improved.

The visual element of this research method allows the researcher to see how much of the customer journey is affected by a particular pain point i.e. is it confined to a particular phase, or pervasive throughout the entire journey? For example, the overview of Harry’s experience with ordering a pair of shoes indicates that he has incurred time-costs across the entirety of his customer journey. Moreover, this allows teams to distinguish how much of the pain point can be addressed by the organisation, and how the solution can be best implemented.



Lastly, relationship-level pain points comprise the issues experienced by customers that are long-term and concern their feelings towards the brand or organisation. 


Example: Grace pays £7.99 a month for free next day delivery at her favourite online retail store. Grace placed three next day delivery orders over the last month, and all three orders arrived two to three days after the date of purchase. As a loyal customer, Grace wants to pay this fee once a month but she is not receiving the service that she pays for. Despite contacting the brand and receiving prompt refunds, her problem has not been fully resolved which leads her to cancel her subscription and makes her reluctant to purchase from the brand again. 


Over time, relationship-level pain areas are discovered. Investigating relationship-level pain points allows researchers to evaluate a customer’s overall relationship with a company or brand as well as identifying the total number of pain points they have experienced. Relationship-level pain points can be unearthed by using the following methods: 

  • Analytics data
  • Benchmarking surveys which gather insights into overall customer happiness, brand loyalty, and likelihood to refer


Arguably, relationship-level pain points are the most challenging to target and understand since it takes a longer period of time to uncover them. 


The benefits of understanding the pain points

Highlights areas for improvement or change

Identifying journey-level or relationship-level pain points might call for extensive organisational change, internal procedure modifications, and perhaps a transformation of CX processes. For example, responses from a benchmarking survey might reveal that a more personalised and customised customer experience would make the difference between a service that they would use and a service that they would not only use but also recommend to a family member or friend. Making organisational changes based on these suggestions is a step in the right direction towards improving conversions and retention, subsequently improving customer relationships as well as brand credibility. 


Maintains trust and confidence in an organisation

Identifying pain points and resolving them in an efficient and organised manner is a critical way to demonstrate to customers that they are able to trust a brand or service. Therefore, curating a plan and mutual understanding among a CX team to rectify pain points and deliver realistic solutions is key. A shared understanding of how pain points will be prioritised and how resources will be spent are some of the most important factors that will have a long-term impact on the level of trust and confidence that customers have towards a product, service or brand. 


Fosters long-term customer relationships

Building long-lasting connections with customers and taking the time to understand their frustrations is one of the most effective ways to increase brand credibility. Customers who experience unresolved pain points are unlikely to recommend the brand to other people, and might decide on a competitor instead. Conversely, the most appropriate customer experience solutions may be implemented much more effectively if an organisation understands how customers view the business. 



Although nobody wants customers to experience pain points within their product, brand or service, they are inevitable – and identifying these pain points with a dedication to provide a first-class customer experience is the first step to creating long-term customer relationships through building trust and confidence. 


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