Customer Pain vs. Business Pain: Which Pain to First Address?

Have you asked yourself why do we have pain scales and customers pain point maps, but not for our delight or the customers?

It is because of our bias to pain.

See our delight for a newly-born baby, but our pain levels are much higher if the baby dies.

Pain comes first and pleasure comes second.

Businesses that sell solutions to pain are more profitable than businesses that sell delightful products. The proof is in your answering the question would you buy a painkiller first or a vitamin.

Pain is costly and incurs losses. Delight is profit and incurs gains.

The pain of losses drives the behavior of investors much more than profit-making drives them.

This leads me to ask a question- do businesses sell based on unmet needs and wants or is it much better if they offer pain-reducing or painkiller solutions?

I believe the answer is evident. It is selling painkillers.

The avoidance of pain to the law of survival of species and the main driver of evolution: the behavior avoidance of organisms is driven more by the avoidance of pain than by the experience of delight. Pain and its causes can easily lead to death. That’s why organisms generally avoid it. Pain reflects vital risks.

This is why I find the Fractal Grid (FG) of Dr. Rod King fascinating. One example is the FG he produced in response to one of my posts.

If you study the FG, you shall find ways of defining the pains and their root causes and ways to deal with them.

There is an embedded source of pain in pain. This is assuming we know where the hole of pain is and we dig it only to discover that it is the wrong hole. The beauty if the FG is it allows us to use rational thinking first to determine where the painful hole is and only then to dig it using creative tools to offer working solutions. This way we turn pain into delight. Successful companies do just this.

The service provider has to understand his customers’ painful problem in spite of the pain the service provider feels irritating customers. The pain of customers must not distract the service provider from her/his focus. That is to solve the customers’ problem before solving her/his problem.

With regard to businesses, I’d try to distinguish external (customer) pain from internal (enterprise) pain. It’s almost ironic that the survival and growth of an enterprise inevitably depend on an external resource such as customers as well as the solution of customer pain. Nevertheless, some businesses are customer-centric (external pain focused) while other businesses are employee-centric (internal pain focused).

Employee-centric businesses believe that “pain-free employees” create “pain-free customers.”

Businesses must realize that pain is a real self-renewing business. The pain accumulates and diversifies and new and more painful pains emerge. Let me explain by sharing a short story.

There was an old woman who had no money to buy food for her children. The father went out trying to find a way to gain money.  He was late. The children started crying out of hunger. The mother did not know what to do. Finally, just to calm them the mother filled a cooking pot with water and stones using a wooden furnace. She added some spices to make a smell that her children could enjoy and believe the food would be ready soon.

Pain is transferable from the kids to the mother. The mothers’ pain doubled because she knew she was giving false hopes to her children. This pain magnified as the children became hungrier.

Pain diversifies, grows, accumulates,s and causes more pain.

Pleasure cannot remove pain, but pain can remove pleasure.

Why businesses focus on needs and wants rather than pain is a question that seeks an answer. All that I know for sure is that they are not digging the right hole.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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