We live in amazing times today, we are so digitized and so technologically advanced that the beginning of my PR career 20+ years ago seems to be in another life. I remember sending press releases by fax and communicating very important issues via pagers. No mobile phones, no blogs, no Facebook, no Twitter, but a lot of face to face meetings with clients, media and others. Sometimes I really miss those times, sometimes I hate that people are so busy and so used to virtual communication that they hardly manage to find time to have a face-to face conversation. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I still think direct contact is the best way of deeply learning and knowing your client. And this is even more important when it comes to his (or her) pains and needs – things that are sometimes very well known, but other times need to be sensibly discovered.

When it comes to customer pain points, first of all you simply have to take the time to discuss. Open, honest and relaxed conversation can reveal a lot about what the person in front of you expect or need to be solved. Sharing your own experiences makes the discussion more interactive. After finding out what they know is hurting, go deeper. Going beyond the stiff label of “customer” and respecting the individuality of the particular person you are talking with will make things more personal and will help to overcome barriers on both sides. After overcoming barriers, try to identify what they don’t actually know it’s hurting, that “quelque-chose” that will help them to be even more comfortable and happier.

Some pain points are straight in your face, acknowledged but taken lightly by companies: “Oh, that’s something customary in the industry”, a routine or the mild side effects of the way things are done. Nothing should be ignored. Differentiation is sometimes so thin that a breakthrough in the old way of doing things could part perceptions and win customers. The external view from someone outside the organization is in this case valuable.

Occasionally, you would have to look forward and anticipate potential pain points. It’s something of a third eye, a sense of things and intuition that comes with experience and exposure to lots of situations. And from time to time, companies should look inward to its internal customers, the employees, and look for existing or potential pain points. This would be the case with one of our clients who set sails to move all the offices from downtown to the business pool in the north of the city. And take all its people from individual and shared offices to an open space. And we are talking about people who have been well pampered, over the years, self-aware of their status and value in an industry where growing means stealing talent from the competition. We saw it coming – the employees dissatisfaction with the moving. We had a talk with the client and acknowledged all together that status quo was not possible but had to make this a pill to swallow. So we initiated an ample internal communication campaign and we invented a character, Greeny – the dinosaur, ferocious big teeth and absolutely cute at the same time. Greeny took the shape of a cartoon character and as well as a soft toy that become available to all employees. Greeny delivered messages to the teams via email and intranet, threw parties, made jokes or suggestions on how to deal with the new space, collected suggestions from employees, organized tours to the new offices prior to the actual moving. All in all, it was both the voice of the people and the company, recorded frustration but also eased them. Greeny did a good job and now he is retired. The people got it. Fortunately, the company got it first.

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